Vietnam is such a diverse, cultural country and it was great being back for the second time. I visited back in 2012 and it was in the summer. Therefore, the climate was cooler especially in the north and it was quite a contrast being here in winter.
I got to experience cities that I had not yet been to and saw how Vietnam is constantly changing, developing and reinventing itself.
We only flew into Hanoi from Luang Prabang and basically caught a taxi from the airport to Ga Hanoi (train station). We took an overnight sleeper train to Hue – approximately 760km away, 13 hours later.
Hue is the former imperial city and it mixes old and new. We only stayed for a night but we were able to see the citadel where the Imperial City is located. It is a walled fortress and palace and the grounds were huge and very lush. It was really impressive!
Afterwards had lunch at Nina’s Cafe and had our first Vietnamese feed.
At night, we went to Hanh Restaurant and met up with Kim and her 3 friends. We had some typical Vietnamese dishes including spring rolls, banh beo (rice cake with shrimp), banh xeo (crispy prawn pancakes) and sugar cane prawns, which were all excellent. We then headed to a few bars for cocktails. Most of these places offer 2 for 1 cocktails which is fantastic. We ended up at Brown Eyes and got complimentary shots and had a dance.
The next morning, Liz and I both woke up with killer hangovers. We didn’t even drink that much but it is definitely due to the cheap quality of alcohol! We had our hotel breakfast then got picked up by our driver to head to Hoi An. We went through the Hai Van Pass which was absolutely stunning.
We stopped by at Marble Mountains in Da Nang which are a cluster of five mountains. We walked up to see the view of the city and also explored the tunnels and limestone caves as well as Buddhist temples. We made it into Hoi An in the afternoon and all up it took approximately 5 hours including the stops.
Hoi An is a beautiful – it is a small UNESCO Heritage town but it was packed full of tourists. The old town is mainly for pedestrians so it is super easy to get around.
We arrived and went straight for food! We went to Morning Glory for stuffed squid with pork and sugar cane rice paper rolls which were delicious. We walked around the town and saw the Japanese Covered Bridge and just strolled through the streets and riverside. In the evening, we checked out the markets and the night lantern markets.
We decided to do an eco cooking class and we first got picked up at our hotel and went to the Central Market to pick up the produce. We took a boat to a small village town on the edge of Hoi An called Cam Thanh and went on a bamboo basket boat. We rowed through small channels which was fun. We learnt how to make Hoi An spring rolls, pancakes, fish and papaya salad and after we got to enjoy what we cooked with clams and morning glory. It was so satisfying but I had a massive food coma afterwards!
Hoi An is known for its tailor shops – apparently there is around 400 alone in the city – crazy! I ended up getting a skirt made and some leather sandals made. It can be totally overwhelming to know which ones to go to but we got recommended to go to Golden Silk for clothes and Miu Miu for shoes and barely had any problems. We bargained down a lot so make sure you do so too!
The best banh mi we had were at Madam Khanh’s and Banh Mi Phuong. You get a whole baguette of deliciousness with generally pork, vegetables, herbs and spices for 20,000D (about $1) – try it!
Nightlife isn’t so big in Hoi An but we started off at Green Mango for 2 for 1 cocktails then Tiger Tiger Bar which was great for a night out! We met the girls again and had drinks and a dance with them. The bar closed at 12am but they opened their club after that. We met some Dutch guys there who we ended up hanging out the next day at An Bang Beach. It was finally a sunny day (it had been raining on and off for the past two) so we enjoyed the sun and got rid of our hangovers by swimming in the ocean.
We caught the local bus from Hoi An to Da Nang (only costs 30,000D) on NYE and checked into our hotel. As soon as we were about to go explore, it starting bucketing down.
We pre drank in our hotel first and then went to Waterfront Bar for a few drinks. There wasn’t much happening so we headed to Golden Pine Pub to end the new year. We could see the fireworks along the riverside and the bar had their own sparklers too. It wasn’t too crazy but a fun way to enter 2016.
The next day we moved to a different hotel by the beach. The weather was cloudy and not so great so we really didn’t have the chance to enjoy the beach much – the downside of coming in winter! We grabbed food at Quan Hue Ngon which is a must go for great BBQ seafood and meats as well as their amazing seafood hotpot. Another must in Vietnam is the avocado shake! We also tried “rau cau trai dua” which is essentially coconut jelly – it was refreshing. We went on a motorbike and also along the famous Dragon Bridge. We also went up to Sky36 Bar at the Novotel for cocktails and the view of the city. Da Nang is certainly prettier from the rooftop and at night with the city lights.
We took a private car to BaNa Hills, which is located 40km from Da Nang city. We caught a cable car up to the top station and the views up were green and lush. It takes 17 minutes from ground to peak and it is meant to be the longest non-stop single track cable car with a total length of 5,801m. The higher we got, the foggier it got. There was French colonial architecture reflecting French cities but it was a little too foggy to see plus the real place (France or Europe) is better and more picturesque. We went to Fantasy World and went on a few rides which were fun! We walked up to the Linh Pagoda and saw the huge Buddha statue.
We finished off our trip with a 16 hour layover in Kuala Lumpur where we met up with Athi at the Sky Traders Bar for a cocktail (and the amazing view of the Petronas Twin Towers) then Liz and I got our Malaysian food fix in Bukit Bintang – roti canai, mee goreng, nasi goreng! It was a perfect way to end our 2.5 week trip.