Central Vietnam : 6 days in Hoi An, Hue and Phong Nha


Advertisement
Vietnam's flag
Asia » Vietnam » Central Highlands
March 4th 2019
Published: March 9th 2019
Edit Blog Post

On Tuesday, February 26th, at 4PM I had to say goodbye to my friends in Da Lat because I was taking the night bus to Hoi An. Funny enough, Pamela and André who had done the canyoning with me were taking the same bus as me and we travelled together. :-) It was a long ride (15 hours), but the sleeper bus was very comfortable and I slept like a baby. This way I reached Hoi An and I was quite fresh and awake. :-)



I had booked the bicycle tour for this day as well as the sunset tour, but when I reached the hostel they told me that the bicycle tour would only happen the next day and the sunset tour wasn’t confirmed for any day yet because there weren’t enough people to do it. So I booked the 1PM cooking class including a boat ride on a bamboo boat instead.



My tour started at 1PM and it was fantastic! I was picked up by our guide, Nam, a very sweet young Vietnamese girl. Then there were Chris and his girlfriend from New York (can’t remember her name...) and Henning and his girlfriend Jule from Germany. They were all super nice and we had a good time together. First we visited the central market and Nam explained to us the different types of vegetables and fruit we didn’t know. Then we took a boat to a different place close to the sea and moved into small bamboo boat. That was pretty cool! I had seen them before and always wondered how they work and here we learned it. We went into the mangroves and our drivers made jewellery out of leaves. My guide didn’t speak much English but he was super funny ; at some point he stood up and started turning the boat in very fast moves around and it was a bit scary, but I knew I could trust him. :-D



From there we walked about 5 minutes to the place where the cooking class would take place. We prepared 4 different dishes : fresh spring rolls, braised pork, papaya salad with shrimp and pork and rice pancakes ; all of them were absolutely delicious! :-D At the end we got the recipes and I’m sure I’ll try them myself back home! :-D



That night I met some nice people in the hostel : Cam, Elise and Zara from New York. They were very nice and we had a couple of drinks together before the karaoke night started. A bit tipsy and in a very good mood, we joined in and had a great deal of fun! ^_^ Afterwards I joined Cam to the club (Elise and Zara didn’t come) but we left soon because Cam was tired and I was tired and bored : it was like a kindergarten with only 20-25 years old people which made me feel very old! ^_^







The next morning, I did the bicycle tour organized from the hostel. First they told me it wouldn’t happen because they didn’t have enough people, then suddenly 3 guys who had just arrived decided to join and so the tour was happening! :-) Our guide, Rosemary from Vietnam, was super sweet and showed us around town. First we went to a lantern shop where we made our own lantern, then we visited different places in town, like the art gallery of Réhahn and the Chinese bridge. Then we went to the « Ancient House », one of the oldest houses in Hoi An where now the 5th generation (I think) lives and maintains the house build by hand by his ancestors. It’s kind of funny how they open their house to tourists and show them everything, not only the wood carvings and construction but also their private rooms (in 1 you see his 94-year-old mother lying in bed). This family is also famous for the silver jewellery they make : 100% silver and 100% handmade! I even bought some for myself : it’s not cheap, but for beautiful real handmade silver jewellery, it’s cheap. :-D And I like giving my money to artisans who deserve it ! :-)



They also gave us some very good lotus tea, some cookies and some fruit. It was a very nice visit, especially because this family is incredibly friendly, welcoming and energetic! :-D



From the « Ancient House » we then rode to the beach ; our hostel has a private beach club that is fantastic : they have the beach with long chairs, umbrellas and a bar, a pool, food, drinks and lots of hammocks. I really liked it there and to finish the tour, we got a free beer. :-D



As you can see, this tour is definitely worth the 260.000 Dong (= 10€)! :-D







I went back to the hostel with Rosemary while the guys stayed at the beach club and from the hostel I continued on back to town. I had lunch at the famous « Bahn Mi Phuong » where they make the best sandwiches in Vietnam! They were so good (and at 3PM I was so hungry) that I even ate 2! ^_^ On my way back to the hostel I stopped at Violet’s tailor shop where I ordered some clothes for myself and for my parents. In Hoi An, it’s famous to get some clothes tailored because it’s cheap. The price is okay for something tailored, but compared to what I paid in Africa for hand made and tailored clothes, it’s still pretty expensive. Anyway, it’s a thing to do and so I did it as well! ^_^



In the evening I went to the night market in town. Hoi An is a very beautiful little city in general, but by night, it’s amazing, especially at the river : there are 1000 beautiful lanterns illuminating the river and the small colonial houses! ‹3 :-D



The night market itself was nothing special but the atmosphere there was nice with lots of people taking the small boats illuminated by lanterns and some street artists on the sidewalk of the river. That night I tried the Vietnamese pizza for the first time and I loved it : so good!! :-D I was also able to meet my friend Ori from Israel whom I had met in Uganda a couple of months earlier during the Nyege Nyege Festival. It was great to see him again! :-) I went back to the hostel quite early though (10PM) because it’s not very safe to take a (bike) taxi late at night here and I was tired anyway. Still, it had been a fantastic day! :-D







The next morning, I felt very fresh and I was in a great mood, so I rented a bicycle and I went to my hostel’s beach club, the Kahuna’s beach club. On the way I cycled across the rice fields and I enjoyed the beautiful morning. When I got to the beach, it was still pretty empty and I got a great seat in the shade. I had a wonderful relaxed morning, swimming, reading and drinking fresh juice. When I went back to the bar of the club to order lunch, my friend Cam and some of his friends arrived. After lunch I joined them down at the beach and we started drinking a few very good (and quite strong) cocktails that gave me all the energy I needed a bit later when I had to cycle back to town to get the clothes I had ordered from Violet. The dress I had made for my mum was actually so pretty that I ordered another one for myself that she promised would be delivered in the evening to my hostel! ^_^



I went back to the beach (I left the bicycle at the hostel and took a grab bike from there) and had some more drinks with Cam, Matt from the Netherlands, some girls from Vancouver and other places. It was very nice and when I went to get another drink at the bar, I actually met the owner of the Vietnam Backpacker Hostel chain! He was super fun and kind and he gave me 2 free beers when I told him that I was impressed by how nice and knowledgeable his staff was and that I had booked his hostel and his tours for all of my 3 weeks in Vietnam! ^_^



In the evening there was a Mexican night in the hostel and, of course, we participated. The buffet looked great, the food was good and the free drinks were as good as usual. Unfortunately, ever since I had got a very bad food poisoning in Mexico I can’t eat any Mexican food anymore without getting sick and so my evening was cut short by me having to go to the bathroom every 10 minutes... So I went up to my floor at 10PM and went to bed early after a short chat with Cam.







And that’s it for my time in Hoi An. I loved this town a lot! It’s so small and cute, people are super nice, the food is great, the beach is beautiful and it’s the best place to buy souvenirs! :-D



I didn’t like much my hostel though and I can’t recommend it. The staff was friendly and the vibe wasn’t bad, but it’s just very far out of town and so you always have to rent a bicycle or get a grab when you want to get to town. I heard very good things about the Tribee hostel chain and would definitely recommend you to go there.







On Saturday, March 2nd, I was picked up at 9AM by Ben, the Easyrider driver who would bring me to Hue. In Vietnam it’s a big thing to do this trip with a bike because the Hai Van Pass is gorgeous and you wouldn’t want to miss it by taking a bus. Ben was super nice and his English was impeccable. First we made a 1-hour stop at the Marble Mountain in Da Nang. There are a couple of beautiful mountains in Da Nang full of marble and it’s pretty fun to go up there (ok, I took the elevator, it was cheap and I only had 1h... ^_^), discover the beautiful marble caves and the pagodas. The view from up there was pretty nice but the part I liked most was definitely the caves. It’s a shame there were so many tourists, otherwise it would have been much better!



From there we then went to Lang Co, a peninsula in between Da Nang and Hoi An, and to get there we had to cross the famous Hai Van Pass. This is a narrow road in the mountains that gives you breathtaking views over the sea and I absolutely loved it! A few times Ben stopped so that I could take pictures and I was very happy I made the decision to take the Hai Van Pass to Hue. :-D



In Lang Co we had our lunch break and I tried the grilled shrimps that you see in every restaurant along the beach. Honestly, they looked much better than they tasted but never mind, it was cheap.



From there we drove another hour to the « elephant spring » ; this is a small waterfall in a very beautiful area and there is one stone that has been shaped by the locals like an elephant. Unfortunately, this day many locals came in big groups there and put on super loud music which - for me - ruined the atmosphere there completely... So I only jumped into the water for a short time and then we continued our way to Hue where we arrived around 4PM.



I can highly recommend doing the Hai Van Pass in Vietnam, either on your own motorbike or with an Easyrider! :-D







In Hue, I stayed at the VBH again and this time I didn’t like it much. The staff working there when I arrived was pretty unfriendly and the rooms were super small, the common area far from cosy.



Since I didn’t like the hostel, I walked around for a while and then went to a nice bar with cosy seats to get a smoothie and read a book. When I got back to the hostel to get changed before going out with my friends Zara and Elise whom I had met in Hoi An, I ran into Lukas from Switzerland whom I had met in Laos! Such a coincidence! :-D I was really happy to see him and I had a beer with him and his friend Ricardo. It was great to catch up! :-)



At 7:30 the girls came and we went to Madame Phu, a famous Vietnamese restaurant in Hue. We had to wait for a table and so we had a beer in the bar opposite the restaurant in the meanwhile, catching up on hostel gossip and our travels since we had last seen each other. When we went back to the restaurant, we ran into 3 other people that I knew : a couple that had done the rock climbing in Vang Vieng (Laos) with me and a guy who had been in my hostel in Chiang Mai (Thailand)! Hahaha, Asia is such a small place, you keep running into people you know! ^_^ That night, we had fantastic food : the best Pho soup I’ve ever had, Vietnamese pancakes (the ones from our cooking class had been much better though) and we even tried a bottle of Vietnamese wine which was actually pretty good! :-D Then we went back to my hostel for a couple of drinks, but when the bar closed at 11PM, I decided to just go to bed instead of going out ; the bike ride from Hoi An had been pretty exhausting. Anyway, it had been a wonderful night with all these people I hadn’t seen for so long! :-)







The next morning, I was supposed to join a motorbike tour organized by the hostel that would show me all the important places in Hue. Unfortunately, I was the only person who had signed up for this tour and so it didn’t happen... :-( The staff told me to do it with an Easyrider instead and since I felt too hangover to rent a bike and do it on my own, I agreed (something I would regret later). My driver was a bit older and an absolutely reckless driver! I was pretty scared with him and he was not very nice. First we went to the tomb of Khai Dinh King which was very beautiful. After an hour there, we went to the famous « abandoned water park » ; as the name says, it’s an abandoned water park. ^_^ It was actually pretty cool, broken glass and graffiti on the walls everywhere but I had imagined it would be a bit scarier than it was. Actually, there were quite a lot of tourists and there were even people taking care of the gardens and the area, but it was still worth a visit. :-)



From there we went to some old bunkers from the Vietnam War that was also a viewpoint over the river (a beautiful place!) and then to the famous tiger and elephant arena. To my great disappointment the arena is being renovated and you can’t enter at the moment... :-( Then we were off to some pagoda and, finally, he dropped me off at the Citadel. I was pretty surprised when he told me that this was the end of the tour and I would have to walk back! His English was very bad and so he didn’t give me much of an explanation, he was just : « Here citadel, end of tour, walk back to hotel ». I was very angry about that! I had paid a lot for this tour (almost 10$) and I was mad that I did not get a ride back to the hostel (ok it was only 2 km but still!)! :-( Later I complained about this in the hostel and they said that this never happened before, it must have been a misunderstanding, but gave me a voucher for a free drink. At least that...



The citadel in Hue is very big and it has been completely restored after the Vietnam War when it had been damaged immensely. They have pictures there so you can see how it was before the war, after the war and now. I spent about an hour there, maybe a bit more, but then I was done and walked back to the hostel where I then waited for my 4:30 bus to Phong Nha.







I didn’t spend much time in Hue, but it was enough. Hue isn’t that nice and yeah, there are a couple of interesting places to visit, but you could just as well skip it. The best thing there had been seeing so many friends of mine and the food there.







In Ho Chi Minh they had told me that it would take a full night to get from Hue to Phong Nha but it turned out that it was only 5 hours and so I arrived there at 8h30PM. Fortunately, the people in the hostel had recognized their mistake and had booked 1 night in the Gecko Hostel for me (for free). :-) The Gecko Hostel in Phong Nha is fantastic : the common area is super cosy, the food is fantastic and the staff is nice. The only thing I wasn’t happy with was the fact that they told me they would do my laundry in 1 day but when I came back after my tour the next day my laundry was still dirty... Anyway, I would definitely recommend this hostel.



In the bus I had met a Dutch girl but I didn’t like her much. It was her first trip alone (I think), she was super insecure, always stressed and - the worst part - she was pretty dumb... She honestly tried to tell me that there are no vegetables in Vietnam but confessed without hesitation that she had only eaten pizza in the last couple of days! °_° There were most stupid things and I was happy when I was rid of her 2 days later.



In Phong Nha, I had booked the 1 day cave tour to the Phong Nha and to the dark caves. Once I was there, it turned out there was way more to do in this national park and I could easily have spend 3 or 4 days there but unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to do that... :S Still, this day tour was pretty cool!



The dark cave involves a 200m zipline over the river, swim on the river to the entrance of the cave, walking in the dark cave with only headlights, a mud bath inside the cave and some more swimming in the river. It was a lot of fun and I was happy I had chosen this cave! :-D For lunch we went back to town and then we took a boat from there to the Phong Nha cave. You can’t swim inside this cave because there are electric fish inside so it would be too dangerous, that’s why people go in with small boats. This cave is gorgeous, it probably is the most beautiful cave I have ever seen! It’s huge and because there are lights everywhere you can admire the beautiful stalactites and stalagmites with all their different colours easily. At the end you get out of the boat and get 1 hour to walk around a part of the cave and I just couldn’t get enough of it : breathtaking!



There I met Sandra from Zurich in Switzerland. She was super nice and we had a good time together. 30 years ago she had been to Togo with her father and this makes her one of the only other people I know who have been to this country. :-)



When we got back to town, we spent some more time together in my hostel (she was staying somewhere else but there it wasn’t very nice), had dinner and some tea until our buses came : she went south to Hue and I went north to Hanoi.











I had enjoyed my 24 hours in Phong Nha a lot, it’s such a beautiful place and I would definitely have spent more time there had I had more time in Vietnam. It’s one spot you shouldn’t miss when you’re in Vietnam! :-D









Additional photos below
Photos: 367, Displayed: 35


Advertisement



Tot: 3.378s; Tpl: 0.062s; cc: 9; qc: 49; dbt: 0.0785s; 3; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb