This is a whistle-stop tour of Vietnam, so we're back to Dragon Air and a short trip to the cultural wonderland of Huáº¿. If you have plenty of time, it's well worth considering travelling by Land. Trains are available and much cheaper, but they're a little less reliable and if you're after quality you're going to be disappointed. The up side is that you can truly appreciate the beauty of this country.
Huáº¿ has a coveted position as a UNESCO World Heritage site, due largely to the impressive large Citadel from the 19th century. Our budget hotel is city central, and our room overlooks the Perfume River (apparently due to perfumed blossom from orchards that float down the river in autumn, have to say I did not notice) with the Citadel on the opposite bank in all its glory.
Muong Thanh Holiday Huáº¿ Hotel is officially four star, and I think that's pretty accurate. You still feel as if you're living like a prince compared to the locals, and it's not terribly expensive. The beds, as usual, are as comfy as you could want, and the room is clean and well equipped with plenty of space. If anything it's as if it's been designed in the 60's, with current technology and colours. There are plenty of other great central hotels though such as Century, Saigon Morin and Moonlight Hotels.
Whereas much of Vietnamese cuisine is dominated by fish and the sea, Huáº¿ is less so. In its place is a wealth of genuine vegetarian food delights, i.e. not a burger with just the patty removed or a curry with tofu in place of the meat but real recipes crafted around veg from scratch.A great little authentic local cafÃ©/restaurant is Gecko Pub on Pham Ngu Lao, for lunches or evening meals.
Just a few doors down the Huáº¿ Backpackers Hostel round the corner is one place to meet with fellow travellers. Perch on a stool, sip on a local beer, and guaranteed you'll be joined by a world traveller with plenty of tales. All good fun, and they may even know where the latest pop-up club is happening!If you do head out, be extra cautious of what you drink and who has access to your pockets "" the penalties for even accidentally leaving the country with something 'unexpected' are severe, and there seems to be plenty about!
This city on the river though is beautiful. High mountains surround it on all sides, vivid green in colour. A beautiful setting for a walk around the historic Citadel of Huáº¿ Royal Palace. There's various sections to it, and as such it's a veritable maze to explore. Assign a full day if you can, and make sure you visit the Forbidden Purple City of the emperor deep inside.
The climate forecast for Huáº¿ is supposedly high in rainfall during September. Be assured when it rains, it definitely rains. But for the most part, you'll be lucky to see it. The sun is still massively strong, and sun protection is a must all year round when walking through these sprawling historical sites. The traditional pointy hats are on sale everywhere, and well worth the investment!
There are of course an array of other sites to see, such as the city's landmark Thien Mu Pagoda, Khiem Cung and Tu Duc Tomb to name but a few. These do require either a guided tour or a hire car. Unless you're confident of i) not getting lost and ii) dealing with the crazy traffic and limited English outside of tourist areas then a tour would be advisable for these further out places.
If you have time, the beaches of Hoi An are either a day trip away or a convenient stop off point for a day or so in the resorts en route to your next destination. For me, the next stop is Ho Chi Minh City, better known to me as Saigon, as I say farewell to the quiet, friendly and chilled city of Huáº¿.
Start this wonderful trip in Ho Chi Minh where you will explore this fantastic city and take a trip to the Mekong. The move onto Hoi An, immersing yourself in the Vietnamese atmosphere. Next stop is Hanoi, where your days are filled with lots of fun activities including a morning Tai Chai class in Hoan Kiem Lake.
The final stop is Halong Bay. You will be staying on a beautiful boat for a night. Cruise around the island and swim in the beautiful sea, you will be served delicious Vietnamese food on board, making it very hard not to relax!