South Vietnam was just an amazing time. Relaxing beach moments, a stunning trip to floating markets, new impressions and very good Craft beer in HCMC. We could have easily spent more time in that area. But it was time to move on towards the north. We took the airplane from HCMC to Da Nang in Central Vietnam – it’s just an hour flight and very convenient. From Da Nang, we made our way to beautiful Hội An.
The city of Hội An belongs to Unesco World Heritage. I was really looking forward to visiting that place for a second time. It’s a wonderful old romantic city surrounded by water, with many shops, coffee places and famous for its tailor stores. On my last visit, it truly made a dent.
We arrived in the evening. Our Homestay was just amazing. Perfectly located in a quiet area next to all the goto-places and hosted by a super friendly and helpful family.
On the same evening, we went out for some dinner and found a street food market. They offered good street food and many souvenirs, so it wasn’t really a local street food market. To be honest we were kind of shocked by the crazy amount of tourists filling up the streets. But we found something to eat and were able to see a very beautiful firework, surrounded by thousands of lanterns. Without the crowd, it would be a perfectly romantic Asian place like in your dreams.
We stayed in Hội An for three nights. That’s easily enough time to explore the old city and the surroundings a bit, without seeing everything and getting bored 🙂
Actually, we even found the time to get something tailored. One dress and skirt for me and a pair of perfect trousers for Mo. It’s not that we really needed something new, it was just a nice idea and matching the moment. The tailor we found was great and our things are really beautiful. It took three fittings and just 1,5 days to finish our clothes. That’s impressive.
Due to the fittings, we suddenly had to follow a schedule again. We needed to plan our other endeavors like tasting local food and searching for great coffee around the tailor appointments. It was a hard time, but we managed to do it – so we haven’t completely lost our ability to live by a clock and a calendar 😉
Additionally to all the busy city life, we visited the ruins of My Son. It’s a very impressive site with the ruins of an old city. Sadly, most parts were destroyed during the war. Agent orange and too many American bombs made it look like a heap of rubble. The government tries hard to reconstruct parts of it, although they apparently haven’t found the right stones for that tropical climate. That means after a few years everything is falling apart again. How hard can it be? Nonetheless, it’s an interesting place and worth a visit. But by far not as impressive as Angkor Wat.
Wolkenpass – Hải Vân Pass
After three nice days in Hội An, we made our way further to the north. Our next stop was Huế, which is 1-2h by car if you take the new tunnel or 2-3h if you take the famous Hải Vân Pass.
On my last visit in Vietnam I really wanted to see the Hải Vân Pass, but unfortunately the coastal street was closed due to a thunderstorm – I was very disappointed. Nonetheless, we finally made it this time. We had more luck with the weather and I was willing to pay a premium for a private car from Hội An over the Hải Vân Pass to Huế. (If you just want to go to Huế: take the shuttle bus through the tunnel, it’s super cheap).
The car was a bit too expensive, but I was happy that we made it. The coastal street goes up the mountains and onto the top. You see old fortifications and a stunning view in both directions: north and south.
If I ever come back to Vietnam I would go there again, but with my own motorbike. The street was in a surprisingly good condition and you can just rent a motorbike everywhere.
Huế – Thombs, Bia & Banh Mi
From the Hải Vân Pass we continued our road trip to Huế, known as the Imperial City.
Huế is a nice city. There is a very touristic area with many hotels and plenty of beer places with super bad music – nineties hits blended with up to date pop music. (Btw: it seems that the Vietnamese people think we like that kind of music. Or they just like it? Otherwise I cannot explain why they treat the whole neighborhood with very loud samples of it). But the rest of the city is very authentic and the people are super friendly and welcoming.
We stayed in Huế for four nights in a very basic hotel. Renting a scooter is recommended for everyone who is not too much scared by the rules of driving a scooter in Vietnam: Never stop at red, be predictable, just drive wherever you want and honk before entering intersections, smaller streets or if you just enjoy the sound of your horn – it surprisingly works somehow.
We had again a very busy time. Starting with breakfast and driving with our scooter to a nearby coffee place for a second coffee where we planned our day. Then driving with our scooter to a sightseeing attraction. Do sightseeing. Being completely exhausted from sightseeing. Looking for food in the afternoon. Finding ourselves in a nice Bar with a cool and ridiculously cheap beer (after we parked the scooter for the night, of course). Eating a fresh Banh Mi (It’s very similar to a Baguette or sandwich) from our trusted Banh Mi dealer. Sleep. Repeat the next day.
Huế itself was also a lot of fun. Discovering the local specialties and making new friends (or just listing to someone who really wants to practice German) while drinking a beer was easy and entertaining.
But we also had a very relaxing and rewarding time while visiting all the sightseeing places. The citadel of Huế is such a huge and impressive complex and a must do for everyone. We spend nearly the whole day there while strolling around and taking pictures. The citadel is the forbidden city of Huế and many different dynasties were living there until the Americans destroyed nearly everything during the war.
Huế is surrounded by mountains and beautiful nature. Rent a scooter and explore it. All the kings of Huế built their own tombs somewhere around the city and most of them are really worth a visit. Take your time and just enjoy it. For us, it was really rewarding to escape from the hectic city.
In retrospective, we had the best food in Huế. They have plenty of different delicious local specialty and we tried to find all of them with more or less success. Visiting the local night market was just one of the ways to find fancy food.
On our last evening, after a short sport session in a nice park, we discovered a very good Buddhist food place (that means everything is vegetarian!) with very delicious food. I was kind of sad that we were not able to go there for a second time. It was the best food I’ve had in Vietnam.
Especially in Vietnam, we both had the feeling that time is running very fast. During our time in Huế, we were more than 14 days in the country, so halftime for our 30-Days Visa. We had seen and done so much, yet it really didn’t feel like two weeks.
Anyway, our next destination in Vietnam was going to be Hanoi, the capital of the north. It was yet again time to move on…