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From Halong Bay we went back to Hanoi, and from there we took another night train to Hue. It was time to visit the center of Vietnam!
Hue is divided in two: On one side of the river, you have the Imperial Citadel. On the other side, you have the city of Hue. Hue itself hasn’t much to offer, but the Imperial Citadel is, with no doubt, worth the detour.
How to get there: In Vietnam there is only one type of train, and each coach belongs to a different company, offering different conditions and prices. One of the best is Levitrans, withberth for 4 people, for 60€. We actually slept better than in some hotels, and got to meet Who (well, at least that’s what his named sounded like), a young Vietnamese student who told us about his dream of travelling to Europe.
Top Tips & Fun Facts:
- Take a hat and lots of water! It can get really hot in the Citadel, and there aren’t many shadows.
- Half a day is enough to see the Citadel. Then go enjoy the beach in Hoi An.
- Go to the Citadel, a complex where you’ll see the Imperial City and the Purple Forbidden City, housing the emperor’s residence, temples and palaces.
- If you have the time, go to the Tomb of Minh Mang and to Royal Thombs, 30-40km away from Hue.
Hoi An is the most delightful city we saw in Asia. Hoi An used to be an important port and is now a wealthy and touristic old-town. It’s the perfect place to relax for a few days, enjoy thebeautiful beaches and the cozy environment of the City.
How to get there: From Hue to Hoi An you can rent a car, use the bus or the train. The trip takes a few hours and the view is scenic!
Top Tips & Fun Facts:
- On the 14th day of each lunar month, the town celebrates the Full Moon Festival. We were lucky enough to be there and see the city filled with colorful lanterns, traditional plays and street markets. It looked like a dream!
- Hoi An isknown for its tailors and custom-made clothes. Many stores can even make custom-made clothes overnight! Here we had one magic moment: one of our backpacks was ripped and we decided to ask in a store if a tailor could help us fixed it… And they sewed it immediately!
- You can walk everywhere, but many hotels borrow bikes, or rent them for just 1€. Enjoy!
- The food in the center of Vietnam is slightly different, but still dazzling. Go to Hi Restaurant eat the typical spring rolls, pho (rice bowl) and cau lau (noodles), for less than 2€.
- To visit the main sites, you need to buy a 5€ ticket which gives access to 5 different places. The Japanese Covered Bridge, the Assembly Hall of the Fujian Chinese Congregation, and the Tan Ky House were our favorites.
- There are several amazing beaches and islands nearby, such as the An Bang beach and the Cham Island.
Ho Chi Minh
Our next stop was Ho Chi Minh, the largest and most vibrant city of Vietnam. Called Saigon until 1975, HCMC was funded by the Khmer, it was the capital of Cochinchina and changed its name with the end of the Vietnam War, to honor the revolutionary general Ho Chi Minh. Nuno was always telling me with admiration: “We don’t have heroes like this… idolized by the people”.
How to get there: We flew from Da Nang airport (close to Hoi An) with VietJet, for around 40€. We chose to fly because the trip took us only 2h, and the train would take at least 24h…
Top Tips & Fun Facts:
- The influence of the Vietnam War and the worshiping for general Ho Chi Minh are undeniable, with posters and pictures of the general spread all over the city. In Hanoi it is possible to see Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, which is religiously visited by thousands of Vietnamese.
- Ho Chi Minh is a very big city and there are places too far to walk. The city has a metro, but if you need a taxi use one from a reliable company: Mai Linh Taxi or Vinasun Taxi.
- Go to Mekong Delta, have a cruise in Mekong River and visit the Cai Be market, a floating market selling fruit, vegetables and goods. Again you need to go with an organized tour. We chose Travel Mate because of its good reviews on TripAdvisor… but we really don’t recommend this agency because it was too touristy. Still, Mekong Delta is incredible!
- Visit the Cu Chi tunnels, a network of 200km of tunnels which became legendary during the Vietnam War. The tunnels are today a touristic spot, but it’s very interesting to learn more about the Vietnam War and get to know the Vietnam side of the story, which is not very well-known in the East.
- Try everything your courage allows you to eat in the Binh Tay Market, which offers everything from food to clothes.
- Go to the Cao Dai Temple – which unfortunately, we did not have the time to visit (the airline canceled our flight and we had to leave HCMC one day earlier). Cao Dai is a religion funded in 1929 (!), and defends that every being has a part of God within themselves. Nonviolence and vegetarianism are some of its practices.
- Get lost in China Town and see yourself catapulted to China!
This post was also written in Portuguese. Click here to read the Portuguese version.