We heard a lot about Hoi An and weren’t disappointed. We stayed at the beautiful Hotel Royal Hoi An- MGallery, part of the Sofitel Hotel Group. Our hotel was not right near the famous attractions but this Ancient town is easily covered on foot and we took leisurely strolls during the day as well as at night and didn’t feel unsafe walking back at night by ourselves.
All the attractions are pretty much in the same area, Old Town, and you can easily complete them in a few hours. We crossed the Japanese Covered Bridge, wandered around Phung Hung Old House, a historic home with original furnishings and visited a few museums and temples, all between stopping for some shopping. Hoi An is also famous for its tailors, so if you want to get some outfits made, it is best to do this on your first day.
At night, the riverside is illuminated with bars and eateries. We were also fortunate to be there during the Hoi An Food festival and sampled international cuisines. There is a more subdued night vibe but there is enough activity to keep you entertained.
Given that we had some extra time, we took a drive out to the Terracotta park displaying miniature models of some the world’s iconic buildings/architecture. If you wish you can customise your own piece of pottery. We opted to rather play a game – trying to hit pottery bowls blindfolded.
Our last stop on holiday was Ho Chi Minh, this is the financial and economic capital of the country, where commerce meets culture. We were most looking forward to our visit to Củ Chi tunnels ,used as living quarters by the Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. This tour was sadly disappointing, you pretty much spend an entire day out, of which 90% is travelling to the tunnels and an obligatory shopping stop at a glass factory and then you only get to go through a very short network of refurbished tunnels, which has been widened for tourists. So not the most authentic experience. We were really expecting a different experience given the Youtube videos we saw. In our opinion, you could give this a skip.
Within the city, we paid a visit to the Thien Hau Temple, Ho Chi Minh Square, the Independence Palace, Saigon Central Post Office (definitely one of the grandest post offices we have seen) and the War Remnants Museum. It was sad to see the effects of Agent Orange, which continue to this day. A visit to the buzzing Bến Thành Market is a must if you want to pick up local souvenirs, if not just go for the atmosphere.
Pham Ngu Lao Street is the famous backpackers street but is not limited to low budget travellers, offering a vibe that draws all crowds. The food is cheap here and so is the Bia Hoi (the local draft beer), beer drinkers will love this area. If you are looking for something more upmarket, have drinks at Bitexco Financial Tower whilst overlooking Ho Chi Minh.
We loved touring Vietnam, our only regret was not spending some time in Danang and not adding Cambodia to our trip but Angor Wat is on the top of our list for our next Asia trip!