Vietnam

We learned that the more “off the beaten path” the restaurant, the better the food - every time.
— Maiya Shaw
  • More about your oliver guide:
  • Trip type: Family, City
  • Activity level: moderate
  • Ideal length of trip: WE WERE THERE FOR 2 1/2 WEEKS AND ONLY TRAVELED FROM THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS SOUTH. WITH SMALL KIDS, THAT WAS THE PERFECT AMOUNT OF TIME. WE WOULD HAVE LOVED TO TRAVEL NORTH AS WELL BUT WOULD HAVE NEEDED AN ADDITIONAL WEEK AND A HALF.

to & from

We traveled from Da Nang to Ho Chi Min City/Saigon using different types of transportation.

  • From Da Nang to Quy Nhon we used a driver and went overland in an air-conditioned van.
  • We took the night train to Na Trang from Quy Nhon and while the air conditioner in the cars was not the best, it worked. The train was on time and the bathrooms were clean. Bring your own snacks and drinks.
  • We flew from Na Trang to Saigon via Vietnam Airlines. We were traveling with small children (ages 5 and 8) so it was important to buy the tickets ahead of time.
  • We flew directly to Da Nang from Hong Kong via Dragon Air which saved a connection in Hanoi or Saigon. The airport is smaller so it was a great point of entry.
  • We left Saigon via Singapore Airlines but there are a lot of options from Saigon.

stay

eat and drink

  • We learned that the more "off the beaten path" the restaurant, the better the food - every time.
  • Our favorite meal was at a truck stop just north of Bon Song.
  • Almost all restaurants we ate at catered only to tourists so you really need to ask your guide or concierge and insist that you want to go where the locals go. The exception was a restaurant called "Propaganda" in Saigon. Great food, great ambiance and they make their own microbrew beer (The Lemongrass is the best!)
  • Cocktails on top of the Caravelle Hotel in Saigon is a step into history with great cocktails, live jazz and a fabulous view.

do

  • Learn how to rice farm outside of Hoi An - everything from tilling the paddies behind the water buffalo to making rice milk then cooking rice crepes (ban xiao). Then go fishing (the traditional Vietnamese way) and take a ride in a basket boat.
  • Have clothes made in Hoi An by expert tailors.
  • Go on a Vespa Adventure tour (at night!) in Saigon. WOW!
  • Ride on a Cyclo in Saigon (another wow!)
  • Go to the AO show in Saigon (it is similar to a Cirque du Soliel only using bamboo rods)
  • Go on a market tour with a guide - it is amazing all the things you wouldn't know were there if someone didn't show you!
  • Get out into rural Vietnam! Our favorite days were those in the rural areas exploring.

inside scoop

  • Quy Nhon is a lesser known destination but there is lots to do there. If you are going to do a cooking class, I would do it here. Plus there are great beaches and a great hotel - Avani.
  • Hoi An is a UNESCO world heritage site and it is beautiful but very crowded. The flip side of that, is that there is a lot of ways to learn about Vietnamese culture there.
  • We traveled with Geographic Expeditions on a private family tour. I highly recommend doing something like this and GeoEx was amazing - especially when traveling with small children and a limited amount of time. We had the same guide throughout our trip (Phong) who was amazing. The trip would not have been the same without him.

skip it

  • Skip the cooking class in Hoi An. It is very touristy and if you have planted rice (a must), you will have learned how to make ban xiao already.
  • The Intercontinental Hotel in Da Nang is a world recognized hotel. It is gorgeous. But the food is not great (and you are far from everything so you are stuck). They also lost our daughter when they were escorting her from the kids club to our room. They literally left her crying on the sidewalk because she didn't know where to go. There are a lot of other beautiful beach resorts in Vietnam (and a Four Seasons just opened close to Hoi An) - this is one to skip.

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