I had been to Hanoi a few times, I decided to travel outside Hanoi this time to sample the charm of Imperial City and the cultural heritage of Vietnamese.
I arranged my tour through a travel agent in Hanoi, who helped to book our domestic air-tickets to Hue and Hoi An and a custom package tour to visit all the places that I planned myself. I went with my family members, we thoroughly enjoyed our trip. In fact I liked Hue and Hoi An better than Hanoi, more scenic, clean and peaceful, no scary traffic.
First, we took a domestic flight to Da Nang, then our guide and a local coach transferred us to Hoi An (40minutes away). The next day we spent whole walking around the old quarter of Hoi An, the unique ancient town is being preserved considerably intact. You will learn about Hoi An prosperity in 15th century and its redevelopment in 18th century as the biggest water trading port of the Indochina did business with Japan, China, Indo and Spain. All these were reflected on the special fusion combination of architecture like Tan Ky old house, Japanese bridge, Hoi Quan Phuc Kien pagoda, Chinese assembly halls. You can also stroll along the Hoi An market along Thu Bon river. Bars, restaurants are lined along the river bank, especially nice in the evening lighted by nights and lanterns.
If you have time, try to go to the Le Roi street’s tailors where they could do your Vietnamese clothes or any other clothes in silk with good workmanship ready in 24 hrs at very reasonable prices. There are also unique Vietnam lanterns made locally at very good price, foldable to take home.
On Day 3, we took a drive to My Son, the ancient citadel of towers of the Hinduism Holy Land of My Son Cham ruins. The French is trying to help them to conserve some ruins. Then we went to visit the Cham museum in Da Nang. Here you could look back the spirit cultural life of the Cham with many cultural objects displaying as antique statues carved in 13 th century (similar to Angkor Wat in Cambodia). If you have time, you could visit Tra Kieu catholic church where many of the museum items were recovered. Along the way we visited the Marble mountain where they have many marble factories selling beautiful marble sculptures.
We drove over the Hai Van Pass, the highest mountain range lying horizontally partition the north and the south Vietnam. The real spectacular scenery is at the top of 1260m high, you can see the coastal lines and the surroundings. You can walk along the long sandy Lang Co beach at the foot of Hai Van Pass.
On our Day 04, we had our Hue Imperial city tour. We entered the Purple Forbidden City through Ngo Mon main gate . It was a royal palace built by dynasty Nguyen in Vietnam from 1802 – 1945. Unfortunately most of the palace were destroyed in American wars, now could only see the remaining ruins, architecture combined between the old Vietnamese Sino–Chinese .
After lunch we took a motor boat trip alongside the Perfume River, enjoyed countryside villages and spectacular landscape on both sides of the river. We visited Thien Mu (the Heaven female pagoda) one of the oldest of Vietnam along the river. We also stopped over at Hon Chen temple usually visited by locals.
We kept boating to Minh Mang tomb, one of the Emperors' tombs built after even before they died. It is worth seeing by its huge architecture. Don’t miss the Tomb of Khai Dinh with all the unique Chinese porcelain paintings. We also visited Tu Hieu pagoda.(In Vietnam, pagoda means Chinese temple). Don’t forget to try a little eating shop, Lac Thien’s local food, it is good.
On Day 05 we visited La Vang church. We drove passed Dakrong bridge. We went to Quang Tri to visit DMZ and Vinh Moc tunnel, the only longest and biggest one left from American war. You can still see many bomb shell remains and the potholes of bombing.
Day 06 we drove 40km to visit the Phong Nha cave National Park. We took a motor boat on Son river into the National park and kaste mountains. The scenery along the river bank were very beautiful, the cave also well lighted. Some even feel that it was more beautiful than halong bay.
We had our coffee break in one of the interesting garden houses, restaurant converted from residence used to be occupied by royal family relatives or the wealthy locals. At night we had boating on the Perfume river enjoying Hue folk songs, used to be performed for royalty or during ceremonies.
I had to thank my travel agent for arranging a wonderful trip for us, he even helped to buy cheaper promotion domestic airfare on my request. Our guide also very nice, very friendly and helpful. We stayed in very unique local flavor hotel, clean and comfortable.