Hue is the ancient capital of Vietnam. I visited Hue twice with many different emotions, but one thing never changes, the silence. Any one who visited Hue probably have had similar experiences. There seems so few people on the streets, life is passing very slow, and even a little sad. So, why go to Hue?!
Hue is the capital of Vietnam’s last feudalistic dynasty, hence preserves numerous pagodas, temples, palaces and especially the magnificent citadel. And the people of this ancient capital are amazingly wonderful too. Don’t forget the local food! Definitely worth a visit! In this article, I’m happy to share with you my experiences, tips and things to do in Hue – Vietnam.
How to get to Hue
If you’re in Hanoi or Sai Gon (Ho Chi Minh city), you can travel to Hue by bus or train. While bus is generally faster and more convenient with many high quality companies offering sleeper services, train is also a good choice for those who prefer a more peaceful trip.
Dalat is such a cool getaway from the tropical heat. To make your trip even more unforgettable, here are my review for the 25 best hotels in Dalat, out of 200 hotels in the Dream City. The list includes budget to moderate and upscale options.
Here we go.
I. 1-star hotels in Dalat
1. Dalat Flower hotel
Rates from $10 – $39
The Dalat Flower’s staffs are enthusiastic and very friendly. They are willing to guide you in detail about Dalat tourism. Rooms are clean, cool and fragrant, especially cleaned many times a day, which is rare for hotels of this range. The hotel is in the city center, closed to Dalat market, Xuan Huong lake so it’s very convenient for travelling.
The only con of Dalat Flower is that it’s located in a small alley so you should not go back to the hotel too late at night.
For me, this hotel is excellent in quality for that price when compared to other 1-star hotels (even 2-star) in Dalat.
Phu Yen is a coastal province in South-Central Vietnam, located on 1A highway – the most important route from North to South of Vietnam. Bestowed with unparalleled coastline and spectacular geographic structures, Phu Yen has gain significant popularity among local travellers, especially after one of the movies was casted here. Grand, Peaceful and so many Shades of Green and Blue. Here are some things and recommended itinerary to catch up once you’re there!
Buon Ma Thuot (Buôn Ma Thuột) is the heart of Dak Lak (Đắk Lắk) province and Central Highlands (Tây Nguyên) of Vietnam. Buon Ma Thuot was built over 1 century ago, when the French people were still in Vietnam and built the ruling fortress in this area.
Before becoming a city, this land was a very big village with over 50 Long Houses (Nhà Dài – a unique house of ethnic groups in Highlands), each of which is home to 30-40 people. The entire village was led by the chief Ama Thuot (Ama Thuột) who is very reputed and powerful. Therefore, the name of village, Buon Ma Thuot, was named after the chief. The word “Buon” means village in Vietnamese, so “Buon Ma Thuot” means the village of chief Ama Thuot.
In Vietnam, Buon Ma Thuot is very famous for coffee (origin of the tastiest coffee of Vietnam), big flocks of elephant, unique houses of ethnic groups, as well as majestic nature of Central Highlands.
Binh Ba island (Đảo Bình Ba) is a beautiful island not far from mainland, about 20 km (13 miles), located in Cam Ranh bay, Cam Binh ward – Cam Ranh city – Khanh Hoa province (60 km or 39 miles from Nha Trang and 15km or 10 miles from Cam Ranh airport).
The island is also known under the name Lobster island (đảo Tôm Hùm), because this place is famous for big and tasty lobsters. Unlike its noisy, bustling and urbanized neighbors (Nha Trang, Mui Ne – Phan Thiet), Binh Ba’s sea is pristine with two long and beautiful beaches.
Travelling to Binh Ba is quite easy and convenient. Following informations will help you have a perfect trip.
* From Hanoi. The distance is 1400km (880 miles), which takes under 30 hours. Fare of buses from Hanoi is about $40 to $45. Some reliable firms are:
– Hoang Long bus. Add: Giap Bat bus station – Km 6 Giai Phong street – Hoang Mai district, Tel: +844.3664.6617 or My Dinh bus station – 20 Pham Hung – My Dinh, tel: +844.3795.1776
– Sinh Cafe (open tour). 38 Ly Nam De street – Hoan Kiem district – Hanoi. Tel:+8498.8757.689
If go by bus, you need to tell driver to drop you at Cam Ranh post office or Cam Ranh bus station. These are close to Ba Ngoi port (cảng Ba Ngòi) where you will take boat to Binh Ba island. There’s only one trip from mainland to the island at 10a.m everyday, and 2 trip back from island to mainland at 5a.m and 12a.m.
Hotels and motels on Binh Ba island
There are not so many choice, and no luxury hotels on Binh Ba island too. Here are a few recommendations:
1. Mrs. Dung’s motel, tel +84972.332.202, about $4/night, and $4/meal.
2. Mrs. Tuyen’s motel, +84914.493.793, cool and spacious motel, comparable to Mrs. Dung’s motel. Additionally, you can buy seafood (lobster, snail,…) to eat in hotel with affordable price.
3. For homestay, you can contact Mr. Tu +8494.2016.958, who offers spacious, clean and comfortable house, close to market and beaches, suitable for big group of 20 people.
Where to visit and play on Binh Ba island
You are advised to spend 2 days for the attractive sites and interesting activities on Binh Ba:
1. Nom beach (bãi Nồm) is a sandy beach with clean and blue water. Most of locals and tourists choose this place to entertain.
2. Chuong beach (bãi Chướng) has many rock and reef, more for sightseeing and seafood.
Besides Nom and Chuong beaches, if you can rent a boat to visit other distant beaches then very amazing.
3. Historic sites from wartime (over 1 century ago) such as blockhouses, cannon, tunnel through mountain,…
Several interesting activities that you can’t miss:
4. Get up early to watch sunrise, as Binh Ba is among the first place in Vietnam to welcome sunrise. Not a bad idea!
5. Fishing and squidding. You can contact boat owners to enjoy this service. Fishing is usually in the early morning while squidding is at night.
6. Diving to watch reef. If you don’t have much time, you can dive at Nha Cu beach (bãi Nhà Cũ – on the island).
7. Travelling around island. You can rent a motorbike to take a tour around island, visit historic sites from wartime, go to the peak of hill to have the entire island in your view and a part of Cam Ranh bay.
8. Catch Cong (Còng – a kind of crab) in the evening. There’re many Cong on Binh Ba beaches. When the night falls, you will hold a lamp, find and chase after them, very interesting. What’s even more interesting is when you get to fry and try them!
Tour guide service on Binh Ba island
You can contact Mr. Quy +8493.2536.997 (or +8497.2000.784) or Mr. Hau +84123.3157.654 (owner of a fish boat) for a guide and information on the island.
Specialties of Binh Ba island
Don’t miss Binh Ba’s lobster (tôm hùm), which is fresh for 30%-60% cheaper than restaurants on mainland. There’re 2 types of lobster: alive and dead. Alive lobster is from $70-$90. Dead lobster is from $20-$30, which is also still very fresh and tasty coz they only just die anyway.
Additionally, there’re many fresh seafood on the island: many kinds of fish and snail, squid, sea urchin. Indulge yourself generously!
With just $2 (~42,000 VND), what specialties can you enjoy in Vietnam? A LOT! Vietnam’s food is cheap, if not very cheap. $2 can buy you scores of amazing local food. Here is a list of under-two-dollar food you can find inHanoi, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh city – 3 in the 5 biggest cities of Vietnam.
Quy Nhon (Quy Nhơn) is a coastal city of Binh Dinh province (Central Vietnam). People here are very very kind-hearted and nice. Quy Nhon is famous for beautiful landscapes such as Genh Rang (Gềnh Ráng), Bai Trung beach (Bãi Trứng) where Nam Phuong queen used to bath, Trung Luong beach, Han Mac Tu tomb – a famous poet living in the beginning of the 20th century, and many more other places.
Especially, Binh Dinh is also called Martial Land (Đất Võ) because it is hometown of Quang Trung King, a great king in Vietnam’s history who defeated Thanh dynasty (Qing, a big dynasty of China) in their attack in the 17th century. So, don’t miss the chance to learn about our great king at Quang Trung museum. Following is some information and experiences about Quy Nhon – Binh Dinh tourism.
I love coffee, which i have to drink 2 cups, in morning and evening, everyday to work effectively. Majority of vietnamese also like coffee but their ways of enjoying aren’t same. From my trips in 3 regions of Vietnam, i saw very big differences in coffee cultures.
To compare the differences, i will take 3 cities, 3 centers of culture in Vietnam: Hanoi, Hue and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh city). Coffee cultures of Hanoi and Hue are quite same so i could easily adapt. However, Saigon is too different, i even got shocked when saw them “enjoying”.
Coffee culture of Hue can be described in 3 words: concentrated, subtle and slow, like their personality. Because there’re not many amusement parks while too much free time, so they can enjoy coffee at anytime of the day. In the hot summer, you will see the cafes along Huong river are always crowded.
Phu Yen is a coastal city in Central Vietnam. It is a beautiful land with nice beaches, along with special culture of the South-Central region. Phu Yen has a lot of tourist attractions; most notably are Ganh Da Dia – which is a rocky beach where all the rocks have plate shape, Vung Ro bay and O Loan swamp, etc. The city also has many famous specialties.
Below are some Phu Yen travel experiences which I had from my trips, my friends’ trips and collected from several Vietnam travel forums.
The center of Phu Yen is Tuy Hoa city. There are many ways to get to Tuy Hoa: Train, bus and plane of Vietnam Airlines.
1. By bus
* From Ho Chi Minh city
The distance between HCM City and Tuy Hoa is more than 500km (310 miles). Averagely, it takes over 10 hours to get to Tuy Hoa from HCM City and the fare is about $15. Some popular bus agencies:
– Hoang Long bus at Mien Dong bus station (Bến xe Miền Đông on Dinh Bo Linh street – HCM city). Tel: +848.2243.8989
– Thuan Thao bus starts from Mien Dong bus station at different time during the day. There are 2 types of ticket: seat and bed, you should choose bed ticket as you are likely to get tired because of the long distance. Tel: +8457.382.1111 or +8457.382.0303
– Cuc Tu bus is of fine quality. Contact the ticket office at Mien Dong bus station by calling +8489.019.090, or at Tuy Hoa city by calling +84573.382.4227
– Binh Phuong bus: Contact the ticket office at Mien Dong bus station by calling +8491.347.7751, or at Tuy Hoa city by calling +8457.382.6632 or +8457.383.6767
1. Nhan mountain (núi Nhạn) – Da river (sông Đà) are in center of Tuy Hoa. On Nhan mountain, there is Cham ethnic’s tower which is 800 years old. You may climb the mountain, get an overall view of Tuy Hoa and take photos at Cham ethnic’s tower. The mountain is more beautiful at night.
2. Buu Lam pagoda is located at the foot of Chop Dai mountain, 5km (over 3 miles) away from the city. The pagoda is famous for its massive and sacred Buddha statues. After visiting the pagoda, you may also climb to the Chop Dai summit to observe the entire city and surrounding area.
3. Ganh Da Dia. This is a must-see place, it’s very special. I could not believe that they are totally natural because all of the rocks have plain plate shape.
Ganh Da Dia is 30km (19miles) away from the city, you can take route 1A from Hanoi. When arriving at Chi Thanh junction, going straight ahead for about 1,2km (0.75miles), you will see Lo Go bridge. Go through the bridge and keep going for about 7km (4.4miles), and you will get to Ganh Da Dia. You should also visit Ganh Den (which has a lighthouse). This is only a few hundreds of meters from there.
4. Vung Ro bay (vịnh Vũng Rô) – Da Bia mountain (núi Đá Bia) are 2 places near each other. Vung Ro bay is surrounded by many stone mountains and has 12 small beaches. You can rent a boat to explore the bay. You can also climb Da Bia mountain, which is near the bay.
5. O Loan swamp is a big swamp. It is very beautiful at sunset and sunrise. O Loan is 25km away from Tuy Hoa, and close to Route 1A. After visiting the swamp, don’t forget to enjoy delicious seafood dishes and specialties of the region at several restaurants.
6. Vuc Hom water fall. The road to Vuc Hom is quite rough but the waterfall is very nice. Around the fall are some other attractions such as Ganh Da Dia. Take Route 1A from Hanoi. Once getting to Hoa Da junction, turn left and keep going for about 20km (12,5 miles). Then take the earthen road for about 10km. During the journey, you should ask the local people about the way to Vuc Hom waterfall (thác Vực Hòm). You will have to go through 1km (0,6 miles) of earth road of poor conditions before arriving at the fall.
7. Long Thuy beach and Chua islet. These attractions are 9km (5.6miles) from the city. To get there, take Route 1A towards Ganh Da Dia. On the road, you will see a sign: “Thanh Luong pagoda (chùa Thanh Lương) 1500m”. Take that way and keep going to the end of road, you will see an immense sea. From here, you can see Chua islet which is very close. You will have to rent a boat to reach the islet. There are a lot of fish boats around the dock.
Hotels and motels in Phu Yen
In Tuy Hoa, there are many hotels with the average price from $8 to $15 on Hung Vuong street.
1. Anh Tuan 1 & 2 hotels. Both of them are on Hung Vuong street. Tel (Anh Tuan 2): +8457.381.1711, and (Anh Tuan 1): +8457.3841.999
2. Nhiet Doi hotel is at 216 Nguyen Hue – Tuy Hoa. Tel: +8457.382.2424 or +8498.571.5334 or +8491.347.2633. It’s a new hotel with good rooms. The price is less than $10. You can also rent motorbikes here.
3. Cong Doan hotel (Union hotel) is close to the beach. Add: 53 Doc Lap street – Tuy Hoa. Tel: +8457.382.3187. The price is 15$ for a double room. It includes a breakfast for 2. Rooms at the hotel have nice view overlooking the sea.
4. Cendeluxe 5-star hotel is at 2 Hai Duong street – Tuy Hoa. Tel: +84573.818.818
5. Dai Lanh resort is nice, spacious and quiet. Contact Mrs. Phung at +8490.868.7679
Phu Yen has rich culture and tradition, so Phu Yen cuisine is also very diverse. For example, some traditional dishes of Phu Yen include Pork rice paper (bánh tráng), pancake (bánh xèo), noodle soup (bánh canh), etc. Besides, the city also has several specialties such as tuna, spider crab of Song Cau or oysters of O Loan, etc.
The following are some restaurants to enjoy Phu Yen specialties:
1. Le Duan pancake is a sidewalk restaurant, near Dien Bien Phu – Le Duan intersection. The restaurant opens only in the afternoon, from 5 p.m to 8 p.m. Pancake in Phu Yen is very different from that in the Central or the South of Vietnam.
2. There is another pancake restaurant at 20 Le Thanh Ton. The price is from $0.2 to $0.25 for each piece which is accompanied by tasty sauce.
3. Thinh Nam restaurant at 6 Bach Dang street, Tuy Hoa serves seafood dishes. The famous dishes are tuna and tuna’s eye. It might sound a bit terrible but very tasty indeed. You should eat tuna first, then try tuna’s eye dish.
4. Tuyet Nhung chicken rice restaurant on Le Thanh Ton street serves very tasty and cheap chicken rice of only $1.
Rice restaurant is at 57 Duy Tan street. The food is cheap and tasty too. The price is $1/plate.
Another tasty restaurant is on Thanh Thai street, opposite a supermarket.
5. Grilled corn with sauce is sold at Hung Vuong – Nguyen Hue intersection.
6. Fried roll lizard is a specialty of the South-Central region. This is sold at Tran Quy Cap – Nguyen Con Tru intersection.
7. Sauce noodle is on Nguyen Hue street, near a park.
8. Egg rice paper is sold at 100th tree on Le Trung Kien street.
9. Bánh bèo (mini topped pancake) is sold at the foot of Nhan mountain. Its price is $0.8/plate. The food stall also serves noodle soup ($0.5/bowl) and pancake.
10. Nhu Y rice at 8 Nguyen Cong Tru serves extremely tasty and cheap dishes.
Some famous seafood restaurants
11. Seafood restaurant at Luong Van Chanh – Nguyen Hue intersection
12. Tran Phu restaurant on Tran Phu street, 200m (660ft) from Phu Yen museum towards the beach
13. Tay Du Ky at the beginning of Ba Trieu street, near Lac Long Quan street.
14. Phi Hoa Sua at the junction, on the middle slope of Le Thanh Phuong street.
15. Tuna restaurant at Le Duan – Dien Bien Phu intersection
The top tourist attractions in Quang Binh include Phong Nha cave, which is known as “Vietnam’s best cave” (Nam thiên đệ nhất Động), Thien Duong cave (Paradise cave), and Phong Nha Ke Bang national park – a World Natural Heritage. In addition, there are various beautiful beaches such as Nhat Le orDa Nhay (Dancing Stone) under Da Nhay mountain pass. The best time to visit Quang Binh is summer when you can climb up the mountains and swim down in the sea at the same time.
You should stay at Quang Binh for at least 2 days to fully experience this place.
There are many trains to Dong Hoi during the day (about 8 trains). The distance between Hanoi and Dong Hoi is about 600km (375 miles), so it often takes less than 10 hours to get there. You can buy train ticket at:
– TSC agency (add: 114 Pho Duc Chinh street – Ba Ðinh district – Hanoi): +844-37162868
– Mua Xuan (spring) agency (add: 41 Ma May Street – Hoan Kiem district – Hanoi): +844-39263138 or +844-22109775
– Hanoi railway station on Le Duan street
* From Sai Gon
There are about 8 trains to Dong Hoi within a day too. The distance between Sai Gon and Dong Hoi is about 1250km (750miles), so it often takes more than 20 hours to get there. You can buy ticket at:
– Sai Gon railway station: 01 Nguyen Thong street, Ward 9, District 3, Ho Chi Minh city. Tel: +848 39 310 666
– For more information: +848 3931 8952 or +848 3846 6091
– Contact the ticket office at +848 38 436 524 or +848 38 468 701
Sai Gon railway station will deliver ticket to your hotel if you request at +848 8436 528. The delivery service is available only within the city from 7:00 to 21:00 everyday.
– Vinh Ha: 9-12-16-seat cars. Add: Huu Nghi street – Dong Hoi. Tel: +8452.382.3371 or +84912. 585.656
– Hong Hoa: 12 to 35-seat cars at 78 Le Loi – Dong Hoi. Tel: +8452.382.4537 or +8491.8186.902
Quang Binh travel itinerary for 2 days
Upon reaching Dong Hoi, rent a motorbike or a car to travel.
In the morning, play at Nhat Le beach in the city center.
In the afternoon, get to Da Nhay beach, which is about 30km (19 miles) from Dong Hoi towards Hanoi. Next, visit Vuc Quanh ecotourism area, on Ho Chi Minh Highway – 7km (4 miles) from Dong Hoi.
In the evening, stroll around the streets, enjoy the wind along the river bank or visit Me Suot monument.
You should buy a tour to visit Thien Duong cave (Paradise cave – a beautiful and majestic cave that you can’t miss), and Phong Nha Ke Bang national park (World Natural Heritage) including such beauty spots as Tien Son cave, Phong Nha cave, Tam Co cave and Nuoc Mooc stream.
In the tour, you will visit Thien Duong cave in the morning and Phong Nha Ke Bang in the afternoon.
You can buy a tour at your hotel or at Phong Nha Discovery company. Tours will finish at 6pm.
If you have one more day
You may visit the rest of the attractions. Most of them are historical sites. There are not many special things to visit. The following are some of the sites:
– Truong Son cemetery is the cemetery exclusively for martyrs.
– Hien Luong bridge over Ben Hai river used to be the border dividing Vietnam into 2 separate parts during the war from 1954 to 1975.
– Vinh Moc tunnel is an underground military structure including kilometers of tunnels and other underground structures.