You might have seen the Da Nang Golden Bridge-buzz on Instagram last summer, or maybe you are interested in war history, or you have read some top travel list for cheap destinations or you are just curious on what Vietnam has to offer - either way here are some reasons to totally convince you to travel to Vietnam in 2019. (P.S. These tips only cover Ho Chi Minh, Mekong Delta, Hoi An and Da Nang.)
You can have a culinary and aesthetic experience at once
Ho Chi Minh is surprisingly a city filled with lots of different restaurants with different kitchens from around the world (in addition to yummy Vietnamese food of course). There are also Vietnamese coffee shops on every corner where you can find really good coffee and all the hip Vietnamese people.
Near the Ben Thanh Market, there is a street food market where you can try lots of different flavors. There is also a delicious pizza place right next door called Pizza 4 P's, which actually you can find at several different locations around the city. You will find yummy pizza and cool interior design with exposed brick walls and two floors where you can look down at the kitchen from the second floor.
A short walk from the Ben THanh Market there are also streets filled with restaurants and rooftop bars. Stop by Thai rooftop bar, which is in the same building as the tapasbar Tomatito Saigon. The view is great and the drinks even better. Try the spicy ones!
The picture above is from a place that we stumbled upon called Chili Thai in District 1. You can't really tell from the outside that the restaurant inside is as beautiful and colorful as this, but once you get inside you can enjoy delicious thai food and bright colors.
Picture by DJDogan.
There are more places that must be mentioned to try in Ho Chi Minh. The picture above is from Ciao café, which has a gorgeous warm atmosphere and delicious coconut rice. A short walk from the café is the rooftoop bar Caravelle Saigon. The bar has a 1950-60 theme with a band playing tunes from that period and the interior is also from that era. The drinks are very expensive, but the view is great. Ho Chi Minh is known for rooftop bars, so there are many to try!
If the drinks turn into many, you might be craving some junk the next day. Try Marcel Gourmet Burger, which has amazing naughty fries with parmesan cheese. Another choice for junk food is Journey Sandwich Bistro with yummy potato wedges.
Moving on to Da Nang, which is an up and coming city with lots to offer, in the middle of Vietnam near the coast. On the beach side (China Beach/My Khe Beach), there is still lots of construction and new places popping up all the time. Here is the best coconut coffee ever (says me), which is pictured above. It is in Ka Công Cafe, a hip place with nice interiors and cool lamps. They also serve delicious Quang noodles, a local specialty.
If you want to go for international food, CohibaR has a superb atmosphere. There is air condition inside, very good burgers, and a cool sitting area outside with two floors. You can play pool and smoke a shisha/hookah while sipping on tasty drinks.
On the city side, near the Dragon Bridge (see below), splurge at Olivias steak house. Expensive, but worth it if you are a meat lover and longing for a whole steak (it seems meat lovers don't like their meat already being cut into pieces - which usually happens in Vietnam so you can eat with chopsticks). The restaurant has a good atmosphere and a cute rooftop area with cozy lights. Go for delicious drinks at Fat Fish afterwards.
You can learn about history and Experience a different culture and traditions
Vietnam is truly an exotic destination with beauty in many different ways. There are many things to experience, but especially there is lots of history about the Vietnam War in Ho Chi Minh and there are different day trips outside the city to visit for example the Cu Chi tunnels. There, you can get down into the ground and walk inside the tiny tunnels, which are tight and dark.
Picture by DJDogan.
Just walking around the city, you can also see all the motorbikes and the not-so-regulated traffic that might be quite different from what you are used to. You can cross the street, but, as you might have heard, the cars and bikes dont stop, so you need to maneuver around them. Whatever you do, don't stop. The best tip is to walk whenever a local is walking and follow his/her steps.
shop local handcrfted goods or designer goods at concept stores - whatever floats your boat
The Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh has all kinds of Vietnamese goods; chopsticks, handmade coconut bowls, placemats, figures, lamps. There, you really need to dig out your bargaining skills and haggle your way to a price that is reasonable for you. There is also tailors on every street corner that can make beautiful clothes for you and make you a good deal.
In Ho Chi Minh, you can also find designer goods and several hip concept stores that sell highly-priced quality merchandise such as the l'usine concept store that sell clothes and interior goods. It is also a restaurant if you are feeling hungry.
see the mekong river and small canals filled with local life
Just a day trip away you can visit the Mekong Delta with the Mekong river and small islands.
This can be the highlight of your trip (as it was for us). You can visit several small islands in the Mekong river and ride a motor boat and a rowing boat through small river canals. Taste honey, coconut candy and tropical fruits!
Enjoy nice hotels for a low price
If you want to enjoy hotels with four stars or more, but not pay a fortune, this is the time to do it. In Ho Chi Minh, many hotels has a rooftop bar and some have pools too. There are many hotels with their own spa facilities as well. The Silverland hotel chain can be highly recommended. Our personal favorite was Silverland Yen Hotel with a rooftop and infinity pool. All included in the room price is breakfast with Asian food or international food. Eggs and omelet can be made at request and coffee of your choice. There is also afternoon tea everyday with low-key music (guitar and violin playing acoustic pop music)
In Da Nang, try Belle Maison Parosand Da Nang and Mandila Beach Hotel Da Nang. The rooms are great and the food is good too. It is superclose to the beach and walking distance to restaurants. They both have infinity pools in the rooftop, but Belle Maison has a cool rooftop bar as well. Both have great spa facilities.
enjoy a nearly deserted beach during the day
My Khe Beach/China Beach in Da Nang was not very crowded in mid August. During the day there were very few people, but it was also extremely hot and you probably can only manage to stay there by laying underneath an umbrella. Many Vietnamese tourists prefer the beach when the sun is not at its strongest and there were not many tourists in Da Nang from outside Vietnam it seemed. After 4 pm, there are more people until the sun sets at night. You can have a beer for only 20 000 dong and only 40 000 dong for sunbed with umbrella.
walk across the golden bridge in the ba na hills
You might have seen the spectacular "hand bridge" on instagram last summer. The Golden Bridge is actually part of an amusement park in Da Nang. The new attraction opened June 2018 and has been very popular.
Only 45 minutes from Da Nang you will find the amusement park called Ba Na Hills Sun World. You only pay the entrance fee and you get access to everything including a huge arcade hall where you can play video games. The entry ticket is 700 000 dong and that includes the cable car ride, which actually has four world records.
witness the changing colors of the dragon bridge at night
Picture by DJDogan.
The Dragon bridge in Da Nang is a popular tourist attraction at night. Go for a walk and check it out if you like fire and dragons!
There are many restaurants nearby so you can get lucky and get a good view with dinner.
buy handmade lamps or other local-made souvenirs in Hoi An
In Hoi An, only about 45 min drive from Da Nang, you will find a quite different vibe from Da Nang. It is a cute ancient town with lots of shopping. A car with air condition will take you there for only 1,1 mill. dong vs. a taxi for 800 000. The 300 000 dong difference is worth it in the scorching heat of mid August!
You can get rid of that knot in the back of your neck
There are massage salons on every corner in most cities. You can get a great massage for a very low price. Remember that tipping is normal and to always ask if tip is included in the price, and if not make an agreement on what tip to pay.
a final Word
Vietnamese people like it sweet. Their latte is actually made with very sweet and sugary condensed milk. Also, if you buy freshly pressed juice or smoothies usually it is with a lot of sugar. If you don't like it that sweet, remember to ask if sugar is added or ask for no sugar, but you might get a strange look.