Vietnam is a captivating country characterised by energetic cities, golden beaches, emerald lakes, meandering rivers, and terraced rice paddy fields interspersed with vibrant Buddhist pagodas. Spend a bit of time in Vietnam’s famous cities and experience the friendly locals, bustling atmosphere and impressive architecture for yourself. Here are a few things to do in Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City:
Hoi An is an ancient town located in the centre of Vietnam, just 30 minutes from Da Nang Airport. The city, that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 and is one of the best preserved examples of a South-East Asian trading port with elements dating as far back as the 15th century. Exploring this city is a lively affair with its tangible bustling atmosphere, and streets, lined with historical buildings and colourful temples.
Travel tips: A comfortable flight with Vietnam Airlines will land you safely Hanoi, before your connection to Da Nang. Please note that the domestic terminal is located 5 minutes by bus from the international on and you will have to leave the international Airport building and get a bus. Airport staff will give you a ”transit” badge, so that you will have priority boarding.
WHAT TO DO IN HOI AN
Bargain hunt at Hoi An Central Market
Visit Hoi An Central Market for rich and fragrant spices, fresh fruit, and the most affordable silk tailoring in the city. Don’t forget to bargain!
Tip: prices are higher at the stall near the entrances so head right into the market for the best deals
Visit a Chinese temple
Hoi An is chock-a-block with exotic temples and pagodas reflecting the city’s affluent trading history. Interestingly, most of the temples have strongly Chinese-influenced architecture and once served as assembly halls for Chinese communities. Quan Cong, a temple that honours a famous Chinese general, is a must visit for its incredible interior and fascinating statues.
Tip: remove your shoes before climbing the platform in front of Quan Cong’s statue.
Visit the Japanese Covered Bridge
The Japanese Covered Bridge is one of the most famous icons of Hoi An, built in the 18th century to link the Chinese quarter with the Japanese living in Hoi An. The beauty of the incredible Japanese design still remains today. While entrance to see the bridge is free, a small entry cost is charged to view the temple built into the side of the bridge.
Tip: look out for the pair of monkeys and dogs to each side of the bride entranceway believed to be represent the Chinese years in which many Japanese emperors were born – OR, because the bridge was built in the year of the monkey and completed in the year of the dog.
Enjoy a local show with local music and dancing
Hoi An boasts a vibrant nightlife with quirky bars, cafes, and lounges with live music playing well into the early hours. When the sun goes down, these venues burst with locals and tourists alike enjoying vibrant folk dance performances. The vibrant atmosphere is palpable with streets lit by traditional lanterns and lit candles floating down Thu Bon River.
Tip: A great spot for party lovers – unlike in the rest of Vietnam, these pubs stay open until 3am. Psst! It’s here that you can find some of the cheapest beer in the world!
Tea for a cause: Visit the historic Tea House
Need a little peace and quiet? The Reaching Out Teahouse offers the chance to enjoy tea differently – in complete silence. Situated in a beautiful traditional Vietnamese building, most of the staff are hearing impaired and your orders are made communicating with little wooden blocks with words and proceeds go towards the deaf community.
Tip: Don’t worry if you’re travelling with children. A special kid’s room has toys for the little ones.
Dine at Dao Tien Restaurant
Located in a lovely garden overlooking the river, the Dao Tien Restaurant offers a fantastic setting. It’s a great spot for lunch when the breeze running off the river is lovely and cooling – or at night when traditional lanterns light the area and provides a very romantic atmosphere.
Tip: Try the mango salad with homemade rice crisps
Visit the night market
When evening descends on Hoi An, the night market picks up the pace for one of the most beautiful night markets on the continent. Lit by hundreds of colourful lanterns, the market offers homemade Vietnamese food, souvenirs, handicrafts, colourful silks, and more.
Tip: try some famous Vietnamese dishes like Qunag noodle soup and Cao Lau.
WHERE TO STAY
THE NAM HAI 5*
Ideal for: couples and families
The Nam Hai is a luxury five star hotel, located in 35 hectares of beautiful tropical gardens overlooking the sea and the 1 kilometre stretch of Hoi An Beach. The hotel is ideally located just 15 minutes from the ancient city of Hoi An (complimentary shuttles are available) and a 30 minute drive from Da Nang Airport. Guests can choose between large pool one-bedroom villas and pool villas offering one to five bedrooms. The pool villas have their own entrance, a separate living area, and a dedicated butler! Guests can look forward to relaxing treatments at the on-site spa located on a lotus pond, 3 infinity pools, a tennis courts, and a kid’s activity villa with cooking classes for the little ones. The Nam Hai is also close to two main golf clubs, The Montgomery Links and The Dunes at The Danang Golf Club. Find out more or call 0203 733 4337 to book!
HO CHI MINH CITY
Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is a modern, energetic city. Known for its French, Chinese and American architecture, bustling markets, and street stalls, this is a city where incense-filled temples sit alongside and modern skyscrapers. The Saigon River travels through the city offering a scenic city to explore the old-fashioned way – with a map.
Travel info: Located in South Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City is an hour and a half flight from Da Nang
WHAT TO DO IN HO CHI MINH CITY
Explore the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral
The Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral was built by French colonists between 1863 and 1880 using only material imported from France. This unique red-bricked building is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks.
Tip: Visit on Monday to Saturday between 9am and 11am to get tourist information from members of staff
Visit the Saigon Central Post Office
The Saigon Central Post Office is a famous landmark in Ho Chi Minh City because of its two ancient painted maps of Vietnam and Cambodia. With vaulted ceilings and arched windows, it looks more like an old railway station than a post office. This is still a working post office so make sure you send a letter or postcard here.
Tip: Visit the table for Information and Writing Assistance and meet Saigon’s last letter writer – a man who has been translating Vietnamese letters into English and French for over a decade.
Visit a local market
The local markets are fantastic spots to try some traditional Vietnamese food or pick up some souvenirs and gifts for home. Make sure you brush up on your bartering skills!
Tip: Ben Thanh Market is the most affordable place to try some local Vietnamese dishes
Watch a show at The Opera House
The Saigon Opera House is one of the most important landmarks in the city – an example of impressive French colonial architecture. The Hoi Chi Minh City ballet Symphony Orchestra performs here or you can even watch a performance of Vietnamese inspired Cirque du Soleil.
Tip: Check the website for performances or visit the box office open from 9am to 4.30pm daily
Cocktails at a sky bar
Ho Chi Minh City is famous for its spectacular sky bars scattered throughout the city, offering 360 degree views and a stylish crowd. Saigon Saigon Sky Bar and Chill Sky Bar are two of the best.
Tip: Visit in the late afternoon and watch the city lights flicker on as the sun sets
Do a cycle or vespa tour
Explore the city at your own pace with a cycle or vespa tour. Tours include insight into the history, culture and local cuisine or you can even head out along the Mekong Delta.
Tip: Visit Vespa Adventures to plan your tour
Cruise on the Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta is a section of Vietnam interspersed with a network of rivers, rice paddies, swamps and island just an hour and a half outside of the city. Known as the “rice bowl” of Vietnam, the Mekong Delta seems like a place stopped in time with people going about on boats filled with pineapples, bananas and coconuts.
Tip: Enjoy a half day cruise along the Delta. Travel by tuk tuk and visit Silk Island before taking a sunset cruise back to Phnom Penh
Explore a coconut factory on the Mekong Delta
Visit a coconut factory and see how many products are locally produced out of coconuts (everything from candies to soaps and homeware)
Tip: Combine your visit with a trip to a rice factory
Explore the Cu Chi Tunnels
Visit the famous Cu Chi Tunnels, located an hour and 15 minutes from Ho Chi Minh City. This unusual underground network was created by Vietnamese guerrillas during the Vietnam War to hide from the American forces.
Tip: Try some traditional boiled tapioca at the end of your tour
WHERE TO STAY
THE REVERIE SAIGON 5*
Ideal for: couples, singles, corporate travellers
The Reverie Saigon is the highest hotel in Ho Chi Minh City, commanding the upper floors of the Times Square building, yet it retains a boutique feel. This luxury hotel is conveniently located in the city centre (District 1), overlooking the Mekong River and just 30 minutes from Ho Chi Minh Airport. All rooms and suites are designed by famous Italian furniture designers and offer spacious interiors with every conceivable luxury and superb views (plus a complimentary minibar!). Don’t miss the chance to treat yourself at the on-site spa… View our Vietnam holidays or call 0203 733 4337 to book!
What are your favourite things to do in Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City?
Want to plan a trip to Vietnam? View our Vietnam holidays or chat to an expert who has been there on 0203 733 4337.
Rosaria Cipollaro is a Far East travel expert who has lived in Japan and travelled extensively through China, Thailand, and Vietnam. Her favourite part about Vietnam is the extensive culinary experiences available and the fact that it offers something for everyone, whether you enjoy trekking in the beautiful mountains in the north or relaxing on long white beaches in the south.