This leg of the Vietnam trip was meant to start in Hoi An, but unfortunate timing in a lot of places meant a brief stay in Da Nang was the only affordable option before heading down to Hoi An… then back up through Da Nang to Hue. I had also planned to have Hue as a separate article altogether, but there’s truly not enough to write about it to warrant yet another post.
- Da Nang is a big modern city. You probably already know this, but I did not. Da Nang is full of bright lights and coffee chains. This isn’t neccessarily a bad thing, though! If you’re like me and appreciate the occasional instant coffee and a bacon sandwhich, there’s plenty of that available.
- Da Nang is too big to walk around. It’s an absolutely huge city, split into sections found down the far ends of really, REALLY long roads. Hire a scooter and join the masses, or if that seems frightening there’s a pretty regular bus schedule. Tourists pay double price – it’s still not much at all.
- Hire a bicycle in Hoi An. Scooters are overkill really. The whole place is relatively flat but there are some pretty narrow streets that make scooters quite a pain. The furthest you’ll want to cycle is to the beach, but even that’s a short and wonderful journey.
- Don’t pay to enter Hoi An’s “old town”. I don’t know if you’re actually meant to pay or not, but I read online that you shouldn’t so whenever somebody was asking tourists for money I just walked straight past. It always worked. Apparently the people selling “tickets” are just locals that got a uniform made so they could look official and take our money. Apparently.
- Stay on An Hoi. You’ll notice all the bars and clubs are located over a little river on a small island in the middle of Hoi An – this is An Hoi. You can find decent cheap hostels on An Hoi and I would highly reccomend giving them a whirl. Everywhere is easily reachable but surely when you’re drunk, it’s much easier to have everything within reach?
- Cooking classes are excellent at Cafe 43. The food is pretty decent, the atmosphere is friendly and THE BEER IS ONLY 8P. There are cooking classes on offer all over Vietnam, but this place lets you pick any item(s) on the menu to cook, pick a time to start (the next day), then just asks you to pay a tiny deposit and cover the cost of the dishes you want to cook from the menu.
- Hoi An nightlife is small but fun. There’s a strip on An Hoi with a bunch of bars and clubs. It’s pretty tame and the same things happen every night, but with a bit of bar-hopping, cheap fish bowls, free shots and the inevitable end-of-night trip to Tiger Bar you can have a rather enjoyable night out.
- The Marble Mountains aren’t a day trip. An hour or two is enough time, so I would reccomend visiting the marble mountains in the morning from Hoi An, before heading north to Da Nang or up the Hai Van Pass to Hue. They’re awesome to look around and learn some history, but it’s all over pretty quickly.
- Drive the Hai Van Pass. Sure, there are plenty of other transport options to see the beautiful views up the Hai Van Pass, but there’s something special about slinging your bike around the twists and turns of the Hai Van Pass. In the morning it all seemed so daunting, but it’s actually a very quiet road that’s easy to drive and will take your breath away. Repeatedly.
- Hue is really, REALLY boring. I don’t really know what I expected, but it’s a huge crowded city constantly moving and doing things… that never does anything? Maybe it’s people earning an honest living rather than just pestering tourists to buy crap, but the whole city felt a bit more business-ey than I had experienced in the rest of Vietnam, which made it boring as hell.
- Hue Imperial City is it. Legitimately – that’s all there is. It’s surrounded by some other old things (tombs), but it’s all in the same area so it’s a one-day sort of attraction. Apparently there’s a party scene but a roof cocktail was enough to be honest. During the day time you can either walk around the citeadel and tombs, or you can plan how to move onto the next leg of your trip.
- Get the overnight bus to Hanoi! I had heard so many bad things about this experience, but in all honesty this may have been the most comfortable, relaxing and affordable method of public transport in my whole life. The bus was clean and comfortable, with spacious reclining seats and controllable air-con. Regular stops to buy food and go to the toilet, but you could just stay on the bus and sleep as they were only ever ten minutes. Maybe scaring myself by reading how bad this trip is online helped?
Hoi An may be one of my favourite places ever. I didn’t even tell you about the beach or the town itself – I’ll leave you to discover some things yourself! Da Nang isn’t worth visiting, but if you have to stop somewhere during your journey, it’s a pretty well-equipped city with a lot of home comforts. If you arrive at Hue in the evening, grab some food and a drink and then spend the next day exploring all the old stuff, you can get on the night bus that same day and sleep happy knowing you’ve genuinely seen all it has to offer.