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Where to Stay, Eat, and Explore in Vietnam

Where to Stay, Eat, and Explore in Vietnam

SE Asia is a beast of its own. The insane traffic, the language barrier, the unfamiliar food — you’ve gotta love it or you’ll go mad. Vietnam marks our 50th country since we started our sabbatimoon, and we have definitely had some new experiences during the month we spent here.

Da Nang

We used Da Nang as our home base while we worked with a few local entrepreneurs here. We chose Da Nang over Hanoi or Saigon because…well, the beach! Da Nang is still a big city, but not nearly as crowded or as hot. It’s got a huge stretch of beach that goes as far as the eye can see.

The view from the roof deck at Da Nang Golden Bay

The view from the roof deck at Da Nang Golden Bay

Where we stayed:

  • Da Nang Golden Bay - This place had the best infinity pool we have ever seen. Located on the 29th floor, it is the perfect place to watch the sun go down behind the mountains. The hotel itself is pretty great, too.

What we did:

  • Ba Na Hills Sun World - You know the hand bridge you’ve been seeing every travel blogger and their mothers posting? (Guilty!) Yeah, we went there. It was nothing like we expected; a LOT like Disney Land TBH. But it was still fun to see how many people flocked here, and we enjoyed the views from the long tram ride up the mountain.

  • Son Tra Peninsula (Monkey Mountain) - If you’re in Da Nang, go here! There are so many amazing viewpoints, as well as a giant lady buddha statue and temple. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a monkey.

  • Dragon Bridge - Every weekend at 9PM, the Dragon Bridge in the middle of the city breathes fire (actual fire!). It seems like the whole city comes out to watch, and there’s a pretty fun night market happening near the dragon head end.

  • Walked around - It’s worth noting that the city comes alive after the hot sun goes down. People start swimming at sunset, chairs get put out and sidewalk restaurants magically appear, and everyone comes out of their houses to socialize on the street.

Where we ate:

  • Roots - Best vegan place in Vietnam. Jackfruit ‘pulled pork,’ smoothie bowls, tofu scramble. YUM.

  • Runam Cafe - Our favorite spot to chill and work at. The menu is large, the people are so nice, and most importantly, they will point a giant fan right at you! haha

  • Bon Pas Bakery - We tried a lot of coconut coffee, and this one was the best by far. They actually make it with real pieces of coconut and not just coconut milk.

  • Pizza 4 P’s - Can you believe they have a legit woodfired pizza place in Vietnam?! They have unique flavors here to suit to Asian pallet, but also the traditional ones like margherita. Make a reservation online and skip the line.

Hoi An

This is like Da Nang’s cooler little sister. It’s about 40 minutes away, but still has the beach plus a historic downtown full of cute shops, bars, restaurants and streets lined with lanterns. There’s a river cutting through the town that you can hire a little boat to take you for a ride.

Where we stayed:

  • Beachside Boutique Resort - Right across the street from the beach in An Bang, this charming hotel is in the perfect location. Far enough away from the noise, but close enough to walk to the sunset happy hour spots or grab a 5-minute taxi to the old town.

What we did:

  • Swam! Ate! Massages! Bought matching outfits! ;P

Where we ate:

  • Nourish - Because Dany can never have enough falafel and smoothie bowls.

  • Fisherman’s - Contrary to the name, this beachfront property is fully vegan, serving up traditional Vietnamese along with western options like a brekkie burrito.

  • Dechiu Hotel / Gieo Cafe - The owner here puts a lot of effort into her design and menu, sourcing her inspiration from traditional local farming methods. The juices are fresh and the decor is something special.

Hanoi

We felt like we had to see the hustle and bustle of the big city at least for a day. So, en route to the islands in the North, we gave ourselves an extra day to explore and we did not regret it.

Where we stayed:

  • Essence Hanoi Hotel & Spa - A super calm space in the very midst of the old quarter. Literally the best location we could have asked for. The room and the bed were large and styled beautifully, and they serve a complimentary afternoon tea with sweets for their guests.

What we did:

  • Water Puppet Show - Sometimes these kinds of ‘cultural’ shows are tacky, but this one was 100% entertaining, high quality and felt genuine.

  • Visited a crashed B52 - It had been shot down and landed in a small lake during the Vietnam War and hasn’t been touched since. Eerie, but a good reminder of what this country has been through.

  • Shopped around the old quarter - Lots of fun stuff (and lots of fake stuff!)

  • Beer Street - OK please go find this street. It’s crazy and energetic and at least sit down for a few minutes and sip on a beer while you watch all the tourists, locals, and vendors walk around.

  • Train tracks - This has become such a popular photo op in the last few years that the amount of cafes located next to the track has gone from 1 to 20 in the past 4 months.

Where we ate:

  • Uu Dam - HUGE menu of vegetarian dishes and all plated really beautifully

  • Jalus Vegan Cafe - Tucked up a staircase through an alley, the salads here were really delicious.

Cat Ba Island & Ha Long Bay

This was the entire point of wanting to come to Vietnam. The North! I’ll just let the picture do the talking.

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Where we stayed:

  • Hung Long Harbour Hotel - probably one of the best views on Cat Ba Island. We had an epic sunset right off our balcony, and Cat Ba is small enough that you can pretty much walk to anything on the main strip within 10 minutes.

What we did:

  • Cat Ba Express - It was easy enough to hop on a bus from Hanoi to Cat Ba. The Cat Ba Express also organized a day cruise for us to see Lan Ha and Ha Long Bay. It’s definitely the best way to see the many islands.

  • Kayaking - During our day cruise, we got to take out a kayak and go exploring through a couple caves. We even spotted a bunch of jellyfish!

  • Karaoke - Although we didn’t partake this time, karaoke can be heard throughout all of Vietnam (even in the floating fisherman’s villages!). It’s something that’s become deeply rooted in their culture — even professional events will kick off with a quick performance from the CEO.

Where we ate:

  • Buddha Belly - We had dinner here both nights because we loved it so much. It’s a small vegan spot offering up a set menu for $2. You can also choose other dinner options off the menu, but there’s no need - just trust them.

Overall, we really loved our time in Vietnam. We really think the people here are some of the kindest, most welcoming people we’ve met along our trip, and we can’t wait to come back to see even more of the country someday.

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