We flew from Cambodia into the Danang (DAD) airport and took a cab about 40-minutes south of there to the very picturesque town of Hoi An. We stayed at the Hoi An Pacific Hotel, which is located about half way between the old town on the Red River and the beach. Our Hanoi travel agent had booked a special promotion for us so we got a really nice 2-room suite and all sorts of freebies with the room for about $60 a night. The hotel provides free transportation to both the old town and the beach on a regular schedule and we discovered if we tipped the van driver a dollar, he would take us anytime we wanted to go. It was a little harder to find an international ATM machine in Hoi An than in some other cities we had visited but we did eventually locate one.
Hoi An is a very nice little city and was a lot of fun. It’s one of the best places in Vietnam to buy all sorts of crafts including wood and stone carving, silks, tailoring and custom made shoes. There is a thriving business there selling luggage to haul home acquired booty and we took advantage of the opportunity. Later in the trip, we wished we had bought a larger suitcase there.
We took a cooking class at a school affiliated with the Red Bridge Restaurant in Hoi An. The class began with an orientation over coffee and then a walk through the food section of the local market. We then boarded a boat for about a half hour ride up the river to a very nice restaurant and professional instructional area. They also included a tour of their local herb garden, which was very informative. After our cooking class, we were served a nice meal, including the chef’s version of most of the dishes we had cooked in the class. This was a good day.
We didn’t take advantage of it but there is a day trip from Hoi An to some “Angkor Wat-like” temples. We spoke to some friends we met in Angkor Wat who ended up taking this day trip in Hoi An and they were a bit disappointed in comparison to what we had already seen together. But if you aren’t going into Cambodia, you might want to try it.
Hue is the old capital city and is located just north of Danang. We read some literature about it that made it sound like a good stop but our Hanoi travel agent suggested we would be happier with Hoi An. And we talked to several people along the way on our trip that had done both and agreed that you can give Hue a miss if you’re tight on time or it’s a question of Hue or Hoi An.
A lot of people travel between the central part of Vietnam either north or south by overnight train. We chose to fly from Danang to Hanoi and are glad we did. We took an overnight train later in our trip and booked what was one of the better berths you can find in Vietnam and weren’t able to sleep. The flight ended up being fairly cheap when booked by our Vietnamese travel agent and only took an hour.
For information on restaurants in Hoi An, see our Vietnam 2005 Food & Restaurant Notes