A Closer Look at Nha Trang

Nha Trang is different from any other place I’d been to so far. It almost feels western, in some ways, although it’s still very much Vietnam.  The first thing to note is that we stayed at a resort. I’ve found that there’s always a balancing act when you go to a resort. On the one hand, I’ve never found one that I didn’t enjoy, but on the other hand, does staying in a luxury resort affect your ability to experience the local culture?

We’d booked a couple of nights at the Mia Resort. We booked a room with an ocean view. It was a few dollars more than a garden view room, but I felt – ‘hey- if you’re going to stay at a resort, make the most of it!’

Nha Trang is set up to cater for western tourists, with many of the well-known accommodation brands there. I didn’t regret the Mia. But to be honest, there haven’t been too many five star resorts I’ve regretted! There may have been some 3 ½ star places that have left me wondering, but that’s a different story.


What did Nha Trang have to offer that made it worthwhile? Firstly, a great climate. If you like sitting by the poolside enjoying a cool drink in the evening, while it’s still deliciously warm, then this is the right place. If you like wandering along golden sand beaches, then Nha Trang has miles and miles of walking space. And swimming. And snorkeling. I’m told that the snorkeling was best later in the year, but I was pretty happy with what we had.

Meals? There are three different restaurants to give you a choice of quality and cuisine.

Spa? I’ve always loved spas.  You could lie and relax, listening to the sound of the waves on the beach.

They provide a shuttle service to the town, so we could easily enjoy the local culture without any concerns about getting lost.

Service? The staff are exceptionally trained to meet all your needs.


There were even options such as a private Tai Chi class.  I chose not to take up that one, but credit where credit is due – what an interesting thing to offer the visitors!

The city hast the ‘normal’ city things. Like shops. Great value, but I’m not into shopping. My wife tells me that if we buy things here it will help cover the cost of the trip. My thoughts are that if we don’t spend money shopping, we’ll have money to cover the cost of the trip, and we can buy what we need when we get home. My wife and I don’t quite see eye-to-eye on this one.

I like beaches. But after a day on the beach, I was ready to consider other options. Nha Thang obliged. I asked the concierge what we could do while we were in town. He suggested a day trip to another beach. That didn’t really seem to resolve my issue!

The next suggestion was a waterfall. That sounded like a good change of pace for me. The place was called Ba Ho Falls. Apparently Ba Ho is Vietnamese for ‘three pools’. Amazingly, there were three pools at Ba Ho! Go figure. It was cooler, refreshing, and uncrowded. This was a great relief after the crowds of most other places I’d seen so far in Vietnam. There was a little bit of a walk to get to the falls, but it was all worthwhile. The only thing I’d recommend for others is to bring some drinking water with you. We had one small bottle in our packs, but could have used more.

Overall, Nha Trang was a great place, and Mia Resort will stick in my memory!

hoan kiem lake

Exploring Hanoi, a Place That Resembles a Colonial Town

I’m told that as recently the 1990s, Hanoi still resembled a colonial town. The modern world had not reached this place. Our time in Hanoi started with the sound of horns. I’ve been to New York. I thought I knew the sound of horns intimately. But New York is nothing to Hanoi! If you remember my comments about motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi is an order of magnitude worse. Maybe worse is the wrong word – maybe ‘more challenging’ would be a better description.

Well, it had been a long trip up the country, so we settled in to our accommodation. We’d had some concerns about what Hanoi would be like, so again we went for something that would be more western, more up-market. We landed on our feet at the InterContinental Hanoi. It is total luxury! Even the showers are something to write home about – or include in a blog, as I’m doing here. I’ve always felt that showers are one of the most important aspects of a hotel. Even if you have a bad night, a good shower in the morning can freshen you up and make you feel great. I’d never come across a rainfall-effect showerhead before. I’m getting one when I renovate my bathroom at home! Wow!


Enough about the showers… In some ways, the resort was similar to our stay at Nha Trang. Three restaurants gave a great choice. One was French, (as you come to expect in Vietnam), one was traditional local food, and one was Italian. What a tough choice! Maybe the food was a little more expensive than you would pay in a downtown restaurant, but I think it was worth it.

We had a view over this little lake that’s just north of downtown Hanoi. The room had all those things you’re looking for – comfort, clean, air conditioning (you need it!) and great service. It was honestly as good as any five-star hotel I’d stayed at, anywhere in the world. Sunset drinks by the pool was similar again to Nha Trang, but this time it was at a setting with the sun setting over the lake. Just make sure you’re aware of the mosquitoes. Pretty cool. Breakfast was pretty good, too! They provide a choice of western and Asian breakfasts. While I’m reasonably adventurous in the food department, that’s mainly confined to lunches, dinners, and snacks. Breakfast needs to be simple for me. I don’t think I could ever come to terms with rice for breakfast, so the western options were appreciated.

Being lured by live music on Hanoi old quarter streets at night (1) [640x480]

A shuttle to the city would have been good.  It was about three miles to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, one of the main ‘things to do’ in Hanoi. I’ve never been to a Mausoleum before. It’s interesting to know how to react to a place like this. You think of the war, and the ‘north’ being the ‘bad guys’. I didn’t know a lot of the detail about who Ho Chi Minh was, or why he should be celebrated. Now I know a little more.

We took a walking tour through the old town. It was an eating tour. You’ve probably guessed I’m into food. Here, we had a guide help us try different thing. Again, it was that French-Vietnamese fusion. Pork crepes! (banh cuon, in Vietnamese). I also tried some sort of flame-grilled meat from a street vendor; and we finished up with local fresh fruit, served in a cup with crushed ice and condensed milk. That one was a bit rich for me, but the pork crepe is a taste I’ll remember.


Going Back in Time to Hoi An

Imagine taking a step back 400 years, to culture that no longer exists. Something that is a mix of ancient China, Vietnam, Portugal, Japanese, Dutch and Indians. Vietnam as we understand it is a relatively new country. The French ruled Indochina in the colonial era, and recognized a number of ‘countries’ that no longer exist’. But Hoi An dates back to before French Indochina. Back in the 1500s, the town was divided by the river, with the Chinese and Vietnamese town on one side, and the Japanese town across the bridge. Just note- the Chinese was the overlords of the Vietnamese at the time.

OK, I confess it- I’m a history buff. I wasn’t expecting to find anything particularly interesting from a historical basis in Vietnam. Then I came to Hoi An. There’s nowhere else in the world that I’ve ever heard of that’s quite like it. We see our modern society as being ‘multicultural’, but back in the 1500s, that was a very unusual circumstance. Today, I can walk through the Old Town, and the experience was totally unexpected. I certainly never knew that Vietnam was a center of world trade.

The old town is fascinating. We just spent our time walking (and watching out for the motorbikes!). I’ve never been to Japan, but now I’ve seen and walked through an authentic historic Japanese covered bridge. OK – I’ll be honest with you, it’s not authentic. The colonial French removed the arch to allow vehicles to get through, and the Vietnamese only rebuilt the arch in the 1980s.

There were a bunch of museums at Hoi An. I spent some time wandering through, but the whole old time is like a living museum. While my wife will humor me for a while, I couldn’t give them the time they deserve.

But if I was to sing the praises of Hoi An to someone who was less interested in history, what would I say?

Well, the old town has been declared a UNESCO historic site, but then that’s just confirming my personal bent towards historically interesting places.


I could tell you about the food. But I could tell you about the food in the Mekong Delta as well, or in Ho Chi Minh City. What could I say? It’s… different. I don’t know how or why. Maybe it’s part of 400 years of mixed cultures. As we walked the streets we found a sandwich bar. Well, that’s the simplest and most inappropriate description I could use.  It was a cart, called Madam Khanh, known as the Banh Mi Queen. The sandwich was clearly fusion food. A French baguette. Filled with pork, and an egg salad. And other things. I don’t know what. I think that if I could franchise this, I’d make a fortune. Every town I know would have one, and they’d be the most popular lunch stops in the town.

Yet that wasn’t all. For dinner I had some chicken dish. I wish I could remember the name. It was fragrant, yet spiced. It was more subtle, yet full flavored. I’m sorry, but you’ll have to try it yourself!

And while I was doing the museum thing, my wife was doing the shopping thing. I’d thought that if we were going to shop in Vietnam, it would be in Ho Chi Minh, probably on our last day. But the markets at Hoi An were pretty worthwhile. There are tailors in the streets, just waiting to make your clothing to measure. I considered a new suit, but it was going to take a day to make, so I held off. I didn’t really need one, anyway. But really, the prices were great. If we’d gone shopping before the museums, the tailors probably would have had time. Maybe next time!

Six Senses Ninh Van Bay

5 Resorts worth staying atin Vietnam

You really can’t find a bad place to stay at in Vietnam. Nearly everywhere on the coast provides you with a breathtaking view of the beautiful blue waters whether you are in the bay area or along to beachfronts. Listed below are just five gorgeous places worth visiting! They vary in price and options from staying in a common resort or having your own personal villa, beautiful infinity pools and luxurious restaurants to dine at. Make your vacation memorable, stay in Vietnam.

The Nam Hai Hoi An

1.     The Nam Hai Hoi An

Block Ha My Dong B, Dien Duong Ward, Dien Ban, Vietnam

Situated on the coast of the East Vietnam Sea there really isn’t a bad view. The property has many amenities that include a pool, restaurant, fitness area, air conditioning, free public wifi and several options to keep the kids busy. The grounds are well kept and are truly a beautiful place to relax on your vacation. This resort is known for its great service and being a romantic place to get away.


2.     Amanoi

Vinh Hy Village, Vinh Hai Commune, Ninh Hai District, Ninh Phuoc, Vietnam

Beachfront property, with many amenities including infinity pools, restaurant, fitness center, spa, air conditioning and free wifi. February to August are the best times to visit, otherwise you could be in the raining season. This resort is very peaceful, private and known for their great food options.

Evason Ana Mandara Nha Trang

3.     Evason Ana Mandara Nha Trang

Beachside Tran Phu Boulevard | Khanh Hoa, Nha Trang 57000, Vietnam

Rooms that open up into a deck that allows you to look out into the beautiful views of the beachfront property. This resort is known for their luxurious feel and being one of the only properties in the area situated on the beach. They make the beach look beautiful for their guests. Amenities on the property include pools, restaurants, fitness center, air conditioning, free internet and child care.

Amiana Resort

4.     Amiana Resort

Nha Trang Bay, Pham Van Dong Str, Nha Trang 57000, Vietnam

Beautiful infinity pools that overlook the blue waters with mountains in the background. This property is very kid friendly, provides pools, restaurants, fitness areas, free internet and various services. This resort is situated in the bay area. This resort really wants you to relax while you visit, most rooms have a tub and mud baths are optional if you’ve ever wanted to try one,

Six Senses Ninh Van Bay

5.     Six Senses Nihn Van Bay

Ninh Van Bay, Nha Trang 57000, Vietnam

Situated in a cozy cove with beautiful waters to look out your villa windows at. This property has many amenities that include personal pool villas, restaurants, bar, fitness area, air conditioning, rooms for business and child care. The spa enhances you to use all of your senses. Very relaxing and private place for vacation. The rooms are villas with your own small pool.


I never thought I’d consider Vietnam for a relaxing vacation but it is so worth it. Cross that off your bucket list! I love going to resorts where you don’t have to leave the property because they provide everything for you. Although, if you do want to leave the property most places have things to do outside of the resort. Go see the front desk and they will make sure you get with the right person to take advantage of any possible tours that are in the area.


Have you been to Vietnam yet? Please, tell me about your experience if you have and where you stayed!

My Trip to Vietnam

My Trip to Vietnam

Before leaving for Vietnam, I only knew of one place in the country. Well, that’s not quite true. I knew Hanoi was up north, Ho Chi Minh was down south, and Da Nang was… somewhere that Robyn Williams spoke of in Good Morning Vietnam. I knew the names of a few places from war history. I certainly couldn’t place them on a map.

The place I knew of was one that I couldn’t name. It was an idyllic location, on the sea, with many small, steep-sided islands. When planning our itinerary, I learned that the place was called Ha Long Bay. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Well, it took me to my final few days in Vietnam to get there. And it was absolutely worthwhile. It’s about 120 miles from Hanoi. While it’s called a ‘bay’, it’s not really how I would describe it. The ‘bay’ is the gap between some bigger islands. The area is breath taking. The panorama of little islands seems to go on for mile after mile. I’d guess there would be more than 500 islands in the bay, but I haven’t actually looked up that level of detail.


We’d pre-booked our accommodation, but somehow wished we hadn’t. There are cruises that take you out overnight. But we just went on a one-day cruise. It seemed as though every time we rounded another little island, the view just got better and better. The islands are so… dramatic! There are no words to describe them. They’re small, but steep. You couldn’t land on most of them – there isn’t anywhere to land. They go straight up, for maybe 400 to 500 feet.

Are you into caves? I’ve loved caves since I was a child. I’ve been through some caves in western Virginia, and have been spell-bound by what nature has created. The whole of the Ha Long Bay area is limestone-based. So, these islands are slowly being washed away as the rain (and there’s apparently a lot of rain in the wet season) reacts with the limestone. As well as making stunning islands, on some islands there are caves. Dao Go Island is one such place. The caves there have been a tourist attraction for nearly a century.

You climb up a limestone staircase, and before you know it, you’re surrounded by stalactites. There is some natural light coming into this first part of the cave, and the light seems to change color as you pass through. The track moves on through other parts of the cave that aren’t naturally lit. The lower light seems to emphasize the limestone sculptures.


I think one of the funny things is how crowded it can be in an isolated place. Here I was in Vietnam, on a cruise, 120 miles from Hanoi, up near the Chinese border, and there were countless other boats all around. It was a strange balance of being in a wilderness setting with thousands of others.

That night we ate at a restaurant on the foreshore at Bai Chay Town (the town at Ha Long Bay). It was a floating restaurant, moored to the foreshore. The food was stunning – local seafood. I don’t know the Vietnamese name for the food, but it was fish, oysters, and shrimp. As my wife would tell you, seafood is my favorite (OK, I like Italian food quite a bit, too). But honestly, the food was to die for. They have an amazing service. Local fishermen bring their catch in, daily. The fish are put into a holding tank at restaurant. The cook asked us what we wanted, and then pulled the fish out, killed and cleaned it, and cooked it within 20 minutes. You can’t get fresher fish than that!

fishing boat near Da Nang, Vietnam

On Boats in Vietnam

My last blog described our first day in Ha Long Bay. It really was as close to an out-of-this-world experience as I could imagine, with the small, steep islands, the bodies of water that just kept appearing, and the whole ‘eerie’ feel.

I love being on boats. My wife doesn’t. She gets seasick. I took her whale watching once. I enjoyed watching for the whales (and I saw one).  She turned green and lost her breakfast. The good thing about Ha Long Bay (at least, when we were there) was that it was calm. Sea sickness wasn’t a problem.


While I like boats, I also like moving. I’m not one to sit and watch for day at a time. So, when we were planning our time at Ha Long Bay, I was pleased/ thrilled/relieved to find that it wasn’t all just sight-seeing. There are things to do there, as well. Like kayaking. And snorkeling. I love both of them. I’ve been sea kayaking in various places around the world. I’ve been snorkeling in Hawaii. Here I could do both. The guide told us to watch out for jellyfish. Apparently they pack quite a sting.

Kayaking in these waters was amazing. Yesterday we went through Dau Go cave. Today we had another cave experience – on a kayak! You can kayak into holes in the islands, which are little limestone caves. They’re cool, compared to the warmth outside – it was really refreshing. As you go in, you lose the natural light, but you can see all the stalactites around you. I needed to duck my head to avoid them at times.

After lunch we went snorkeling. The water was incredibly warm. We could have chosen to go scuba diving as well, or instead of snorkeling, but I was content with the snorkel. The water was clear, and before I knew it I was enjoying the underwater world of coral and tropical fish. I think you could go out there every day and never get tired of seeing the coral. The vibrant colors – yellows and oranges, pinks. And the fish were just as colorful. There were hundreds of them! Black-and-white striped, black and yellow striped, some long and thin, some tall and skinny. I wouldn’t know any of the names, but I know they weren’t Nemo or Dory. I’m told there are also whale sharks in the bay, but I didn’t see any of them.


The final thing we did at Ha Long Bay was visit the one of the floating villages. The locals live on these floating rafts, with walkways and ‘houses’ (I guess – more like shacks). They make their living by fishing, and selling the fish to the local markets and at the restaurants. The people who lived on the floating village seemed happy enough to have us look through the place, but they didn’t speak English. I was acutely aware that we were ‘invading’ their little town on the water, but it didn’t seem to worry them.

You can also go cycling, and walking through the hills, but neither of them were on my list this time. I seem to always find that there’s more to do at a place than I allow time for. Since we were on the bay, it seemed that water-based activities were the best option. As it was, I felt as though I could have happily spent another day or three there. Great Food – friendly locals – incredible scenery… Maybe I’ll find time to go back to Vietnam and do the things we never found time to do on this vacation.


A Thousand Reasons to Go to Vietnam

And when you think you’ve found them all, here are a million more.

Doc Let Beach

18 km’s of pearly white beaches that are guaranteed to mesmerize you and crystal clear, shallow waters that will have you bobbing your days away in the bay. That is Doc Let Beach.

Whale Island Resort

Legend has it Jacque Cousteau learned to dive on Whale Island, when you see the island, you’ll understand why. The island has nothing except one resort. Whale Island Resort with its 32 bungalows, restaurant and dive shop are all you’ll need to spend a week or more in this beautiful marine reserve. The bamboo bungalows are simple and rustic, though they do have their own showers and toilets. Who needs luxury anyway, when your only a few steps away from the sea.

This is not a resort designed four lounging at the pool all day. It is not a resort designed where service is the selling point. This is a place you go to for the place itself. It is the place you go to for the Robinson Crusoe in all of us.

HERO Classic Vietnam Rowing boat in Tra Su flooded indigo plant forest in An Giang, Mekong delta, Vietnam

Classic Vietnam

We have all heard stories and seen movies about this raw countryside and resilient peoples. Thatched roofs, basket boats and motorbikes. Doc Let will put a dent in your wallet, and a whole in your heart. It is a place for backpackers, and lovers Vietnamese and Expats. Doc Let gives you tourism at its finest, and it gives you effortless, classic Vietnam.

Day Trippers or Whole Trippers

There are many  tour operators who offer you a wide selection of day tours to Doc Let Beach, as it is one of Vietnams most famous beaches. Make it a must stop on your first trip to Vietnam. If you have more time, spend a whole trip here. The diving and snorkeling is well worth it.


Kayaking or Parasailing

Whatever your pleasure is, this beach has enough activates to share.  Rent a kayak or a parasail and hit the water for the day. The calm waters will make the experience suitable for newbies, and the views are worth the price alone.

Beach Bungalow or Hotel Room

The amazing white beach of Doc Let deserve to have you as a guest for at least one night. White Sand Resort and Spa offer you amazing little bungalows on the beach.  For a bit more luxury head to Some Days of Silence and take in the amazing waterfalls and the beautiful silence of the forest.


Vietnamese Beach Resorts at Their Best

There are more reasons to go to Vietnam than anyone can count. The culture, the food, the resorts and the diving are just a few of the things that spring to mind. The truth is that Vietnam will find youlost in the crowd or isolated on a sandy beach. It will steal your heart and break your budget if you let it. Vietnam is a dream, where beach resorts shine so brightly you will never want to leave.