My trip to Vietnam might be slightly unusual. While most tourists flock Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi and did a quick day-trip to Central Vietnam, I decided to focus on Central Vietnam cities — Da Nang, Hoi An and Hue. After this trip, I am convinced that Central Vietnam deserves more than just a day-trip. Lucky me, I spent five days exploring and was able to discover the unique vibe of each place.
5 Days in Central Vietnam
Day 1: Hit the beach in Da Nang
If you love suntanning and swimming in the crystal clear water, Da Nang should be your safe haven. With the best coastlines in Vietnam in my opinion, Da Nang greeted me with a beautiful view from My Khe Beach. When I went there on a weekday, there was almost no one else — perfect! I just lay down on the sun deck loungers enjoying the breeze and was soon fast asleep. What a great way to start this trip!
Of course, I would recommend you to stay at the hotels or resorts alongside this beach. My pick will be Holiday Beach Danang Hotel & Resort, for easy access to the beach and stunning sunrise views.
Day 2: Climb Marble Mountains Da Nang and transfer to Hoi An
Just twenty minutes’ drive from Da Nang is a cluster of five limestone and marble hills called Marble Mountains. The climb starts in the morning and includes caves, tunnels and Buddhist temples. My favourite part of the hike was definitely the panoramic views of Da Nang at the summit.
From Marble Mountains, it is pretty easy to get to Hoi An. The transfer from Da Nang to Hoi An is a short distance; about 30 to 40 minutes. A former trading port dating back to the 7th century, Hoi An is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s immensely popular among tourists for its old quarter of Chinese assembly houses and guildhalls, a Japanese-style bridge, French colonial houses, art galleries, restaurants and cafes.
Out of the many Hoi An hotels in the heart of the old quarter, I’d recommend Little Hoi An. The charming boutique hotel is situated close to the night market, overlooking the tranquil Thu Bon River.
Day 3: Explore the old quarter of Hoi An
Be prepared to be blown away by the beauty of Hoi An old quarter, I certainly was! Walking around the vibrant yellow-weathered walls with a sight of pink bougainvillaeas, colourful lanterns and heritage buildings was a quaint experience. Vehicles are prohibited from entering the old quarter — save for bicycles, rickshaws and mopeds — so I could take my time exploring the quiet streets.
In the evening, the laid-back and dreamy atmosphere around the Thu Bon River attracts tourists to hang out with a pint or two. Some also opt for a river cruise on wooden boats, but I preferred staying in the quarter a bit longer.
By nightfall, Hoi An is magical with the colourful lanterns lit up.
The old quarter turns into a foodie haven. Food options range from restaurants and cafes to street vendors by the river. I went straight to the food stalls got myself some Vietnamese delicacies.
Always remember to have the famous Vietnamese spring rolls or pho noodles!
Day 4: Make a day trip to imperial city Hue
Hue was formerly the national capital and political, cultural and religious centre of Vietnam. The city was ruled by the Nguyen Dynasty until the abdication of Emperor Bao Dai in 1945. When the communist government took over, the capital city moved from Hue to Hanoi.
The main attraction of Hue is its sprawling 19th-century Imperial Citadel with palaces and shrines within the compound. The Forbidden Purple City was where the royal families used to live. Today, you can only see very little remnants of the citadel-within-a-citadel-within-a-citadel. Most of the remnants are almost lost, covered in weeds.
Day 5: Explore other areas of Hoi An
I made most of my last day about exploring areas outside of the old quarter. The last hours I spent chilling at An Bang Beach and cycling around the countryside.
I made some time to visit My Son, a UNESCO World Heritage site located 45 minutes from Hoi An. My Son is known for its Hindu temple complexes and sandstone bas-reliefs constructed to honour Lord Shiva. It’s no surprise that My Son is often compared to Bagan — well, it does feel like a mini-Bagan in Vietnam.
Even after spending five days in Central Vietnam, I still feel it’s not enough to discover every nook and cranny of Central Vietnam. Well, it only means that I need to return there soon. Until then, I can only satisfy my craving for Vietnamese food in local restaurants.