Vietnam is a hot, colourful, vibrant country in Southeast Asia full of kind people, delicious street food, and beautiful sites. Historically under Chinese rule, French and Japanese colonialism, Vietnam is a mix of cultures that are obvious in current architecture and languages spoken. Even in the tiny backstreets of Can Tho, French was spoken by locals. One of the most popular foods to try in Vietnam is the bánh mì, a Vietnamese sandwich on a French baguette. What was most surprising of this developing country was the level of excellent coffee on offer.

“Today, coffee production and export are a major economic force, contributing a significant share of Vietnam’s GDP. Vietnam currently counts for 8.3% of the global coffee export market share, exporting over 3 billion USD worth of coffee in 2021. As the industry sees continued growth, an estimated 3 million people depend on it for living.” SOURCE

The breadth of nature and cosmopolitan cities to explore within Vietnam was too large to experience in just two weeks of our trip.  Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, was my favourite city – an old town market full of incredible street food and bustling business whilst incorporating modern stores, tiny hidden coffee shops and bars, beautiful parks, and lakes to explore. Phu Yen was a relaxed beachside area where I discovered a beautiful hotel with private villas and access to their private beach. Ho Chi Minh, at 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) in March, was a hot city full of motorcycles and great historic sites. Hoi An was a colourful tourist town covered in lanterns and boats where one can get a suit tailored or enjoy an egg coffee. Can Tho boasts the unmissable Cai Rang Floating Market where you can get up before the sun rises and take a boat ride, delve into hot noodles for breakfast whilst a flurry of boats trade fruits, vegetables, sweets, and homemade noodles. Vietnam was so vast in size that we didn’t get to explore it all – such as Halong Bay, Phú Quốc island, and the Ha Giang Loop (motorcycle tour). Below are my top tips of what to do, where to eat, where to stay, and how to travel in Vietnam:

Top Tips for Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Best Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City: Mia Saigon Hotel

Mia Saigon is a gorgeous sweeping hotel on the banks of the Saigon River. A beautifully designed white property inspired by early 1920’s art deco architecture from the French Indochina, the elegance and vastness of the property gives this luxury boutique hotel a grand feel. The entrance is airy and walks straight through to an expansive pool and plush greenery filled with flowers. The rooms are beautifully decorated and have large terraces overlooking the pool and river. Interior colours are inspired by citrine, emerald and ruby gemstones and the high ceilings and large rooms are filled with the beautiful hue of natural light.

Mia Saigon has impeccable service, and their breakfasts are incredible, offering a mix of English, French and traditional Vietnamese dishes that change every morning. The pho here was some of the best pho I had in Vietnam and their coffee was excellent.

Ho Chi Minh is a hot bustling city with hundreds of motorcyclists weaving their way through the crowd. If you are brave enough, hire a bike so you can explore the city and try the delicious street food.

*Special tip for food lovers is Dim Tu Tac Cantonese restaurant which has amazing Peking duck

Mia Saigon is approximately a 30-minute drive from Tan Son Nhat International Airport.

Mia Saigon Hotel

2-4 Street No. 10, An Phu Ward,
Thu Duc City, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

info@miasaigon.com

https://www.miasaigon.com/

 

Top Tips for Can Tho

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Best Hotel in Can Tho: Victoria Can Tho Resort

The Victoria Can Tho Resort has a jungle feel with wooden floors and vintage French colonial architecture. The Indochinese-designed hotel is an oasis in the city with 2 huge pools with lush surroundings just outside the river in Can Tho. Exotic fruits and juice are offered when you arrive, and the staff go the extra mile to make your stay special. The rooms are spacious, and the hotel is in walking distance of the night markets. If you ask for breakfast takeaway, their team will prepare the most wonderful breakfast box of freshly made sandwiches, pastries, and fruits. If you are there for a special occasion, please tell them as they will make sure to surprise you with little details that will enhance your stay.

Victoria Can Tho Resort offers a plethora of experiences for couples and families from yoga, spa treatments, a Vietnamese cooking class, dinner under the stars, and tours of the Can Tho Street food market, the Cai Rang Floating Market, and Con Son River Island.

Can Tho is a wonderful little city where residents wake up at 5am and are already starting their day. The beauty of the hotel also lies within its proximity to the Cai Rang Floating Market which was one of my favourite experiences I had in Vietnam. Cai Rang Floating Market is the largest market on the Mekong Delta. You will need to get to the market before the sun rises (ideally by 5:30am) and take a boat to enjoy hot homemade noodles for breakfast.

The market is bustling with boats filled with fruits, vegetables, and sweets. There are even floating boats where you can walk onto, shop local goods, and watch people make homemade noodles in the hot sun. The boat captain can take you to another stop off which is a tropical garden experience at the Ba Cong orchard garden where you can eat sour plums off trees with salt and watch local singers perform.

Can Tho is a 3-hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City so I highly suggest you hire a car (if you are from the UK, you will need to get an international driving license before your trip) or take a driver. After our stay in Can Tho, we drove back to Ho Chi Minh City to take a 1 hr 10 min flight from SGN to Phu Yen (Quinhon UIH).

 

Victoria Can Tho Resort

Cai Khe Ward, Ninh Kieu District, Can Tho City, Vietnam

Resa.cantho@victoriahotels.asia

https://www.victoriahotels.asia/en/destination/victoria-can-tho/

 

Top Tips for Phu Yen

Best Hotel in Phu Yen: Zannier Hotels Bãï San Hô Hotel

Zannier Hotels is a stunning 245-acre nature and beachside retreat away from the hustle and bustle of city life. This luxury retreat is an oasis with interior design hues of burnt orange, teal, and red. In many ways, the façade reminds me of a Moroccan riad with natural woods and walls that look like clay.

The resort is hidden away on a private peninsula, and you can book one of 73 private villas – within the hillside, by the beach, or in the paddy fields. Each villa is completely secluded with private pools and outdoor showers – only accessible by the resort’s golf buggies.

We stayed in a gorgeous private beach villa with private freshwater pool and outdoor shower within walking steps to the beach. The secluded beauty of the room was rare, and the large bed had mosquito netting encasing it.

The restaurant offered some of the best food and coffee I had in Vietnam, especially the delicious Banh Xeo (rice pancake with shrimp) and the iced coconut coffee. Please try all the Vietnamese food here, it was incredible!

The restaurant is perched atop a hill overlooking the infinity pool and private beach below. The views are stunning, and you can enjoy dinner and cocktails in the evenings. There is a wonderful restaurant on their private beach for lunch and there is an additional cocktail beach bar.

The staff will cater to everything from waterfall excursions to boat trips out on the catamaran. There is a large restaurant where guests can privately hire for cooking classes or private dinners.

During our stay, we had invigorating body scrub treatments inspired by the five elements (air, fire, water, earth, spirit) in the gorgeous Hoa Sen Spa.

Zannier is a 60–80-minute drive to Phu Cat airport (UIH) in Quy Nhon, and Tuy Hoa airport (TBB) in Phu Yen.

Zannier Hotels Bãi San Hô,
Thôn Hòa Thạnh,
Xã Xuân Cảnh,
Thị xã Sông Cầu,
Tỉnh Phú Yên, Việt Nam

reservations@baisanho.com

https://www.zannierhotels.com/baisanho/en/

 

Top Tips for Hoi An

Best Boutique Hotel: Dechiu Hotel

Dechiu Hotel is a wonderful tiny boutique hotel that looks like it was designed for Architectural Digest magazine. With cool slate-coloured walls, simple minimalist furniture and subdued colourful notes of Vietnamese artwork dotted around the rooms, this lovely boutique hotel is the best place to stay in Hoi An. The wonderful pieces of arts, crafts, and furniture is chosen from the ethnic minority people from Vietnam.

Each crafted room (Wabi-sabi, garden, zen, architect’s, terrace, rooftop) showcases different art pieces and hazy colour schemes from mustard yellow to stripes to cobalt blue.

The lovely lady at reception makes delicious coffee, serves breakfast: the scrumptious homemade banana pancakes emulate little fluffy cakes, and the homemade juices are amazing. There is even another resident of the hotel – a small dog called Carrot that will loyally follow you down the road as you walk across the street to the beach.

Outside Dechiu Hotel, the residents and proximity of the beach makes it feel like a quant beachside town until you explore the Ancient Town and night market. Just a short drive away, the ancient town is full of people exploring shops in the numerous side streets, and there are colourful lanterns everywhere.

Hoi An is a beautiful, picturesque village, albeit a bit touristy. There are numerous shops with Vietnamese clothes (a must buy for the hot weather!) and lots of street food to try. At night, the atmosphere is bustling.  You can watch colourful lit boats with lanterns in the canals and you can listen to people sing their heart out in the brightly lit bars dotted beside the water.

*Special tip for food lovers is that the best banh mi we had was at Madam Khanh – The Banh Mi Queen

*Special tip for coffee lovers is that the best coffee with a great airconditioned room upstairs is FeFe Roastery

To get to Hoi An from Phu Yen, we took a 5 hr 30-minute first class sleeper train from Dieu Tri Train Station (an hour drive from Zannier) to Da Nang train station (40-minute drive to Dechiu Hotel). For our departure from Hoi An to Hanoi, we took a 1-hour flight from Da Nang airport to Hanoi Noi Bai airport.

Dechiu Hotel

23 Nguyen Phan Vinh, Cam An, Hoi An

Info@dechiuhotel.com

https://dechiuhotel.com/en/home/

 

Top Tips for Hanoi

Best 5-Star Luxury Stay: Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi Hotel

Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi Hotel is the iconic grand dame of Hanoi with a long history full of political leaders, ambassadors, famous actors, singers, screenwriters, and global VIPs. Stepping into this hotel is magic, from the personalised welcome to the care and attention given by the wonderful staff.

Founded in 1901 by two French investors, Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi Hotel was frequented by heads of state and legendary icons in film. The hotel’s opening secured it as the destination in Hanoi for international travellers to host events, important business meetings and elegant banquets. With the changing of times and French colonialism, the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi became a pivotal meeting place during the Vietnam war. During the Vietnam air raids, Sofitel provided bomb shelter to Joan Baez and Jane Fonda.

Due to its heritage and grandeur, it became the world’s first Sofitel Legend Hotel which are hotels established in grand palaces and stately heritage hotels that have historical significance.

The Sofitel was the most elegant, luxurious hotel we stayed in in Vietnam. The property had a similar detailed feel to The Goring in London, with excellent service and a beautifully designed room in the Heritage Wing.  The amazing staff really make the experience wonderful, and they created the most wonderful surprise for us that took attention to detail.

The breadth of offerings of the hotel is immense with wonderful restaurants and bars such as Spice Garden (Vietnamese cuisine), Le Beaulieu (which will hopefully get a Michelin star), Angelina, Le Club Bar, La Terrasse, Bamboo Bar and Épicerie du Metropole (imported European delicacies as well as home-made treats such as ice cream, macaroons, and chocolate). Guests can take their breakfast in 3 of these venues, with excellent offerings of freshly prepared French pastries made in-house, European cuisine, an array of fresh seafood, French dishes, and traditional Vietnamese dishes.

This 358-room hotel has an Opera Wing designed in neoclassical style and a newly renovated Heritage Wing boasting gorgeous new furnishings and wonderful lighting whilst incorporating the latest tech. Guests staying in the grand premium rooms and suites have access to special offerings such as a personalised butler (Majordome), afternoon tea, and evening cocktails.

Suites are named after its prestigious guests such as the Charlie Chaplin, Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene.

The hotel’s luxurious amenities include Le Spa du Metropole with steam bath, sauna, relaxation room, and private treatment rooms where you can have a massage or beauty treatment. They have the leading luxury fitness centre in the city with SoFIT and a beautiful outdoor area Le Balcon where guests can do yoga and tai chi.

Perfectly located in Old Quarter, The Sofitel is on a beautiful street with luxury designer stores and is in walking distance of the river and the Old Town.

Hanoi was our favourite city in Vietnam, offering the perfect mix of traditional Vietnamese street markets and street food in Old Town, incredible hidden coffee shops and bars down alleyways, luxury shops and tree lined streets as well as natural parks to walk through.

*Special tip for coffee lovers is to go to C.O.C Legacy coffee shop

**Special tip for cocktail lovers is to go to The Haflington Bar and try the Rabbit Habit (featured in The World’s 50 Best, Discovery)

***Special tip for food lovers is to go to Bun Cha Dac Kim which has the best bun cha (grilled pork, fresh noodles, fresh herbs, broth) and spring rolls in Hanoi

The Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi is a 40-minute drive to the Noi Bai International Airport

The Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi

15 Ngo Quyen, Hoan Kiem
100000 Hanoi, Vietnam

H1555@sofitel.com

https://www.sofitel-legend-metropole-hanoi.com/

 

Best Stylish Artsy Hotel: Smarana Heritage Hanoi Hotel

Smarana Heritage Hanoi Hotel is a sexy boutique hotel filled with Hang Trong folk paintings, hand-made furniture, and wonderful season-themed rooms (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) coloured in red, green, and blue.

Boasting gorgeous art pieces all throughout the hotel, all the 72 intricate Hang Trong folk artwork was produced by artist Le Dinh Nghien, the descendant of the Hang Trong folk art, over the course of 3 years.

Away from the old town in the Cau Giay District (business centre), Smarana stands out as a unique art-inspired hotel that urges guests to experience the traditions of Vietnamese culture. One of the best moments we had was learning about the origins of egg coffee from the passionate barista Tuan Anh during the hotel’s egg coffee workshop. Tuan Anh’s egg coffee was the best egg coffee we tasted in Vietnam.

Smarana offers an array of interesting workshops from learning about the origin of egg coffee (whilst sampling it), creating folk art, Nhat Binh costume minishow, singing bowl sound therapy, and the art of brewing teas.

Le Carpe Restaurant at the top of the hotel offered us a very special dinner, themed around one of the Hang Trong folk paintings hung in the lobby within Le Memoire Lounge. The chef prepares a fusion of French cuisine with highlights of Vietnamese cooking. Their delicate pho served for breakfast in the morning is delicious. After your meal, you can head upstairs to the rooftop Lunaire Skybar where the lovely bartender Toan made us incredible showstopping cocktails.

The staff are lovely, and they provide a shuttle service daily to the Old Town.

Throughout Vietnam, I highly suggest you hire a motorbike as it is easy to get around, even if it is a bit chaotic in the cities.

Smarana Heritage Hanoi Hotel

No. 5, 82/1 Alley, Dich Vong Hau St,. Cau Giay, Vietnam

reservation@smarana.vn

https://smaranahanoiheritage.com/

 

By Jessica Patterson