Central Vietnam Tips
From P. H. Murdock, Palm Beach, FL
“We spent the month of December in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand on a tour for two organized by Abercrombie & Kent. As we had never been to the first two countries, I called several friends who had. Their input was invaluable when working with A&K and the result was an itinerary that crammed in as much as possible. Yes, it was a bit frenetic but we covered the waterfront and had the best time. Also, each of the guides they organized was wonderful and very knowledgeable.”
WHERE TO STAY: La Résidence Hôtel & Spa (5 Le Loi Street, Hue City; 84-54-837-475; www.la-residence-hue.com), a wonderful Art Deco hotel, which was once a governor’s house in the ancient royal city. Stay in either a Colonial Suite or the Suite du Président in the old building. All have large terraces looking across the garden and pool to the Perfume River.
Don’t Miss: The Citadel and Imperial City (a scaled down version of the Forbidden City in Beijing). Sadly much of Hue was heavily bombed by the Americans during the Tet Offensive and destruction still remains though the area is being restored. After a ride in a dragon boat up the river (ours conveniently also offered $10 silk pajamas for sale), we got off the boat at Thien Mu, to visit the oldest pagoda in Central Vietnam.
About a 2.5 hour drive from Thien Mu that passes the famous Marble Mountains. One can climb up 450 steep and shallow steps, passing Buddhist shrines in misty caves, to a pagoda on the summit of one. I bought the postcard.
Don’t Miss: The Cham Museum (at Tran Phu and Le Dinh Duong Sts.) in Da Nang, which houses the most extensive collection of Cham art in the world. Even the museum’s design is wonderful.
WHY GO: An ancient town with charming small houses and fun shopping (like at, which sells lanterns and custom makes clothes in 24 hrs.). Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to be there during the full moon when the whole town is lit by thousands of colorful lanterns.
WHERE TO STAY: The Nam Hai, one of the chicest hotels we’ve ever seen. The one-bedroom bungalows all face the ocean but for the best view, get one as close to the beach as possible. There are also larger villas with private pools and butlers. A massage at the spa is one of the most amazing experiences – start to finish. Go soon as several huge resorts are planned along that stretch of beach!
SHOPPING: Viettown (127-129 Phan Chu Trinh St.; 84-510-917-800). It’s very touristy but had Chinese linen pajamas made and bought silk Chinese jackets and lanterns. Delivered to hotel next evening.
What I Would Skip: South Vietnam including Dalat, the Mekong Delta and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) but if you do go stay in a suite at the Park Hyatt Saigon and request Thanh (Nguyen Van Thanh) as your guide. Square One Restaurant at the hotel has terrific food.