Travelling through Vietnam is captivating and being able to share it with young children is even more rewarding. We arrived into Hanoi from Hong Kong and took our pre-arranged transfer directly to our hotel in the Old Quarter. A great idea to get the hotel to arrange your transfer as the Old Quarter is a rabbit warren of small streets and small hotels. One thing you will notice immediately in Vietnam is how amazingly friendly the people are and how much they adore children. On arrival at our hotel they had a helium Minions balloon for our 5 year old son with a small Welcome to Vietnam Joshua sign stuck on. A very special touch however he did then wonder why he didn’t get one at every new hotel we arrived at!
By staying in the heart of the Old Quarter, almost everything is within walking distance. We spent the first day meandering the streets exploring with the map we were provided and shopping in markets. Next day we visited the Military Museum and took a trip out to the indoor Vinpearl Water Park. Joshua was a little short for a lot of the rides as you needed to be 140cm but he still had a great time. We booked to see the water puppet theatre, which is typically touristy, but good fun all the same for children and adults alike. Hanoi is a beautiful city and you could easily lose yourself for four to five days here. The other stand out that resonates across all of Vietnam is the food and Hanoi was where we enjoyed it most with an amazing array of cafes and restaurants but best of all the scintillating street food. The freshness and richness of flavours were simply delightful and eating street food in Hanoi is an experience not to be missed.
Ha Long Bay
We left Hanoi by coach to head to Ha long Bay for a one night cruise we had booked. Unfortunately on arrival the weather had closed in and they were forecasting severe storms for late in the day so we were unable to stay on the boat. We still had a beautiful cruise around the bay, enjoying a five star lunch and a visit to Sung Sot Cave, meaning Surprised Cave or Amazing Cave and one of the most spectacular and largest grottoes of Ha Long Bay. We then had the afternoon use of our cabin and spent it on our balcony enjoying the views with a chilled glass of wine watching the mystical mountains as we cruised back.
Train to Hue
We were back in Hanoi for a night before we boarded the overnight train to Hue. We chose a sleeper cabin, which sleeps four people, and to ensure we didn’t have anyone else in with us, we chose to book all four berths which I’d certainly recommend. It was small and cosy and the beds were as you would expect on a Vietnamese train but the experience, especially for Joshua was one we will never forget. As the sun rose in the morning we had stunning views of the countryside as we came to the end of our journey.
We only had one night in Hue and again had the hotel arrange to collect us from the train station making arriving just the little bit simpler. We dropped our bags and headed out to explore this ancient citadel city on the banks of the Perfume River. Firstly wandering the streets before getting a taxi over the river to explore the Citadel, a sprawling walled fortress. Even in the rain it was a magically evocative place and Joshua thoroughly loved exploring all the nooks and crannies on offer.
Next morning we were back on the train again for a two hour journey further south to Da Nang, where our hotel transfer was waiting for us to take us to the ancient city of Hoi An. Possibly our favourite stop due to it’s amazing uniqueness, historical buildings and whilst busy, still incredibly intimate feel. Hoi An’s main tourist precinct is the Ancient Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, which is filled with historic ancient timber houses. There are no cars allowed into this area making it a bustle of foot traffic so we chose to stay in a historic house right in the centre of the Ancient Town. Sitting on the hotel balcony early in the morning or later in the evening as the tourists subsided, you had the most peaceful perspective of this beautiful place and a true understanding for why it is a World Heritage site. We took a half day cycle tour of the surrounding countryside, with Joshua on the back of Scott’s bike which he loved, and we got to learn an amazing amount about the history of Hoi An and the surrounding areas. We also enjoyed a sunset cruise along the river and yet more amazing meals at one of the many beautiful restaurants.
Phu Quoc Island
Leaving Hoi An via Da Nang, we flew south to Ho Chi Minh for a connecting flight straight down to Phu Quoc Island where we would enjoy four days relaxing in a beach resort. Phu Quoc is actually in the Gulf of Thailand and certainly compared to Thailand is relatively undiscovered. With a beach front bungalow and stunning pool, this was a chance for Joshua to spend his days just having fun in the sun. We hired scooters for the day, which whilst technically illegal, is common practice for tourists. Out and about this beautiful island was really easy with a local map as there really are only a handful of main roads. There is a local evening fish market in the capital of Duong Dong with an array of seafood restaurants serving up the catch of the day. A local tip is to turn down the side street in the middle of the market and you’ll discover equally as good restaurants at local prices rather than tourist prices. After what seemed a lifetime of whiling away the days in the pool and the beach we headed back to the airport for our last few days in Ho Chi Minh.
Ho Chi Minh
We decided on only two nights in Ho Chi Minh to maximise our time elsewhere. We explored the military museum, several historic buildings and took a trip to the top of the Bitexco Financial Tower for amazing views of the city from the 49th floor. We finished the day off meandering through the markets and back to our hotel for a swim in the rooftop swimming pool before dinner, also on the hotel rooftop. A stunning way to finish off a hot and sticky day, and to bring our holiday to it’s end.
Vietnam is a culinary delight, filled with amazing sights, delightfully friendly people a must-do on any travellers wish list, especially with children.
Check out some pictures of Vietnam in our World Images Gallery HERE.