Wink Hotels’ 30 Coolest Things To Do In Vietnam In 2020

The whole world knows, Vietnam is one of the most happening places on the planet. From the beaches of Phu Quoc to the mountains of Sapa and Ha Giang and all points in between, the country offers a dizzying array of scenery and some serious fun too. As the country cautiously reopens and domestic tourism begins, Wink Hotels offers 30 must-do experiences for the remainder of 2020 and beyond. 

Đọc bài viết bằng Tiếng Việt

Tourism and the hospitality industry took a major hit in 2020. As Vietnam reopens to domestic tourism, we thought it was time to hype our 30 coolest experiences in the country (presented here in no particular order), from kayaking through karst to a cocktail tour around downtown Saigon.

#1 Swim in the cool waters at Bai Xep Beach Quy Nhon 

Why: A breathtakingly perfect crescent of sand on Vietnam’s Central coast.

Breathtaking Bai Xep, Quy Nhon.

Finding the perfect stretch of sand isn’t easy in Vietnam. Nha Trang with its hotels set back across the road from the beach and Danang with its sprawling high-end developments might disappoint. If that’s the case, try Quy Nhon. The coastal city in Bình Định Province has a population hovering around a quarter of a million people. You wouldn’t realise it walking its treelined streets or down its promenade off-season. 

On the coastal road south is Bai Xep beach, a breathtaking crescent of sand. It’s no wonder bloggers have hailed the tiny fishing village as “paradise found”. Plus, this bit of paradise has options for every kind of traveler – breezy, lower-end Life’s A Beach or high-end opulence at Anantara Quy Nhon and neighbouring Avani.

#2 Watch the sunset from a rooftop restaurant in Ninh Binh 

Why: Movie set scenery in a tranquil location (for now).

Movie-set scenery in Ninh Binh.

Tourists flock to Ha Long Bay. And for every glowing report is a complaint about too many tourists or inclement weather. Not so Ninh Binh. This “Ha Long Bay on land” is only gradually emerging as an alternative to its more illustrious sister in the north. Improved infrastructure is helping — expressways now speed travelers in the grip of wanderlust to a host of northern destinations, including Ninh Binh. In fact, you should arrive from Hanoi in only one-and-a-half hours. 

And once there, expect to be surrounded by hundreds of dramatic limestone monoliths around which loop snaking waterways. If you get a ringing sense of déjà vu, that’s because Ninh Binh featured heavily in the 2017 American monster movie, Kong: Skull Island.

Dreamy Tam Coc Garden Resort.

Despite that, droves of tourists have yet to follow. But with scenery this breathtaking, it’s only a matter of time until small-town Tam Coc (the centre of the laid-back action in Ninh Binh) is overrun. For now, lunch or dinner at beautiful farmhouse-style Tam Coc Garden Resort, and preferably a night in one of their perfectly appointed bungalows, is one of the best ways to experience one of Vietnam’s undisputed treasures. 

#3 Eat elevated Vietnamese street food in Saigon’s last District 1 wet market

Why: The spiritual home of “cuisine mới” (or new Vietnamese cuisine).

Nhau Nhau is a modern Vietnamese pho bar founded by chef Peter Cuong Franklin.

By now Anan Restaurant barely needs an introduction. Controversial creators of the $100 banh mi and the $100 pho, Munchies suggested owner and chef Peter Cuong Franklin might be crazy in their “There’s a $100 Banh Mi in Saigon, and People Are Actually Buying It” piece in October 2017. 

Beyond the headlines, Anan and Nhau Nhau are the real deal.

Headlines aside, Anan, and its 2nd floor pho bar, Nhau Nhau, offer the most innovative take on new Vietnamese cuisine that’s as high on taste as it is on high-minded concept. With Vietnamese food the latest global trend, a trip to Anan or Nhau Nhau will be the envy of your Insta-friends. We suggest an order of bánh xèo tacos, Dalat pizza, cơm tấm-inspired lemongrass pork chop, and a coconut worm shot to finish it off.

#4 Wake up in a Hanoi hotel that’s a part of history

Why: Hanoi’s Metropole is the grande dame of Vietnam’s hotels.

Its credentials are undeniable. The Sofitel Legend Metropole was build back in 1901 by two French investors with “that French colonial look”.

Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, originally Grand Hotel Métropole is a five-star historic luxury hotel opened in 1901 in the French colonial style.

The guest list reads like a who’s who of 20th century popular culture – Charlie Chaplin, Graham Green, Somerset Maugham. Jane Fonda stayed here too, as you’ll discover if you follow the hotel’s path of history down into its basement bomb shelter where she once hid. “If these walls could talk, they would tell a lot of stories,” the then hotel general manager Kai Speth told The Guardian in 2011. He’s right.

#5 Bike ride around the homiest Saigon neighbourhood 

Why: Saigon’s Brooklyn with cafes, indie boutiques, and cool bars.

Thao Dien is right across the river from Landmark 81.

Thao Dien is a former swamp hugged by the Saigon river. You wouldn’t know that today (OK, maybe at the height of the rainy season when the streets flood heavily). That’s not deterred some of Saigon’s coolest locals and expats to set up homes, and businesses, there. Especially exciting is the F&B scene. There’s the new Maison Marou for all your darkest chocolate desires. Breezy vegan brunches beside the pool at L’Herbanyste. Danish-inspired lunches and dinners at MAD House and their second D2 location, MAD Wine Bar, (in July MAD’s owner, Camilla, took us on a tour of the area). And there’s Taco and burger championships — and a popular climbing wall — at Saigon Outcast. You can even get great cocktails. Try one of Dram’s incredible concoctions after polishing off a steak downstairs at Stoker Woodfired Grill & Bar Thao Dien.

Amongst all that remain a number of local spots like Bún Chả Hà Nội – Hải Hội Quán at 84 Xuan Thuy. It’s a great place for exercise too. Take a run around the popular “Thao Dien loop” that takes you along Thao Dien Street and around Nguyen Van Huong until you’re right back to where you started. Or, because traffic is slow at the weekends, take a bicycle and discover the area’s cool boutiques and bars.

Feel-good food at MAD House Saigon.

#6 Journey through T.U.N.G Dining’s Nordic-inspired tasting menu 

Why: Vietnam’s most unforgettable gastronomic journey.

Nordic cuisine, and specifically chef René Redzepi’s Noma, is credited with revolutionising global gastronomy (and the restaurant even took the crown of best in the world from El Buili). Now, its influence has reached Vietnam with the opening just over a year ago of T.U.N.G Dining Hanoi. Besides being head chef Hoang Tung’s name, the restaurant’s moniker also describes its food philosphy: twisted, unique, natural, gastronomique. And across 18 courses, it lives up to the description. 

Hoang Tung in front of Hanoi’s T.U.N.G Dining.

The 27-year-old head chef worked at some of Europe’s most exciting Michelin-starred restaurants after graduating from the South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences – places like Kiin Kiin, the first Michelin-starred Thai restaurant outside of Thailand in the world. He’s taken the techniques he learned back to his restaurant in Hanoi and incorporated lots of seasonal local ingredients, and added juice and craft beer pairings (as well as wine). And guests are calling it Vietnam’s most unforgettable gastronomic journey.

Betel duck, one of T.U.N.G dining’s twisted, unique, natural, gastronomique dishes.

#7 Watch the sunrise at Mui Dien cape Lighthouse, Phu Yen

Why: Mui Dien Lighthouse is the first place where light hits the coastline, making for a divine panorama.

Mui Dien lighthouse stands on top of the cape.

Phu Yen, for those in the know, is one of the country’s most beautiful provinces. There’s the 190km of uninterrupted coastline. Zig-zagging mountains overlook small bays and beautiful lagoons.

Around 35km south-east of Tuy Hòa City, Mui Dien cape juts out into the sea. It’s a disputed fact, but a sign there declares itself as: “The easternmost point of Việt Nam, where the first sunrise appears”. And who are we to disagree? Sitting at the peak of Mui Dien Cape is a French-constructed lighthouse built in 1890. This stone pillar stands 26.5 meters tall. It’s a steep hike up the stairs, and you’ll need to leave Tuy Hòa in darkness to make the summit in time for those famous first rays of sun. At the top you’ll be over 100 meters above sea level. Once there, watch the pink sun rising over the crystalline turquoise waves…

#8 Discover the art of garden craft cocktails at Summer Experiment Saigon

Why: Molecular mixology comes to Saigon at Layla’s little sister.

Summer Experiment is no ordinary bar. Think craft cocktails, levelled up. Just a few months ago, Jay Moir, Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam’s mixologist of the year and one of the brains behind Layla’s Eatery and Bar, finally opened this long-awaited summer-themed cocktail paradise. 

Crafted Garden Cocktails at Summer Experiment Saigon.

There are 27 signature cocktails (and counting) that have undergone months of trial and error with their award-winning team of experts. Gladly, the drinks are now perfected for your tasting pleasure. Summer Experiment is fresh in more ways than one. All ingredients are grown locally, some right there inside the bar. Try out the place’s amazing happy hour from 5pm to 8pm Monday through Saturday when it’s only 99K VND for selected cocktails!

#9 Lap up the luxurious side of Danang

Why: A double header: stay at the Four Seasons The Nam Hai and visit UNESCO World Heritage site of Hoi An.

At The Nam Hai, chic contemporary design incorporates elements from Imperial Vietnam. While this dazzling Four Seasons has state-of-the-art amenities, its aesthetics are clearly an ode to tradition. 

The Four Seasons Resort is like a beacon of beauty that reflects the soul of Vietnamese culture.

While in Danang, pay a visit to the ancient trading port of Hoi An, one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. This trading port was once one of the most important in the country until the river silted over and made it a backwater.  By the 16th century, the city, strategically set at this central location benefited from an influx of international trade and influence.

Silks, ceramics, and spices were traded amongst the Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and even Dutch merchants. Eventually, the trade moved up to Danang, but Hoi An’s buildings still remained, donning their eye-catching vibrant yellow coats of paint, accessorized with lanterns and lush flowers.

#10 Swim in Robinson Beach near Cam Ranh 

Why: Escape the tourists and swim in these crystal clear Maldives-like waters. 

Robinson Island – where sun-kissed beaches and crystalline waters await.

Vietnam is far from a marine paradise. You’ll struggle to find diving spots on a par with near neighbours like Thailand and the Philippines. But there are a few places for reef lovers. And one of the best is Robinson Bay. 

From Cam Ranh Bay, take a two-hour boat ride to Binh Ba, or Robinson Bay, sometimes known as ‘Robinson desert island’. In fact, the island is dotted with beaches – picture perfect Nom Beach, the coral waters of Chuong Beach, and Nha Cu Beach, which might be the best for swimming. Want to level up? Then arrange a diving trip. Nha Cu has prime waters for coral reef lovers. And afterwards bask on the pristine, white sandy beaches once you’ve had your fill of aquatic action. 

#11 Come to your senses in Con Dao and Nha Trang 

Why: One for the wealthy? Perhaps. But if you ever have chance, come to your senses and try a Six Senses resort.

The next-level service starts the moment you land. Six Senses staff whisk you to a kiosk at the airport for a refreshing towel and tasty drink, then it’s into the private van (in Nha Trang at least) and on to the boat terminal where another welcome towel and drink awaits. 

Luxury boutique resort with natural, forest-like grounds and stunning wood-heavy interiors at Six Sense Ninh Van Bay, Nha Trang.

Once the private speed boat has dropped you off in paradise, there’s nothing left to do except relax. If that feels too decadent, hike into the hills to spot rare black shanked douc langur, go fishing and island hopping — and they’ll even arrange a private cast-away picnic for you upon request.

#12 Have a lazy Saigon Sunday brunch with park views

Why: A timeless and surprisingly tranquil spot smack in the center of downtown D1.

Saigon’s District 1 is home to many a wonderful brunch spot. Au Parc whose terrace overlooks Thong Nhat Park is a favourite. From 11am to 4pm on weekends, enjoy a New York or Turkish style brunch in this beautifully-kept colonial building with original interiors and exposed brickwork. In a city of constant shift, Au Parc, opened in 2003, is a reassuringly consistent restaurant.

Start a new day with some delicious brunch at Au Parc.

Stay all day to get some work done. Or just pop by for a midday breather. This Mediterranean resto is a great midpoint between Notre Dame Cathedral and the Reunification Palace if you plan to do some sightseeing. Plus, the same group own next door’s Propoganda, an equally cool place where Vietnamese dishes replace the brunch menu. 

#13 Eat street food in Hanoi

Why: Because Hanoi is a foodie’s paradise.

Do a street food tour in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. This part of the capital is the place to set aside a whole day just to hop from spot to spot, munching on delicious things both sweet and savory. Try pho Hanoi. A huge handful of spring onions on top of the vermicelli noodles, beef, and broth is one of the things that makes the pho uniquely Hanoian. 

Available across the country, bun cha is a Hanoi dish approved by Obama.

Also, go for some bun cha. Bun cha is a Hanoi-birthed treat. It’s barbequed pork drenched with fish sauce. With dippable thin vermicelli and fresh herbs on the side. Sweet, spicy, garlicky. In the French Quarter, you can find the joint made famous by Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain, Bun Cha Huong Lien. For dessert, try the frothy, candy-like egg coffee at Cafe Giang. The taste of actual egg in this beverage is undetectable, so don’t let the name put you off.

#14 Watch the sunset on the horizon at Phu Quoc

Why: The best spot in Vietnam for sunsets by the beach.

Vietnam’s 3,000 km coastline is east-facing. This means you can get great sunrises over the ocean. But the downside is you won’t find many sunsets. 

Watch sunset on Phu Quoc.

Phu Quoc is the only place in Vietnam where you can catch a sunset over the ocean. Visit its west-facing beaches, many of which have some quirky dive bars and gradually more high-end beach clubs like Shri Beach Club (sister of one of Saigon’s best-loved rooftop bars and restaurants). There take in some no-fuss relaxation as the sun dips over the horizon and the sky flushes pink. 

#15 Sip a startlingly good cup of Vietnamese arabica

Why: Vietnam is known for its coffee, but beyond punchy and ubiquitous cà phê sữa đá is great local Arabica served in stylish cafes.

Okkio Caffe epitomizes the dreamy romance of the Vietnamese cafe with a modern twist.

Saigon’s Okkio Caffe epitomises the dreamy romance of the Vietnamese cafe. This place has a faintly retro interior with jazz playing soflty in the background. While Okkio is fairly new to the scene, their coffee is already setting people abuzz with accolades. And, due to popular demand there’s now a second Saigon location.

Hozu Hoang outside her cafe, All Day Coffee Hanoi.

As for Hanoi, Hozu Hoang’s Xofa Café & Bistro is a beautiful space reminiscent of a French countryside cafe. If you go at night it can take on a cosy, wintry vibe with its hanging bulb string lights and brick mantle fireplace. All Day Coffee Hanoi is another good choice. While extremely spacious, sitting in All Day Coffee feels like you’re sitting in someone’s home. Especially upstairs with its dark wood panel flooring…

#16 Eat Kung-fu noodles in Saigon’s Chinatown

Why: Theatrically-made noodles taste as fresh as they look

Dinner and a show, anyone? Mi Keo Kung Fu does its very public noodle-pulling in front of the restaurant. And it will have you mesmerized. It only makes the actual eating of the noodles that much more delicious. 

The noodles are larger than normal and retain their toughness until the final chopstick.

The chefs will make the noodles do a few little jumps in a strainer to separate them a bit before putting them in bowls. A savory broth is poured over the perfectly al dente noodles and the whole dish is topped with a few pork-shrimp dumplings. Each order is prepared in a matter of minutes so as to not keep you hungry folks waiting. What the Mi Keo lacks in classy looks, it makes up for in freshness and flavour. Come try these Hong Kong style noodles to feel like you’ve just had a quick Hong Kong getaway in a distinctly local part of Saigon.

#17 Get to know the locals on Cham Island 

Why: Get super local…and way off the tourist trail.

Many tourists after visiting the ancient town of Hoi An often come to Cham island cluster to enjoy the peaceful, untouched beauty of nature.

Part of the reason for Vietnam’s present popularity is that lots of it has barely been touched by tourists. The Cham Islands are a good example. While Hoi An seethes with tourists in high season, off the coast is a protected biosphere reserve.

Between March and September, when the skies are blue and the sea warm and welcoming the islands offer some unforgettable experiences. There’s scuba diving and snorkelling in Cu Lao Cham Marine Park, the fishing villages and untouched beaches of Hon Lao Island. And if you plan to stick around, try the homestays along Bai Chong Beach. 

Cu Lao Cham island is famous for its half-dried cuttlefish.

Alternatively, set up camp right on the beach at nightfall when the daytrippers will all have headed back to Hoi An, leaving you with some privacy. And of course, camping, rather than just dumping off at a resort, allows you to engage more with the locals. As the island is much bigger than you think, the locals are a great resource for island navigation.

#18 Indulge in a very modern bowl on My Quang in Danang

Why: Sample Masterchef runner up Carol Pham’s unique take on a Central Vietnamese classic.

At Carol Pham’s Danang restaurant Nu Do Kitchen, you can find My Quang 2.0. My Quang is a noodle dish from Central Vietnam’s Quang Nam Province. Thick rice noodles are accompanied with meat or seafood and, of course, a little bowl of fresh herbs on the side. And here, she also serves up a surprisingly flavoursome bowl of vegan My Quang too. 

Carol Pham cooking up her take on a classic, My Quang.

The liquid served with the noodles falls somewhere in between a soup and a sauce. But this particular mix of flavours is unique to Nu Do, however. That’s because Chef Carol is an experimenter. A traveller. A collector of inspiration. Her beef noodles with come with a dash of cinnamon, and you’ll notice hints of Malaysian curry flavour in her fish.

#19 Get fitted with a sharp suit from a new generation of tailoring talent

Why: Better known for cut-quick delivered-the-next-day suits, Saigon’s next generation is delivering quality bespoke tailoring

Triet Vo and Phillip Doan – the people behind Sir Tailor.

Sure, you pay more. And you have to wait a little longer. But isn’t it worth it for a suit that lasts? With a stylish cut and cloth that will make you the talk of the town? Sir Tailor’s have taken their retro-contemporary suits international in Berlin and Bangkok. You can get fitted up by the dapper gentlemen behind the brand in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City too. 

Cooper & Co – A boutique tailor creating bespoke menswear.

Saigon has seen a takeover by female tailors too. Quynh Tran is the CEO of the beautiful bespoke suit company, Cooper & Co (Cooper is the name of her dog). Oriole and Bien are also proudly women-run. And they offer some very cool, modern tailoring…with a decidedly feminine touch.

#20 Run through Saigon’s empty morning streets before the traffic builds to a crescendo

Why: Saigon at six o’clock in the morning is a different city

A run through Saigon as the city wakes up is a great way to take in the city’s history and modernity in a six-kilometre jog. Trust us. We tried it. At six in the morning, the streets of Saigon are surprisingly empty. Later in the day navigating the pavements for a run is almost impossible. Crossing the road at an uninterrupted canter even more so. 

Before 7am the streets of District 1 are still quiet.

Start in the plaza in front of the Municipal Opera House. Loop through the zoo before they start charging admissions. Jog along the canal past just-opened coffeeshops. And then head back into the city center dodging some bad-ass badminton players enjoying their daily game on the street. Pass the high-walled embassies along Le Duan. Then back down retail rich Dong Khoi and the newly opened Uniqlo. And you’re back where you began, just as the traffic builds. 

#21 Live the eco-conscious life in Sapa

Why: Eco sleeps at Topas Ecolodge in Sapa and the chance to clamber up Fansipan Mountain.

Topas Ecolodge is a small lodge situated on a beautiful hilltop deep in the mountains of Hoang Lien National Park.

15 minutes from Sapa town, nestled amongst the terrace fields of one of Hoang Lien National Park’s quiet peaks is Topas Ecolodge. This sprawling clump of rustic bungalows is a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World. Hikers rejoice! Here in Vietnam’s very north is one of the most gorgeous hikes of the country.  

Fansipan mountain is lush with greenery and veiled in a fairytale mist. There are three options to suit different levels of hikers. The easiest hike up Fansipan will take roughly 10 hours, the moderate hike will take 12, and the most advanced will take 18. If you crave an aerial view or if hiking isn’t your thing, a cable car is available as well. In any case, bring warm clothes and sturdy boots.

#22 Watch trains trundle past on Hanoi’s train street 

Why: One of the capital’s most surprising new tourist attractions

This tourist attraction has grown in fame through – you guessed it – Instagram. It’s hard to resist getting in a couple good shots of vintage-y train tracks and the quaint and colorful boutique establishments flanking it. 

The Hanoi train street is located from the intersection of Dien Bien Phu street to Phung Hung street.

The locals know when the trains come. Ask them and find a seat in time for the show. Arrive fifteen minutes before and grab a seat and egg coffee at one of the local joints. It’s interesting to see the people living and working so close to the tracks, so spend a lazy afternoon doing some quality people-watching (and train spotting).

#23 Stagger through a craft beer bar hop in Danang

Why: Vietnamese craft beer blew up a few years ago and the effervescing offerings are richer than ever 

7 Bridges is proud to be Da Nang’s official craft beer company and the first socially influential brewing company in the region.

Already building a name as a sensational street food destination (besides the obvious allure of the beaches), Danang has a surprisingly rich craft beer scene. It even has it’s own resident brewery named after the bridges of the city, Seven Bridges. Another surprise is discovering that the CEO of the brewery behind the brand is Japanese. “I am a Japanese, and Japanese people drink a lot,” Saori Ushimi told us back in December. 

Then Saori Ushimi led us on a tour of her favourite spots besides the Seven Bridges taphouse. And the range is diverse. Hidden gems like Hops & Crust. Luna, an Italian restaurant with craft on tap. A Danang institution, Waterfront, with a dedication to local beer. And dive-bar style spots like The Kneipe and Crazy Kat’s. 

#24 Embark on a cocktail walking tour of Saigon’s District 1

Why: Unlike urban metropolises like Jakarta and Bangkok Saigon’s CBD is easily navigable on foot (excuse the crazy pavements)

All conveniently within a few blocks of each other are some of Saigon’s coolest bars. If you’re the kind that’s into a bar hop, you’re in luck. Start up high. On the roof at Eight Four Collective’s Irusu Lounge, which cocktail is a tribute to Japanese gangster life. On the first floor below, it’s cooler with its dim lights and a rap soundtrack, but upstairs you have this romantic view of the Notre Dame Basilica. 

Eight Four Collective’s Irusu Lounge, which cocktail is a tribute to Japanese gangster life.

Then go down low with Below Whisky Den, named after its location right under another favourite hangout, Broma. Its acclaimed mixologist Kata Simon and up-and-coming bar star Hoang Quyen will make a delicious and quirkily dressed cocktail for you, or their award-winning negroni. 

And in between test one of the city’s multitude of speakeasies, arguably one of the best parts of Saigon right now. We’re talking about places like Snuffbox, one of the first to elevate the cocktail scene here. Step into the roaring twenties with the bar’s mint juleps and dry martini. Then there’s Nhau Nhau, Ryu, Firkin, Layla, Summer Experiment and more all within a short stagger.

#25 Cruise along the Perfume River during a day in historic Hue

Why: Vietnam’s ancient capital remains surprisingly untouched

The Hue citadel was oriented to face the Huong River.

Sign up for an all-inclusive day tour and spend your early morning sightseeing UNESCO world heritage site of Hue Citadel, the once economic and political heart of the Vietnamese Kingdom. Then cruise down the river in a boat. Song Huong River is about 80 kilometers long. In the fall, orchid flowers will drop in and flow downriver, giving it a “perfume” aroma. Hence the name: Perfume River. 

Thien Mu Pagoda with its ancient architecture, a must-visit place in Hue.

Then see the seven-story Thien Mu Pagoda, a temple regarded as the unofficial symbol of the city that sits on the river’s northern bank. Last, right outside of Hue, tour the Emperor’s residence and wander the stomping grounds of Nguyen Dynasty Royalty. If you prefer to explore the Citadel sans tour guide and set itinerary, you can still boat down the river. Just take one of the dragon boats (after negotiating a good price). Handfuls of vibrantly painted dragon boats operate on the river, and you can have one all to yourself cheaply just in time for sunset.

And for the perfect hideout after all this history head to the Pilgrimage Village Boutique Resort & Spa. Set in lush gardens with an outlandishly big pool, this is the perfect place to rejuvenate before you go again the next day. 

#26 Go back in time at one of Saigon’s old-school eateries

Why: Amidst rampant development, Saigon has some restaurants that haven’t changed since the 1960s.

Chef and food columnist Tristan Ngo rattled off a few of his favourite old-school eateries for Wink Hotels’ The Dot Magazine back in January. 

Tristan Ngo at a modern classic on the F&B scene, Skewers.

It turns out that just down the street from Tristan’s Elbow Room is Thien Nam, a restaurant that’s been around since 1961. It has a Chinese menu and a Western French-inspired menu. In a single meal, you can have deep-fried Chinese mantou buns and swiss cheese clams. An unlikely pair that in Thien Nam’s hands are surprisingly complementary. 

Chuong Ky is another one of the oldest establishments in the city. It’s one of those places with one dish that people go just to have – chicken and rice. The steamed chicken with the flavour of ginger piercing through it is a gastronomical sensation you won’t forget in a hurry…

Thien Nam – a restaurant that’s been around since 1961.

#27 Try Anthony Bourdain’s Hoi An banh mi

Why: The foodie legend, revered in Vietnam two years since his sad passing, had a favourite place for a sandwich in Hoi An

Banh Mi Phuong opened in 1990. And it’s remained exactly the same for over 30 years.

You can’t travel Vietnam without having banh mi at least once…or twice. Do make sure that if you’re in Hoi An, you pass by Banh Mi Phuong to try theirs. 

This place opened in 1990. And it’s remained exactly the same for over 30 years. Anthony Bourdain made it famous one fateful day during his first trip to Vietnam. Because of this exposure the little stall boasts a long line, mostly of tourists, throughout the entire day. But it’s well worth the 20-minute wait. For only a dollar, you can experience what the esteemed late travel documentarian considered to be the best banh mi in the world. 

#28 Take a cinematic sunrise kayak in Ha Long

Why: Unique scenery, and a way to escape the crowds

Ha Long Bay can be quite polarising. For every tourist who comes back talking about Ha Long’s incredible scenery, another will be complaining about the crowds or the cleanliness of the place. 

Kayak away from the crowds.

One way to ensure a great visit is to take a cinematic sunrise kayak in Ha Long. It’s also a great way to get up close and personal to this iconic backdrop. Being down in a kayak, looking up at the limestone formations, you truly experience the scale of it all. 

And Halong Bay is home to thousands of islands, 800 in the tourist core alone, so there’s plenty of places to explore. If you’re lucky you’ll spot mischievous red-bummed monkeys jumping throughout the cliff rock…

#29 Enjoy a luxe legacy stay near the mountains of Quang Ninh

Why: Stay at the MGallery Sofitel and hike up Yen Tu mountain

Legacy Yen Tu is located in the a valley inside Yen Tu mountains with a beautiful sightseeing

Book a couple nights at Legacy Yen Tu. The hotel’s colour scheme is rich and earthy and its impeccably designed rooms are dimly lit, and it’s all inspired by local culture. All this makes for a very romantic vibe.

Because the people of this region are rice farmers, some of the hotel’s walls have rice grain integrated into them. Even the headboards are made of hanging pillows modelled after rice bags. In fact, many of the materials used to build and decorate the hotel have been locally sourced. 

Marvelous panoramic views and beautiful scenery of Yen Tu peak.

Nearby, Yen Tu is one of northeastern Vietnam’s tallest peaks. As the country’s “cradle of Buddhism”, Make sure you bring a pair of decent walking shoes for the Yen Tu mountain hike, which has bits that are a little steep. Visit the various temples until reaching the peak to pray for a longer stay…

#30 Discover the slow life in Hoi An and Danang

Why: Beyond the high-end resorts and dizzying developments the Central coast is embracing slow-living 

It’s a surprise. Danang these days seems to be all construction projects and a dizzying numbers of tourists. Hoi An too. But lots of residents are embracing the slower pace of living. There’s the Sampan distillery outside Hoi An, with its once-a-year sugar cane harvest and distillation. There’s simple, homely boutique hotels like Dechiu, right by the beach, and organisations like bePrana that offer wellness training and retreats for individuals and businesses. 

The slow life in Hoi An.

The start-up offer 3-, 5-, and 7-day retreats available. Each one weaves together tenets of nutritious eating and holistic physical activities. Post retreat, stay at Dechiu Hotel by Hoi An’s An Bang beach. This boutique stay with its tastefully muted color palette is as cozy as cozy gets. It’s so well-curated that every detail is IG-worthy, from the rustic little teapots to the traditional hanging tapestry. If hygge is your thing, Dechiu is the place to be. Its proprietor even gave us her guide to the slow life in Hoi An and Danang back in January highlighting local bars and restaurants like Tadioto that have the same spirit. 

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The Pi Saigon Is A Neighborhood Bar That Celebrates Diversity…And Mathematics

The Pi Saigon Is A Neighborhood Bar That Celebrates Diversity…And Mathematics

The Completely (In)Complete Guide To The Best Places To Eat And Drink In Hanoi

The Completely (In)Complete Guide To The Best Places To Eat And Drink In Hanoi


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