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Our Cham Island experience

It started with a 12 hours train journey from Hanoi to Da Nang. We left Hanoi station at 11pm and slowly worked our way south stopping at Dong Hoi and Hue before arriving at Da Nang station at 1.30 pm the next day.

at Hanoi train station

We took a mini bus to Hoi An,  loaded our bags on to a fast boat and reached Cham Island at 2.30 pm.

After a brief rest we were invited to do some snorkeling to get a feel for the water and to see the natural beauty there. The water was clear, warm and we could see some fish and  coral. Back to the island, we had a swim in the beach then dinner. Our accommodation was small tents on the beach, although some of us slept on the sand with feet in the water too keep cool.

After a light breakfast and a briefing about the dive equipment we would use. We took a small boat to join other divers on the “mother-ship” where we suited up for our first SCUBA dive.

The dive instructors were profession and safety conscious and made us feel very comfortable as we began to enjoy the under water world of the reefs around Cham Island.

Our first dive was about 30 minutes. After that we had a short break on the “mother-ship” then we were invited to take another deeper dive in a more spectacular location. We saw fish, coral and amazing rock formation under water. It was an amazing experience to “fly” among the fish and the only sound was the regular in and out of your own breathing. After diving all moving, we returned to the island and had a good lunch then a swim with a game of ” ghost-ball ” …

Diving at cham island

That evening, we had a “gala dinner” and some drinks. We all slept very well after a very special day.

The next morning, we walked 2.5 km to a local fishing village, saw the market then took a boat back to our base camp. After a very good seafood, we packed and took a fast boat to Hoi An.

Hoi an ancient city

We then visited My Son ancestral home of the Cham people and back to our hotel for a swim in the pool and relax. Dinner was in a restaurant on the river and walk around Hoi An ancient city. Next morning, we left Hoi An and visited CON market at Da Nang city for shopping then caught the flight back to Hanoi at 5pm. We needed to circle Hanoi airport due to a passing thunderstorm, but we arrived safe and well at 7.30 pm.

A great experience with wonderful things to see and do. You might want to view our photo album

Written by David Whitehead

Top 5 things to do in Vietnam 2011

Whilst my work is required lot of updates on travel and tourism to give customers the best advice on Vietnam travel and bring the most exciting things or destinations to our programs. Last year, I wrote a top do list in Vietnam and gained back such a great comment  from customers. This year, I would like to show you few more activities that you may put them onto your consideration.

As you may know, Vietnam offers different of cultures and exciting activities to travelers. It is hard for me to narrow to 5 things to do in Vietnam. However, I think those 5 are must sees or dos while traveling to my country in 2011. As normal, I always prefer to suggest people stay closer to local culture or activities.

1, Drive a motorbike

Sounds a bit crazy especially on rush time in Saigon or Hanoi, however, you can find quite a few of quiet places in Vietnam to do that. For example, countryside of Nha Trang or Hoi An could be a good places to experience. Joining with a local guide is recommended and don’t forget your helmet.

2, Pick an island along the coastlines

Vietnam beaches are great! They are raw, quality water and offer a great range of seafood. Any islands in central or further south could please you in any ways. I particularly fall in love with Nha Trang, not touristy island tours but Whale island that located about 60km north up. Great food, no crowded, enough activities to keep you happy for few days. What are you looking for more? Phu Quoc or Con Dao islands recently become a popular destination too.

3, Get a suit made in Hoi An

Why Hoi An? Because Hoi An offer more choices of fabrics, cost effective and amazingly instant service. There are number of shops in old quarter to choose from. People often recommend Yaly, A Dong and Thu Thuy shop which provide quality service in town. That would be nice souvenir for yourself, wouldn’t it?

4, A food walk tours in Hanoi

Best Vietnamese foods are not from posh restaurant, they are all from the places on the street. Hanoi can be considered for food vendor paradise. If you have a local friend, that will be easy, if not, some tour companies can arrange a meaningful day for you to enjoy the famous Vietnamese food or drink. I have 100% satisfaction customers on this unique tour.

5, Drive along Ho Chi Minh Trail

It can be wonderful for adventure minded. The drive itself already made people happy by its amazing scenery, visit and meet the friendliness locals on the way will make your day. I am just so surprised that not many tourist taking this route. Trip can be arranged from Hanoi and southbound with stops at beaches in some towns. Experienced driver and tour guide are required.

I know there are many Vietnam travel experts out there, if you have any personal interesting activities of your own, please help me to complete the list. Cheers and happy travel!

10 restaurants I like from Saigon to Hanoi

Food is always the most important part of every trip. I am lucky to have chance to travel throughout my country more than one time. Every city or province in Vietnam has their own specialty. It is likely impossible to list all them here. I just want to show you my personal favored list that I often go. My choice is simple: hygienic, affordable and unique foods that you may not find in anywhere else.

Saigon

1, Pho Le (Beef noodle soup)

It tastes quite differently from most of Pho from the north. It is a bit sweeter I think. This shop serves with a big bowl, plenty of extra fresh vegetables and herbs. Chicken eggs and meat balls can be ordered as aside at small additional charges.

  • Address: 303-305 Vo Van Tan St., Ward 5, District 3.

2, Luong Son Quan (Bo Tung Xeo)

This is a popular place for both Vietnamese and tourist. It offers the beautiful grilled beef with self grilled service at your table. Beef is very tender plus secret mixed source. The other specialties are also available such as snake, scorpion and other you may not want to hear.

  • Address: 31 Ly Tu Trong St., District 1

3, Banh Xeo (Saigon Pan Cake)

The shop located in a small alley of Hai Ba Trung street in Saigon. It is always crowded by locals. There are couple of courses are served but highlight of restaurant is Banh Xeo which is the typical southern food.

  • Address: 46A Dinh Cong Trang – District 1 – Ho Chi Minh City.

Nha Trang

4, Lac Canh Restaurant

Lac Canh is small family run restaurant, it’s also famous for grilled beef but they offer in different flavors. Other grilled seafoods are also available here.

  • Address: 44 Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm – Nha Trang City

Hoi An

5, Mermaid Restaurant

The one of very first restaurant opened in Hoi An. The founder owned number of restaurant in town but still keep Mermaid in purpose of providing affordable menu and unique tastes. I recommend to get some specialties of Hoi An and Stuffed Squids. They are the best in town.

  • Address: 02 Tran Phu – Hoi An Town

Da Nang

6, Quan Ba Thoi

This is a must – visit place for fans of seafood while you are in Da Nang. Restaurant of Ba Thoi offers the fresh seafood at affordable price. Just ask any locals for direction.

  • Address: 96 – 98 Le Dinh Duong – Da Nang City

Hue

7, Lac Thien Restaurant

Lac Thien is family run restaurant in Thuong Tu gate of Forbidden Citadel. The owner – Mr. Lac is deaf and mute. He is quite good at body language and foods has picture presented so it will be fine for your order. Don’t miss the special Hue Pan cake. Love this restaurant; love this family and also Mr. Coin.

  • Address: 06 Dinh Tien Hoang street – Hue

Hanoi

8, Bun Cha Hang Manh (Grilled pork with noodle)

It is busy all the time, especially at lunch. It offers a unique taste of meat and fish source. Bun Cha is also one of Hanoi specialties. Try it!

  • Address: 01 Hang Manh – Hoan Kiem – Hanoi

9, Snailed Noodle Phu Tay Ho

There are number of shops here for your choice. I think they all offer the good food. Just try to jump to the first one on the line – street. Snails are caught from the West Lake right in front. Fresh taste, a bit rubbery though, broth contents tomatoes, bones and other herbs that make a perfect combination.

  • Address: Phu Tay Ho – Tay Ho – Hanoi

10, Alfresco

The one and almost only Western restaurant I like in Hanoi (I go there quite often actually). It offers great pizza and spare ribs. Pasta I like is seafood with scream source. It is great service there too.

Those are places where I like to go, if you feel like following my routes, please click here to get the printable version. Kindly note that what I like may not the same to what you like. And do you have your own list of Vietnamese restaurants that you fall in love with? please write them down to our comment box below to show to the others. It’s very helpful isn’t it?. Enjoy your meals!

Hội & An

I got a call from Huy, a long lost friend from Hoi An. He is going to marry to a local girl on March after 31 years of lonely. I actually can’t wait for this event to see him and the land I love – Hoi An

When economics is booming and changes life at most corners of Vietnam, Hoi An seems to be an exceptional. Well, most of population of the town doing related hospitality industry but they do their own ways, not noisy and short term minded.

My very first trip to Hoi An dated in 1999 when tourism was still so raw, you might have been so hard to find a internet cafe in town and hotels are less counted. The well – known tailor shop Yaly was just a little messy place right heart of smelly Hoi An market. I was surprised that everyone acted so gently and friendly to me, and later on I found that tourist (even domestic) are treated very well and honestly here. I used to stay up late in Tam Tam bar, one night I had walked back to my hotel and there was a guy with his bike coming over and phased ‘do you want a ride back?’ I said ok and jumped over. When we arrived, I gave 5k VND to him and surprisingly he said ‘no worries, Tuan! I am not Xe Om, just offer you a ride as you are tour guide’. Well, how shame I was! And I had invited him for a coffee in the next day. He later became one of many local friends I made in Hoi An.

Hoi An is very small little town, you can’t get lost here. The old town lies along the main river and everything starts from there. The Cua Dai beach is a new development located about 4kms away. The town is mixture between of river and beach, old and new, western bar and many local style coffee shops, it offers a large range of shopping options like gift, clothes and many local souvenirs. Are they the reasons that make people stay in Hoi An longer than other places in Vietnam?

Language barrier does not allow me to express how much I love this land, especially it’s people. By the way, I would like to send my special thanks to all my friends, Tam, Gau, Huy, Quynh, Chau, Phuong, Cu and many others who just spent so much time helping me on early days at work, taught me Hoi An history, took great care when I was not well, showed me places that I would not have known as a normal visitor. I own you guys another coffee!

What you should not miss while travelling to Hoi An

  • Visit Cu Lao Cham Island (if you have time).
  • Eating ‘Banh Dap’ in Cam Nam, Cao Lau and White rose in Mermaid restaurant.
  • Be there on 14th lunar month for colorful lantern night.
  • Order a dining suit or two.
  • Enjoy Chao from vender in Cua Dai beach.
  • Find your way to one of the local coffee shop in Hoi An small alleys
  • Burn an incense and pray in Chua Cau
  • Rock to Tam Tam bar for a Larue beer or two and make sure you will be back after 3:00 am.
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