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Onwards to our final stop

Indochina Day Twenty-Three

View Indochina 2020 on ToonSarah's travel map.

On Tran Phu street

Last few hours in Hoi An

After a final breakfast in the attractive lobby/dining area of the Vinh Hung hotel (but still marred by the plaintive and persistent squawk of the caged bird opposite) we finished our packing and then went out for a short last stroll in Hoi An's old town. I took a few more photos, although it did seem that we were now seeing the same thing and even the same people as on previous walks! We stopped for a coffee in the Wake Up! coffee shop before returning to the hotel to check out.

Souvenir shops

Souvenir shop, and in the Wake Up! coffee shop

Driving to Danang

A very chatty representative from the travel company came to walk us to the car pick-up point on the edge of the old town. He told us that he used to work in the hotel in the late 1990s when it was a novelty for them to have a computer. They would charge about £1 to send a single email over their dial-up connection. Later, on the drive to the airport, he told us more about the local company that owns the hotel. The owner started off as a wedding photographer and made enough money to buy the old house and open his first hotel. They now have seven in various locations in Hoi An.

In the course of our relatively short drive his conversation also covered building development in Hoi An and Danang, traditional fishing techniques, rice farming, changing family customs (from arranged marriages to personal choice, and from large numbers of children to just one or two), maternity care and campaigns for natural childbirth, the impact on tourism of the Coronavirus outbreak, high levels of home ownership in Vietnam, his daughter's education and career choices and no doubt more that I have since forgotten!

We drove past the Marble Mountain which, had we had more time in Hoi An, I would have loved to have visited. As it was I had to make do with a few photos snatched from the car as we drove past.

Near Marble Mountain

On the streets of Danang

Our escort was very helpful when we arrived at the airport, located somewhat surprisingly right in the middle of the city. He helped us to use the self check-in machines and bypass a long queue, so we were soon airside and able to make use of the airport wifi to catch up on the news while waiting for our flight.

Flight to Ho Chi Minh City

We were delayed in boarding, and therefore also taking off, due to the late arrival of the aircraft. When we did eventually take off we were treated to excellent views of Danang below us.

Taking off from Danang Airport




Taking off from Danang

As on our previous flights with Vietnam Airlines we were served only a bottle of water during the flight as for some bizarre reason the company had decided that while it was safe to provide that, offering any other drinks, or food, was too risky due to the coronavirus scare. I didn't understand their thinking, personally, and suspected a money-saving exercise!


Flying over Ho Chi Minh City

Arriving in Ho Chi Minh City

It was hot and humid in Ho Chi Minh City when we landed (34 degrees). We had to wait quite a while for our luggage but with no need to clear customs it wasn't too long before we were outside and being greeted by our final guide of this trip, Tai. He surprised us by welcoming us not to Ho Chi Minh City, the official name, but to Saigon, its previous name. The city was renamed after it was liberated/captured (depending on your perspective) by the Viet Cong in April 1975, bringing about an end to the Vietnam War. We had assumed that locals would be keen that we use its correct name, but Tai told us that because it is quite a mouthful and because old habits die hard, many still refer to it as Saigon. I have since learned that technically Saigon refers only to the city centre area while Ho Chi Minh City (often abbreviated to HCMC) refers to the entire metropolitan district and incorporated rural areas.

Tai led us to the car and our driver (yet another whose name I failed to register), and we were off through the manic traffic into the city centre and to our hotel for the next two nights, Liberty Central. This was a complete contrast to our base in Hoi An, being very modern and urban. We had a nice room on the twelfth floor with good views north towards the Gia Long Palace (now the city’s history museum, City Hall and beyond. There was a picture window also between the bedroom and bathroom, but thankfully with a blind we could pull down for privacy!


Our room at the Liberty Central Hotel

View from our room
~ the Gia Long Palace / History Museum is in the middle distance towards the right

Another view from our room
~ Gia Long Palace / History Museum is on the left and you can see the red flag flying over City Hall on the right; you might also make out the twin spires of Notre Dame Cathedral near the centre horizon

Our pre-planned itinerary included another evening foodie tour but we had already decided to cancel it. While we had enjoyed those we had done elsewhere, in Phnom Penh and Hoi An, we felt that was enough and we preferred to do our own thing this evening. Both Aaron at Selective Asia, whom I had emailed earlier, and Tai here in HCMC, were fine about the change of plans, naturally.

So we started our evening with a beer at the Pasteur Street Brewing Company's tap room, down an alley in the opposite side of the road to the hotel. This microbrewery has a few branches in the city, including two in this alley - the original, which was closed this evening, and the one we visited. They had a good range of craft beers, although not cheap - the price we paid for two small beers wasn't much less than at home in London. It was worth it however, as the beer was good and the different Vietnamese takes on the usual recipes interesting.

On the streets of Saigon at night

In the Pasteur Street Brewing Company

We had hoped to eat at Huong Lai, a couple of blocks away, but found it fully booked. We reserved a table for tomorrow evening, so more about this restaurant in my next entry. For now we decided to go back to eat in the hotel's ground floor bistro, as many of the other restaurants in this neighbourhood appeared not to serve Vietnamese food - there was instead Thai, French, Italian, US (burgers) etc. In the bistro we shared some good spring rolls and then both had the Banh Mi, a Vietnamese adaptation of the French baguette with a filling of pork, pate, coriander, spring onion, chilli and more - delicious!

After our meal we went up to check out the roof top bar, Above. The hotel is 19 stories tall - high enough to offer great views of the city and to pick up some fresher breezes. We enjoyed a drink here (I had a great cocktail with vodka, apple and apricot juices, ginger and other flavours). Then it was just about time for bed, as we had an early start tomorrow which would be our last full day exploring Indochina.


Views from the roof-top bar
~ the slender skyscraper towards the left is the tallest building in the city, Landmark 81, while the one in the centre of the upper photo is the second tallest, the Bitexco Financial Tower, which we will visit tomorrow

Posted by ToonSarah 03:51 Archived in Vietnam Tagged night planes food beer views hotel flight vietnam bar saigon coffee hoi_an ho_chi_minh_city

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From what your rep told you in your drive to Danang, it sounds like tourism really has taken off there. The air quality there looks amazingly good. Your decision to have your nightcap from the roof bar in Saigon certainly looked to be the tight decision.

by Yvonne Dumsday

I do like talking to the guides and/or drivers if we have a language in common. Although I don't want to distract a driver if there is any difficulty for him/her conversing in English which is my only real language ability.

We also had a window between the bathroom and the bedroom in a Sydney hotel. I could look through the window and watch the news on the TV while brushing my teeth.

by greatgrandmaR

A picture window into the bathroom seems an odd touch. Nice they had a covering for it.

Cities always look better at night . . .

by Beausoleil

Thank you all. Yvonne, the tourism in Danang is predominantly local/Vietnamese I believe but neighbouring Hoi An is a big tourist draw, for obvious reasons :)

I don't think we put the TV on once during this whole trip Rosalie but I do tend to when travelling alone, especially in the morning, so I can see that would be a bonus. However I prefer privacy when using the loo, even from Chris ;)

And Sally, yes, that's true of many cities and HCMC I think would be one of them!

by ToonSarah

The loo was back in the corner

We were at a hotel on St. Croix and couldn't figure out how to turn on the A/C which was up high in a window. It turned out that the control was behind the bathroom door. We never shut that door so we never saw it.

by greatgrandmaR

It's my contention Rosalie that anyone who designs a hotel room should be required to stay in it for at least two consecutive nights - they would make a lot of modifications afterwards!

by ToonSarah

Saigon certainly has changed since I was last there! (Da Nang too, for that matter.)

by Nemorino

As always beautiful pictures. I particularly like the shots of Da Nang from the air and Ho Chi Minh City at night.

Da Nang does get international tourists and is growing in popularity. It's an extremely popular place with Hong Kongers and many other nationalities. It has beautiful beaches and several very interesting sights.

I'm very interested to see more of Hi Chi Minh in your blog. It's around 20 years since we last visited.Guess it will have changed quite a lot in that time.

by irenevt

Thanks Don and Irene :) Yes, I guess I knew from your blog Irene that Danang does get international visitors, so my reply to Yvonne was a bit simplistic - I meant to indicate that it was rather less of a draw than Hoi An.

As for HCMC, we had a very full day sightseeing there, so watch out for my next entry

by ToonSarah

I wonder how many hotel room decorator would opt to put a window-wall in the toilet in their own home! :)

by hennaonthetrek

That's a very good question Henna

by ToonSarah

Wonderful views from both your plane and from your hotel room, Sarah! I have to smile a bit about your room's "bath with a view" but glad some privacy was possible anyway. One of my pet peeves when traveling is an ill-conceived bathroom -- no place to put toiletries around the sink, no hooks for clothing or towels, poor lighting, etc. And, what about that "shower room" in Sofia!?!? LOL!

by starship VT

Hi Sylvia - yes, I remember that Sofia hotel - I wrote in my blog entry: 'The wet-room bathroom was more stylish than functional, and I was to realise later that it really lived up to its name, as water bubbled up from time to time through the drainage hole, making the floor wet even when I hadn’t recently showered!'

I also had an odd one when I stayed a night in Munich after the Kempten meet - the shower opened directly into the room and the bathroom floor was heated even though it was 30+ degrees outside, and couldn't be turned off!

by ToonSarah

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