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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 Comments (13)

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