Friday 21 October 2022

2 Weeks in Vietnam - Our Family Travel Itinerary

We spent nearly five weeks in South East Asia with our five children and I have had lots of requests to share our itinerary so this is the second part, our 2 weeks in Vietnam.  You can read the itinerary for our 2.5 weeks in Thailand here.  Our trip was a mix of lots of research and plenty of flexibility as we made decisions on the road about what we would do and what pace we would move at.  When we were thinking about doing a bigger activity or trip, we sat down as a family to look at the options and we decided together which one we wanted to do. I will note some other activities that we missed in some locations that I would have loved to do if we had more time! 

Vietnam with children, backpacking south east asia with kids, hoi an

Vietnam with children, backpacking south east asia with kids

Ho Chi Minh City

Also known as Saigon (and referred to in the rest of this post as HCMC), Ho Chi Minh City is the second biggest city in Vietnam and in the south of the country and this is where we flew into from Thailand.  We had decided to stick to the southern half of the country as the weather was supposed to be better during August and whilst it was still monsoon season, the rain didn't get in the way at all.  HCMC isn't know as a classic holiday destination but it is a city unlike anywhere we had been before and crossing the street is an experience in itself!  

We stayed in an airbnb apartment with three bedrooms which was on the 32nd floor with incredible views over the city.  We were in district 5 which wasn't touristy at all but we were less than 10 minutes walk to the centre of district 1 and felt like we had the best of both worlds.  Our airbnb had a swimming pool and small playground. 

We spent three days in HCMC which was plenty. We visited

  • Tan Dinh Pink church. We didn't go inside but it is fun to admire from outside
  • A walk through the fabric market opposite and around the local area
  • Saigon Mall which is a huge shopping mall with everything you could possibly want.
  • The cinema (make sure you opt for films in English with Vietnamese subtitles.  This was a welcome bit of normality for the kids).
  • Nguyen Hue Walking Street - This comes alive at night with street performers, music, street food and vendors selling light up toys.
  • The Cafe apartments on Nguyen Hue walking street.  This is a classic apartment block but each apartment is a different cafe with views out over the walking street. The kids highly recommend Dosh Donuts.
  • If you are vegan then check out Rawberry who do incredible desserts and offer delivery for around £1 (message through Facebook). The banoffee mini cake was incredible.
If you have longer in HCMC then there are plenty more areas to explore. The war remnants museum and Cu Chi tunnels are fascinating for anyone interested in the history of the war, Notre Dame Cathedral and the central post office are incredible buildings to admire the architecture and for a longer stay with children, I was recommended Tinker Play in District 7. I followed Becky at Good Honest Travels on Instagram who is an expat living in HCMC with her children and she has lots of recommendations.

We hadn't planned out our time in Vietnam properly and so had no travel within the country booked before we arrived so we actually ended up booking flights from HCMC up to Da Nang the night before we travelled.  Prices are very reasonable and there were multiple flights per day to choose from.

Vietnam with children, backpacking south east asia with kids, pink church

Vietnam with children, backpacking south east asia with kids, ho chi minh city

I had thought that we would head up the coast and use the sleeper trains but we made the decision instead to fly up to Da Nang and explore three different areas nearby and spend less time travelling. 

An Bang Beach

We flew into Da Nang and got a taxi from the airport to An Bang beach, a seafront town around 40 minutes away. In contrast to the built up city, An Bang was quiet, small and laid back and we absolutely loved it.  We had found a few places online that looked good but not booked accomodation so we turned up and asked to look at some rooms.  We ended up choosing Blue Alcove and had two sets of connecting family rooms that led straight out to the small pool.  The hotel was connected to Aira boutique hotel where we ate our breakfast buffet and could use the facilities.

Most of our time in An Bang was spent eating, drinking and swimming.  The beach was beautiful and quiet and there was a strip of restaraunts along the front serving freshly caught seafood and with play areas and swings to keep the children happy too. There was something about the atmosphere here that we all loved.  It is easy to visit from Hoi An or Da Nang for the day but we enjoyed spending a few days relaxing here and having everything so close.

Recommendations are all food based for here and include:

Vietnam with children, backpacking south east asia with kids

Vietnam with children, backpacking south east asia with kids

Hoi An

Hoi An is an ancient town and the town centre is a car and motorbike free zone which is very refreshing.  Famous for its lanterns, the main town has painted yellow walls and a river runs alongside it. It was one of our favourite places to visit and whilst it is very touristy, it is somewhere not to miss on a trip to Vietnam. It is quite quiet during the day but it comes alive at night.  It was only 10 minutes drive in a taxi from An Bang beach but it felt like a very different place.

We stayed just outside the ancient town in Phu Thinh Boutique hotel with two sets of interconnecting rooms again.  Here are some of the things we did in Hoi An

  • Walk around the ancient town looking at the shops and cafes
  • One of our favourite experiences was a cooking class.  We did a local market tour followed by an excursion on a traditional fishing boat and practiced throwing a net.  We caught some crabs on the river banks and then were taught how to make 4 different Vietnamese dishes before sitting down to an incredible meal.  The experience was child friendly and there were extra staff to help my younger children.  This is the experience we booked and it included pick up from our hotel too.
  • Hoi An is known for its tailors and if you want anything custom made, you can't walk more than a few metres before finding a shop that will do it.  I had an idea of a skirt I wanted and got it made but you can have anything from party dresses to suits.
  • In the evening lantern boats sail down the river and it is a really special experience.  We aimed for sunset and it was so beautiful. There are longer boat tours on bigger boats but the little ones are brilliant.
  • We were cycled around the old town on bikes with what looked like a large wheelchair on the front.  It wasn't the cheapest experience but the children loved it.
  • If you want Vegan food then check out Nourish who did incredible lunches and was very close to our hotel.
You can read more about why we loved Hoi An and what we got up to here.

Vietnam with children, backpacking south east asia with kids, hoi an

Vietnam with children, backpacking south east asia with kids, hoi an lantern boats

Da Nang

Da Nang is the third largest city in Vietnam, located about half way down and has an international airport.  It is also situated on the coast and has a white sand beach.  We had heard that Da Nang was somewhere you could easily skip but we decided to explore for ourselves and spent a lovely couple of days here.  We stayed at the Grand Sunrise Boutique Hotel which was about 5 minutes walk from the beach.  We arrived via taxi and it was around 30 minutes from Hoi An. 

Things we did in Da Nang:

  • Hired inflatables and swam in the sea at My Khe Beach. We were the only people at the beach other than the ladies hiring out sunbeds, inflatables and selling drinks and the sea was a similar temperature to a bath I would run for the children!
  • Drank smoothies in quiet cafes and people watched.
  • Fly Burger for amazing burgers (very close to our hotel) and Loving Vegan for incredible vegan food (get the cheezy chilli chips)
  • Asia Park/Sun World (I am not sure what the official name is as it uses both).  This is a theme park on the river front that you can spot from a mile off because of the huge big wheel. The theme park is only open from 3pm-9pm (thewheel until 10) and has different areas based on different Asian countries. There are plenty of rollercoasters and rides but also statues and buildings based on different styles of architecture and a replica version of Ankor Wat you can wander around in the Cambodian part.  We went on a weeknight and it was pretty empty. Wristbands were £8 for adults (over 140cm) and £4 for children and covered everything including the big wheel. 
  • Eat at the Helio Centre opposite Asia Park.  There are lots of stalls for food and live music to listen to whilst you eat. 
Vietnam with children, backpacking south east asia with kids, da nang

Vietnam with children, backpacking south east asia with kids, da nang

In total we spent two weeks in Vietnam and we only explored a very small part of it.  There is so much to see and Hanoi and Ha Long Bay in the north would be top of my list when/if we are able to go back.  We flew direct from Da Nang to Singapore at the end of our two weeks and I will write our Singapore itinerary up soon!  Please get in touch either on here or through social media with any questions! Click here to read more about planning a family backpacking trip.

1 comment:

  1. I used Skyscanner to find the best flight prices and booked through the recommended places on there. It was cheaper and more flexible to book it myself. We actually only booked the flight from HCMC to Da Nang the evening before we wanted to fly as we hadn't decided what we were doing until then


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