Blog: A week in Vietnam: sightseeing, pho, lanterns and fun!

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Motorcycles, Pho, lanterns, Tiger Beer, Hoi An, Vietnamese coffee, rice fields, UNESCO, Saigon, markets, how much? too much!, rivers, trains, Hue, banana pancakes, crazy traffic, conical hats, water puppets…

Easter is ladies week in The Whole World is a Playground house and my lovely mum and I jet off to somewhere fun and far away. After exhausting every country on the planet and watching the flight prices increase steadily, we finally settled on Vietnam as our 2015 destination! Having had an incredible time in Hanoi, Halong Bay and Saigon when the husband and I stopped by on our honeymoon I couldn’t wait to return and check out more of such a beautiful country. Good morning Vietnam, we’re on our way!!

Beautiful Saigon

Where we stayed: we stayed in a Club Room at the Renaissance Riverside Ho Chi Minh (booked through Agoda) and we loved the riverside views, the spa and the rooftop pool! The club room was a lovely treat and we enjoyed the lounge access and the food and drinks that were included in our club room rate

Our first stop was crazy, crazy Saigon where we settled into Vietnam life with a whirlwind sightseeing day of fun. The buzz of the massive city was incredible with millions and millions of motorcycles and people and, after a long Irish winter, we couldn’t contain our excitement at the glorious sunshine! Top of our list were Notre Dam, the War Remnants Museum, Reunification Palace and the Central Post Office, all landmark Ho Chi Minh sights! After successfully coaching the mum through a 7 lane street crossing while faced with rows and rows of oncoming motorcycles we were officially smitten!

I spy motorcycles!

Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplaygroundMotorcycle rides and Hello Kitty!

Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplaygroundThe War Museum:

Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplaygroundNotre Dam poses!

Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplayground


Where we stayed: Eldora hotel (booked through Agoda) where we paid around $60 per night for a twin room. The hotel was excellent and saved the day when we were abandoned at Da Nang airport by a local transport company!

It was time to fly up to the ancient capital of Hue (check out our day in Hue here) and spend a few days on the banks of the Perfume River. Our mornings were filled with pagodas, tombs and the Citadel and our evenings with pho and river antics! Our favourite moment was hanging out with the locals at the Thanh Toan covered bridge and embracing the Vietnam countryside!

The Imperial City, UNESCO fun!

Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplaygroundThe beautiful Thiên Mụ Pagoda:

Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplaygroundUnder my umbrella at the Citadel!Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplaygroundThe Perfume River:

Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplayground

Hai Van Pass

The ocean cloud pass is a beautiful description of the drive between Hue and Hoi An (check out our Hai Van Pass adventures here!). We were in awe of the stunning beaches, incredible views, miles of ocean and maze of mountain twisty roads. My love of Buddha’s is well documented in our previous Asia trips and a stop at the Marble Mountains allowed us to indulge in some Buddha spotting and incense burning. The drive between Hue and Hoi An was one of the many highlights of our week in Vietnam. So good in fact, I can even forgive the Vietnamese ladies who insisted I was ‘very old’ during our ice cream stop at the top. Just!

In the clouds! At the top of the Hai Van Pass:
Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplayground Beach time!Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplaygroundYou will find me here!Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplaygroundThe fishing village:
Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplaygroundHow beautiful?! A water buffalo:
Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplaygroundMarble Mountains:

Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplayground

Hoi An

Where we stayed: a junior suite river view at the Royal Riverside Hoi An hotel which cost around $55. The hotel was excellent and we loved the pool, the excellent breakfast and our river view room. The hotel arranged our trip to My Son and a driver to take us to Da Nang airport.

We were excited to arrive in Hoi An and it quickly became one of our favourite Vietnam gems. Hoi An is frozen in time and we had a fantastic time wandering through the lantern lined streets of the UNESCO ancient town (UNESCO number 2, yay!). Crammed full of bicycles, tailors and souvenir shops we were in awe of the simpleness of life and our Hoi An days flew by. When we discovered our last night in Hoi An was also the night of the Full Moon Lantern Festival celebrations I could barely contain my excitement. The lights are switched off, motorcycles are banned and candle lit lanterns light up the river and the town. It was incredible!

The streets of the ancient town:

Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplayground

Lanterns, lanterns everywhere! The full moon festival:
Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplaygroundThe Japanese bridge:

Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplaygroundPosing at the ancient wall!

Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplaygroundHoi An nights:

Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplayground

Are there any tailors in Hoi An?!
Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplayground

My Son

Hoi An gave us to chance to visit our third UNESCO site of the trip, the stunning My Son, a collection of Hindu temples dating back as far as the 4th century. The lush jungle setting only adds to its allure and the bombed ruins are like a mini version of Angkor Wat. Our morning spent exploring My Son felt a million miles away from normal life and we loved every second of it! My Son is the 50th UNESCO site we’ve come across on our travels and if that doesn’t call for a star jump I don’t know what does!

The ruins:

Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplayground50th UNESCO site!Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplayground

Back to Ho Chi Minh

Where we stayed: we returned to our Club Room at the Renaissance Riverside Ho Chi Minh to finish up our week in Vietnam with a couple of nights in Ho Chi Minh to ease ourselves back into city life. We spent a crazy morning in the Bến Thành Market picking up some souvenirs and practicing our bargaining skills! ‘How much? Too much!’ was the order of the day but we still managed to leave laden down with gifts and souvenirs! A water puppet show, some indulgent massages and a few rooftop cocktails later, it was time to bid a sad farewell to Saigon and Vietnam.

A quiet day at the market!

Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplaygroundThe Water Puppets:

Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplayground

City life:Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplayground

Food and Drinks

We most definitely ate our way around Vietnam and embarked on a diet of Pho, Tiger Beer and Ice Cream to get us through the long, sunny days of sightseeing. I had to be super adventurous in the absence of the husband and his taste tests (he always takes one for the team and tastes unknown foods before I dig in!)  but luckily the Vietnamese food was fabulous. What do you mean we don’t eat noodles for breakfast in Ireland?!

Breakfast Vietnam style!

Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplaygroundCheck out those chopsticks skills!Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplayground

$1 Tiger Beer? Maybe I’ll have one. Or two!
Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplaygroundIce cream treats!Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplaygroundI’m not sure I like this dish….!

Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplayground

Home Time!

My lovely mum taught me how to travel in style and it was only fitting that we went all out on our girls only trip! We had some fun with hot dogs and champagne for breakfast in the airline lounge in Dubai, pre dinner Cosmopolitans on the plane and selfies mid-flight! It’s no wonder the airplane is one of my favourite parts of a trip!

Breakfast of Champions!

Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplayground

Flight poses!
Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplaygroundA cocktail list on the plane. I repeat, cocktails on the plane!

Vietnam - Week In Review (45)

10 nights, 3 beautiful cities, 3 incredible UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a million laughs along the way: with our heads filled with amazing Vietnam memories we landed in Dublin with a vow to return to explore more of the incredible Vietnam!

Our last good morning Vietnam!

Vietnam sightseeing week ©thewholeworldisaplayground

4 thoughts on “Blog: A week in Vietnam: sightseeing, pho, lanterns and fun!”

  1. Hi Elaine! My bf and I are planning a Xmas trip to Vietnam! We were told to do either Hanoi, Hoi An and Hue, or Saigon, Hoi An and Hue.
    What’s your view on this? ^^
    We’re traveling there from South Korea.


    • Hi Mimi both sound good! I preferred Hanoi to HCM so would probably go with the Hanoi, Hue and Hoi An option. If you can make your dates in Hoi An work to squeeze in a Lantern festival I would – was a fab evening!

  2. Fantastic to see what you experienced in just one week!We just recently took a similar route, stopping by some other spots on the way as we were there for 2 1/2 weeks.

    Merry Xmas


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