VietnamMiscellaneousJourneying from Hanoi to Da Nang - Scenic Stops and Useful Tips

Journeying from Hanoi to Da Nang – Scenic Stops and Useful Tips

If you’ve never been to Vietnam, you’re probably in for a pleasant surprise. Unlike the brutal land portrayed in 20th-century war movies like Platoon, Apocalypse Now, and The Deer Hunter, Vietnam is a modern civilized society where bustling cities sit within picturesque landscapes.
For those seeking a brief, tasteful glimpse of both types of locations, a two-center vacation to Hanoi and Da Nang provides an excellent itinerary. The journey will take you from Vietnam’s historical and cultural heart and onto its stunning central coast. Here’s a suggested itinerary to help you make the most of your visit:

On arrival at Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport (HAN), transfer a shared shuttle or Hoppa hotel to your accommodation in the Old Quarter, the historic heart of Hanoi. Instead, you could opt for luxury and try the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi at about $300 per night or choose one of the many thousands of hostels and budget hotels scattered around the area

You might start your next day with a visit to Hoan Kiem Lake, a peaceful little oasis of calm in the city center. While you’re there, take advantage of the Ngoc Son Temple, located on a small island in the middle of the lake, a typical symbol of Buddhist tranquility.
Then take a meander through the narrow streets of the Hanoi Old Quarter, where each street specializes in a particular trade, from jewelry manufacture via taxidermy to rug weaving; it truly is a fascinating spot to pick up as many souvenirs as you can carry home – many at affordable prices. And don’t be afraid to haggle – it’s all part of the experience.

In the evening, take in the Water Puppet Show at the Thang Long Water Puppet Theater, (57B Dinh Tien Hoang Street). It’s a unique cultural experience, performed in a pool of four square meters of water, with the water surface being the stage. Submerged strings control floating wooden characters playing out traditional tableaux. It’s guaranteed to float your boat!
Afterward, eat late to savor Hanoi’s famous street food flavor. Try dishes like pho (noodle soup) and bun cha (grilled pork with noodles). It’s top stuff, and so cheap you’ll hardly notice you’ve paid for it at all.

The next day, you could pop by the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where once-revered leader Ho Chi Minh’s body was preserved. Be sure to dress modestly and respectfully. It’s best to arrive early to avoid long queues.
Next, why not explore the Presidential Palace grounds and the unique One Pillar Pagoda nearby.
In the afternoon, visit the Temple of Literature, Vietnam’s first university dedicated to Confucius. The establishment was built in 1070 during Emperor Lý Thánh Tông’s reign. From 1076 to 1779, it hosted the Imperial Academy, Vietnam’s first national university. Its tranquil gardens and historical significance make it a must-see on any visit to the city.
If you have the time and energy, discover the diverse cultures of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic groups at the Museum of Ethnicity in Hanoi by poring over fascinating exhibits and artifacts. Or instead, you could sack that off and just go for a few ice-cold beers and smoke at a pavement café table somewhere, put your feet up, and watch the world go by.

In the evening, you could enjoy a cyclo (bicycle taxi) ride around the Old Quarter and visit the bustling Dong Xuan Night Market for souvenirs and more street food.
If you’re up to it, try a full-day trip to Ha Long Bay the following day. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its emerald waters and limestone karsts, formed from the dissolution of the local soluble carbonate rocks. A boat cruise can include lunch and activities like kayaking or visiting caves. You will only end up in a creek with a paddle! The guides are all experts, and it’s almost unknown whether anyone will drown or be eaten by sharks.

Check out of your Hanoi hotel and fly to Da Nang, a journey of about 1.5 hours. If you want to see more of the coast than through an airplane window, you could go overland, breaking the journey by taking a trip from Hanoi to Ninh Binh. It’s just under two hours by train. Then, onward to Da Nang from Ninh Binh, you’d need to hire a car for a 700 km enchanting coast-road trip. It’s at least 12 hours’ driving but you’d certainly get to see the country and some fantastic views of the South China Sea. 

Da Nang is known for its luxurious resorts, so consider booking a stay at one of the upscale hotels or rental properties along My Khe Beach. Chill out for the afternoon, then enjoy dinner at a beachfront restaurant such as Gupgo BBQ House, located towards the north end of the beach.

The next day, meander up the Marble Mountains, a cluster of limestone and marble hills with caves, tunnels, and Buddhist shrines. Climb to the top for breathtaking panoramic views of the coastline.
If you’ve hired a car, then take a short drive to the My Son Sanctuary, a Vietnamese UNESCO World Heritage Site once the Champa Kingdom’s religious center. Wander through forest pathways between ancient Hindu temples set amidst the foliage.

Stroll along the Han River to see the Dragon Bridge in the evening. The featured dragon breathes fire and water on weekends. He’s mostly away doing important dragon stuff Monday through Friday, though.
If you like what you see, consider taking a river cruise to get a different perspective of the city; there are floating restaurants and bars that enhance the experience.
On day six, you can try a full-day trip to Hoi An, a charming ancient town about 30 minutes from Da Nang. A taxi or shuttle bus is the easiest way to get there. You can wander through the fascinating streets and visit historic merchant houses. Remember to take in the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge.
On your last day, an affordable shuttle from your hotel to Da Nang International Airport (DAD) might be a relaxing final trip home.

A two-center vacation to Hanoi and Da Nang offers the perfect blend of cultural immersion and coastal relaxation. Whether you are a history buff, a foodie, or a beach lover, there’s something for everyone.

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