The Hue, Da Nang and Hoi An coastal strip is one of the most- visited areas in Vietnam, with a great deal to offer. It is close to the former DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) between the old North and South, which were divided by the Ben Hai River. Much of the fighting in the 1960s Vietnam War took place thereabouts, and many interesting relics of that traumatic time remain to this day.
The Vietnamese Imperial City of Hue suffered serious damage in the conflict, but this UNESCO World Heritage Site remains a fascinating place that merits exploration. Hue is also the starting point for the drive south along Highway 1 via Da Nang to Hoi An. This magnificent coastal route is in much better shape than many roads in Vietnam, twisting and turning above the sea and rising to a dramatic high point at the Hai Van Pass (though a tunnel is under construction) where the panoramic view is sensational.
After crossing the pass, it’s worth stopping at Da Nang to relax for a while on the splendid China Beach – though in fact there are other, rather more cultural side trips to consider here. These include the World Heritage Site of My Son, centre of the ancient kingdom of Cham and the extraordinary Marble Mountains, which are sculpted limestone hills containing pagodas, temples and grottos dedicated to Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian divinities.
Upon completing the scenic journey to Hoi An, the first thing to do is to explore the quaint old town, yet another World Heritage Site – be sure not to miss the Hoi An Museum, Phuc Kien Communal House, the Japanese Covered Bridge and the ancient Vietnamese houses. Another worthwhile outing is up the Thu Bon River to see traditional boatbuilding, woodworking and pottery-making villages like Kim Bong and Thanh Ha.
WHEN TO GO:
January to April
TIME IT TAKES:
The Cham Museum, founded in 1915, with its wonderful selection of ethnic sculpture and carving dating from the 7th to 15th centuries.
The Bach Ma National Park, 40 km (25 mi) south of Hue – a mountain nature reserve with waterfalls, lush vegetation and superb coastal views.
A stop at the fabulous Lang Co beach south of Hue, with the great backdrop of the Rang Cua Mountains.
The thousand stone-carving craftsmen of Non Nuoc village at the foot of the Marble Mountains near Da Nang.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Take a half-empty suitcase and buy some custom-made ‘designer’ clothes in Hoi An – the many skilled local tailors can copy anything (from a magazine picture) at bargain prices