Ha Long Bay

We did experience the beautiful Ha Long Bay in 2016, however, we were called back after just 1 1/2 day due to thunderstorms. So we always wanted to come back.

Ha Long Bay is the biggest tourist attraction in Vietnam and more than 10 million people visited this bay last year alone. It is the most popular destination for a reason, and it is absolutely unique and stunning. That being said, we were so disappointed to visit this year. There was so much garbage everywhere. It was heartbreaking to see. And it was impossible to ignore, which “killed” the beauty of the trip for us, unfortunately. We don’t know why it is being cleaned up, after all the bay is UNESCO protected.

We were on a different cruise than last time, and it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t too good either. We still would recommend the Indochina Junk cruise any day. We had two cabins right next to each other and this time we also got to have a day at the biggest island in the bay, Cat Ba. Agnes and I, we bicycled across (baby Ellen, Bjoern and Dagmar went by electrical car), drank snake wine, had a fish spa and, on the way back to the cruise ship, was able to find a nice clean spot in the bay to go for a swim.

Until there is found a way to deal with all the tourists and boats and garbage, it’s probably not a good idea to go. But I would say a stay at Cat Ba (so many hotels has been build on the island now), would be nice for a couple of night to enjoy the view of the bay. The bay is still beautiful and to sail through the thousands of lime stones. (If you don’t have or see the garbage) is really an amazing experience.

Be mindful of the season, the locates of the bay has four seasons, and three of those has “tricky weather” for cruises. The first time we went, thunderstorms were coming and now the second time we couldn’t see anything the first 1 1/2 because of heavy fog…

Saigon Fushion Original Hotel

The Saigon Fushion Original is a 5 star hotel on top of of the Saigon Centre. It is located in District 1, just next to the Ben Thanh Market, The Opera House and the Cathedral, which makes it super convenient.

We had a 2 bedroom suite on the 22nd floor, and it was perfect for our family, with a small kitchenette and also a living room next to the 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. The mini-bar was free, but the best part was the pantry (there was one for each floor), where snacks, fruit and fresh coffee was available 24/7. The breakfast, served on the 26th floor, was so good and there was also a pool, a gymnastik and an amazing view of the city.

In the basement of the Saigon Centre is a large foodhall by Takashimaya, so lots of Japanese and Korean options as well as Vietnamse street food, a supermarket and much more. We had so many meals here to be honest.

The girls didn’t want to leave this place, ’cause as they said “it has everything”. Baby Ellen had a cold and a high feber, so we had to run by a doctor, but she was fine, and luckily the suites was so spacious that it didn’t feel too bad staying in with her. Value for money here was top dollar. We would love to come back here any time.

ps. The Saigon Fushion Original has a sister hotel called The Saigon Suites that we went to first upon arrival to Ho Chi Minh, as we thought it was the hotel we booked. The Saigon Suites is also a very nice hotel, and for the record, we wouldn’t have minded staying here either…

Saigon River Resort

The Saigon River Resort is a very special place. I have wanted to come here ever since we were in Ho Chi Minh back in 2016. As I hadn’t been in Ho Chi Minh before, I did a “safe” choice, and chose a hotel in District 1. But this small piece of paradise is just a 20-minute boat ride up the River and so worth that small trip. It feels like you arrived for a jungle stay, but really you are just around the corner from the hutle and buste of the city centre.

This resort is also owned by An Lam as the resort we stayed at in Ninh van Bay, so locally owned and as with the Ninh van Bay resort, it is build from local materials and the food is either from their own organic garden or locally sourced.

We stayed here for 3 nights and just relaxed by the pool or hung out at the restaurant or by the pier (one day we even did a little fishing). We could easily have taken the boat to town, as it went several times a day complimentary. However, we had already had some days int he city centre, and we just wanted to have some quiet days before going back home. The resort is just 30 minutes from the airport, so that is also very convenient.

Everywhere it was so lush and green, with lots of shade and a little brise (which was not the case in the city centre). The spa was a dream and the rooms/villas were very large. We couldn’t have imagined a better way to end our 1 month long stay in Vietnam.

If you every go to Ho Chi Minh a stay at the River Resort comes with the absolut highest recommandation, as a perfect place to get rid of jetlag, get a unique experience or just wind down (like we did) before going back home/further on your vacation.

Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh city, formerly known as Saigon, is the capital of South Vietnam. It is also the largest city in the country with more than 9 million people living here. It is super busy, and during rush hours the 7,3 million scooters are very visible in the streets.

The strangest thing here is (as in Hanoi and other cities in Vietnam) that to cross the street, you have to just “trust the system” and walk over, even though it doesn’t seem as the scooters or cars are holding back for you – but they actually will stop (or drive around you) as you cross. It is something that seems nerve wrecking every single time, especially crossing the street with children.

Ho Chi Minh feels both like a Metropolitan city, but it also has a very “old Vietnam feel” at the same time, as it is skyskrabers next to street vendors in a mix.

As we have been here before, we didn’t “tourist” too much around, but hung out and tried to escape some of that very hot weather (40 degrees). The last time we were here, we went to the War Remnant Museum, the Museum of Modern art, The Reunification Palace and Cu Chi Tunnels (I wrote about this in earlier blog posts ;-)).

So this time we spend time at the Ben Thanh Market, had lots of street food, hung out in some of the best mails (for the air con benefits) and also went by the flower market an early morning.

We really wanted to see the floating river flower market, however, it is unfortunately only during the Lunar New Year season it can be experienced (December-January).

Ben Thanh Market

Cafe Nhá Hàng Ngon

Saigon Post office

Flower market

Ninh van Bay

Ninh van Bay by sunset

Ninh van Bay is located just outside the coastline of Nha Trang. Nha Trang is known as the “Saint Tropez” of Vietnam due to a prominent line of hotels and restaurants and for its pristine beaches. We came back for this special bay to stay at the secluded little paradise An Lam Retreats. We had five days in one of their beachfront villas, and it everything we could have dreamed of. The villa was huge with direct private beach access and its own private pool. Celebrities and royalties have been known to stay at this Hidden gem, and it is totally understandable as An Lam is a very private and tranquil haven. It is completely isolated from any other resort or city on a small peninsula with access only from the seaside.

The food is either served at the Sen restaurant, which is located in the beautiful main building (looking like a lotus flower) or served as room service at your convenience. The food is home grown or locally sources. The luxury resort is locally owned (which is actually rare), and the just 37 villas are eco-friendly made. There is no reception or concierge service, “just” your private butler (ours was the kind mr. Bao). Oh, and there is also no Keys, which is at first is a bit Strange, as you are use to lock the front door when you leave your house, however, we didn’t feel unsafe at any time during our stay.

There is a public pool from where kayaking is available, and just in front of the pool is a small plateau out in the water, that you can easily swim out to, which we did with the girls. We also spend some afternoons in the board game area playing chess and having margharitas. Behind the villas are the areas for the gardens, the yoga pavillon, the spa and the gymnastik, not to mention the local spring of fresh water, that is the source of all drinking water at the resort. The small fresh water spring “trail” makes for a really nice hike, and you can also have a barbecue further up

Nha Trang Sightseeing

Nha Trang has beautiful temples, culture, amusement parks, golf and of course their famous hot springs. It is really a perfect vacation destination, hence more and more tourists spend their holiday in this great region.

One of the most famous tourist destinations is the Po Nagar Temple, also known as the Po Nagar Cham Towers. This temple complex is the largest Champa architectural complex in Vietnam and is a landmark for Nha Trang. The complex is dating back to the 11th century, the architecture was built of bricks with four rows of large columns. In addition to the towers, you can also find the ancient Champa inscription at Ponagar Tower, showing the culture, religion, and history of the Champa kingdom. Local charm people has small vender stalls in the middle of the complex selling handmade souvenirs.

We mainly stayed at the An Lam retreats and also had our meals here, however, we also tried a local favourite, the Xúa Restaurant. We went during the weekend, and the restaurant was packed with a mix of tourists and local families. The Banh Xeo here was different from the one we had in Quy Nonh, however, very tasty, and Bjoern also ordered a local favourite; fried frog legs.

Nha Trang is known for its hot springs. We tried the Thap Ba hotsprings and mud baths. The Thap Ba Spa is the oldest mud and hot spring facility in Nha Trang. It is famous for it’s therapeutic healing powers of the mud and hot springs. The mud in these therapeutic baths is special, rich with minerals like sulfur and magnesium that are only found in certain regions with the right kind of soil or volcanic activity. Do keep in mind, that it is very hot with hot on it to do hot springs when the temperature is above 30 degrees, that we haven’t really considered and the kids were not lovning this trip a lot ;-), but we made it work and the adults had a good experience and some really soft skin afterwoods.

We also heard that the I-Resort private med baths should be worth the extra spend. We will have to check it out next time…

The Nha Trang city holds 350.000 people and offers absolutely everything from high-end restaurants to street food, market shopping to luxury and everything else, you would expect from a city this size.

It is located at the gateway of the South Central Coast and the Central Highland and it has all the advantages of geographical location, (tropical) climate and natural scenery to become a paradise in terms of tourism.

In addition, Nha Trang has a very diverse system of large and small islands, in which there are a lot of stunning landscapes on the shore and under the water. Therefore, it has become an ideal destination for both domestic and foreign tourists.

Anantara Beach Resort, Quy Nhon

As part of our journey with the Vietage train, we have booked 2 nights at the Anantara Villas in Quy Nhon. Each of the just 26 villas has ocean view and private pools. The resort has a unique “quiet luxury” vibe that never becomes pretentious. It is located very close to the nice beach, Bai Xep, and though the restaurant serves absolutely amazing food there are also options for local dining by the beach or by the other small fishing villages near by.

Even though the resort is small (which we like), it offers its own spa, a gym, a restaurant and large public pool and pool bar by the beach. Also, which the girls likes the most about it, haha, it has small electrical cars to drive you around the resort area.

The Quy Nhon area is still up-and-coming and mainly popular amongst local tourist (yet), which is understandable as it offers a very authentic and beautiful landscape. We loved how the city has “siesta” during the hot mid-day-hours, and the area hasn’t been “bombarded” with massive giant resorts. It just felt low key and nice. And, as mentioned before, a perfect combination to the more Busy Da Nag/ Hoi An area or just as a stop over for some down time. The best time to go is between January-March before it gets too hot (or too wet ;-)).

Hoi An, Anantara River Resort


In Hoi An we stayed at the Anantara Resort, which is a classic boutique hotel located perfectly by the river and in close walking distance to the old town.

We had 2 rooms with connecting doors and garden views. The rooms are spacious with both a small lounge area inside and outside as well. The style and decor is classic Vietnamese/French and with beautiful greenery and Palm trees all around. It is on the riverside, and we either walked by the river to the markets and old town (takes 5 minutes) or by the small streets just behind. Everything is close by from the Old Town, river cruises, markets or anything else you might need or want to experience, but still the resort itself is quiet and nice.

Quy Nhon, sightseeing

Champa Towers

Around Quy Nhon you will find several Cham Towers as the Cham people ruhed this area for more than 500 years. They are not difficult to spot when driving through this area as they are usually on top of a hill. The two most famous Cham towers here are Thap Banh It and Thap Doi.

The two twin Cham Towers was built from the 10th to 15th century. But undergoing a long history with many wars in Vietnam, the towers were ruined. The authorities then in the 90’ties decided to restore the Twin Cham Towers as it plays an important part in showing the Cham’s culture and architecture.

Legend has it that Champa towers normally consist of 3 towers and so do the Duong Long Cham Towers that we went to see. These towers dates back to the 12th century and are the tallest of its kind in South Asia (the central tower is 39 meters). The towers were build as tempels for hindu worship of Deties, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The construction is influenced by Khmer architecture and consist of bricks only (no mortar), which makes the question of how the towers still a standing present time a mystery. Do be careful, as many bees live in these towers, so be sure to maintain a safe distance.

We also went to see the oldest pagoda in the area outside of the city, where young munks live (orphans) and we ended the day with a visit to a local restaurant that served Ban Xeo. Ban Xeo – Vietnamese pancake – is a savory and cripsy dish, where you role a trin omelet with either squid, shrimps or beef together with Bean sprouts, cucumber, mango, salat inside a wet rice paper roll. It is one of the our favourite things to eat in Vietnam and the ones they make in Quy Nhon are just so delicious. Ban Xeo is made in other variations as well, but Quy Nhon claims to have the original version.

But culture and food aside, as most people come to Quy Nhon for the serenity of the coastal area in this region. There are also a number of small islands off the coast of Quy Nhon. Some are so small that you can only sail and snorkel around them. The most famous ones are Ky Co Island and Kho Island. We heard that Kho Island is a good place to see coral reefs and that Hon Kho has a turtle conservation center. If we come back some day, it is surely something we would want to go explore.

The Vietage

Vietnam’s only luxury train

The rail road runs from Hanoi in the North all the way to Ho Chi Minh in the South covering a stretch of 1.137km. The Vietage offers a scenic trip from Da Nang through “the heart of Vietnam” to Quy Nhon (or the other way around). The idea is a luxury connection between Anantaras two properties in Hoi An and Quy Nhon, however non-hotel guests can also purchase tickets as well.

Read more: The Vietage

The train makes two trips daily. It departs from Da Nang Railway Station, about 45 minutes north of Hoi An, every morning at 8 a.m. and arrives at Dieu Tri Station, at the port town Quy Nhon, around 2:30 p.m. In the evening, the train leaves Dieu Tri at 6:30 p.m. and pulls into Da Nang just after midnight. For the evening ride the seats can turn into sleeping booths, which limits the number even further down to 6 people if every booth is booked as a sleeper-edition. The six-hour trip includes a three-course meal, drinks and snacks, and a head-and-shoulder massage. For us, since we stayed at the Anantara resort in Hoi An, we also got a full “to-go” breakfast provided for the car ride when going to the train station in the early morning.

For our trip, it was just our family plus one other couple, so we had so much space, making it even more special. When purchasing the tickets, you also book your choices for the lunch menu, that means upon arrival all you need to do is choose your preferred choice of drinks from the lovely bar menu. The trains in Vietnam runs very smoothie and is a comfortable way to go from A to B in the long country. However, a ride with the Vietage is just another level of comfort. We had the most amazing trip in our two small cabins across from each other. The staff was kind, attentive and service minded, and the food and drinks was so good, we were so impressed of how it was pre-prepared, but it tastet like it had just been made in a kitchen next door. The kids had their own menu to choice from and had fresh spring rolls, pasta and fruit/marshmellow/ice creams. I had octopus salad, salmon and passionfruit cake and Bjoern had foie gras, wagyu beef and also the passionfruit cake.

Our section of the train had its own bathroom as well as a small room for privacy of the neck/back massage. The landscape changed from the buzzling Da Nang city to the rice fields scenery and later with the ocean on one side and the mountains on the other. It was just such a beautiful and special trip, where we enjoyed not having to check-in through a crammed security or anyone getting carsick on the way down to Quy Nhon.

For anyone visiting this part of Vietnam, it is really the perfect combination with the cultural and exciting Hoi An town and the quiet area of Bai Xep beach at Quy Nhon. Hoi An is a “must visit” in Vietnam for its culinary scene and UNESCO World Heriage protected Old Town area, however, Quy Nhon is a rising star on the tourist map due to its beauty and serene atmosphere.

To learn more about the Vietage or to book: www.thevietagetrain.com