Practical Traveler: Vietnam offers sights via bus, boat, bike and walkingWritten by Judy Pfaffenberger | | firstname.lastname@example.org
We left Hue on a bus for the quaint village of Hoi An, passing the 20-mile-long China Beach on the way. Our hotel, the Phuoc An River (pronounce it any way you like, especially since it often floods) was located in a lovely setting halfway between the village and the ocean. Bicycles were available to us free of charge, so I took advantage of the somewhat rural location (little traffic) and rode along the river to the beach.
Hoi An was a treat after the large cities. Most structures were just two stories covered with yellow stucco, marred by much black mold from the flooding. We visited a home along the river where the residents marked the water levels and the dates on the wall. The most recent was almost to the ceiling from just two weeks before.
This town specializes in silks and tailor shops, where some in our group were fitted one day and picked up their finished garments the next.
That evening we took part in a cooking class to prepare spring rolls as part of our dinner.
The next morning we left early for a walk in the jungle before it turned warm. Our destination was near My Son, which means beautiful mountain. We saw ruins that dated back to a Hindu temple built in A.D. 200 Much of the ruins were destroyed by the B-52s during the 1967 Tet Offensive. At the end of the walk, we were entertained by ethnic musicians and dancers. Then it was back to town for lunch.
That evening we went on another optional bicycle rickshaw ride to a village along the lagoon. Our guide Tran arranged for us to visit a grandmother in a modest local home with a new happy room (toilet). Her teeth were black from chewing betel nuts, but she was a welcoming and gracious hostess. Then we boarded a boat for a ride back to Hoi An for dinner at a riverside outdoor café.
The next morning we made another short flight to Nha Trang over some of Vietnam’s 1,000 miles of coastline. This area is undergoing significant development with a new airport, highways, resorts and condos.
We next visited a special school where the children attend all day — unusual in Vietnam where most schools have two four-hour shifts.
On a visit to an island fishing village, we all got to ride in a basket boat and swim at a private beach. Some parasailed ($25) and others enjoyed a beachside massage ($10).
A bus ride took us to the much cooler city, Dalat, built by the French in the central highlands to escape the heat. Here we visited a pagoda, the university, a silk processor, a cricket farm (where we could sample fried crickets and cricket wine) and two ethnic villages, including an ethnic school.
Another short flight took us to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), a city of about 10 million, where we visited the war museum, a somber reminder of “the American War.” Most impressive was our visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels about 10 miles outside the city where the Viet Cong were able to hide and attack. Although we had seen other evidence of the war, this experience truly brought home how frustrating and horrible it must have been.
The basic cost from Detroit, including all air, nice hotels, taxes and most meals was about $2,500. We also did four optional tours, including meals for about $200 more. The price for 2011 is about $2,900 (depending on the date), but there are early booking discounts and sometimes last- minute sales.
(Overseas Adventure Travel 1-800-873-5628, is a division of Grand Circle Travel).