6 Days Central Vietnam Tour (2017) – Day 3 Hoi An to Hue Via Hai Van Pass

Quick Breakfast at Hoi An Travel Lodge Hotel

We woke up slightly after 6 am. This time it wasn’t due to loud annoying singing nearby. In fact, it was pretty quiet in the vicinity this morning. We got up early because we needed to be ready by 7 am to wait for our bus to Hue. So it seemed the previous noisy morning was some event held during that particular day.

Breakfast would only be ready at 6.30 am. We had everything packed and ready to leave after a quick breakfast. So we went down to the restaurant at 6.30 am. Buffet spread was more or less ready. But no one was at the restaurant, not even a staff. We helped ourselves with those food that were available and had a quick meal. Soon, a staff came over with more food.

We didn’t have time to ask the staff to make us a bowl of pho this morning. However, we were given a box to pack some food with us after we told the staff we had to leave pretty soon. Another guest came down and was also given boxes to pack her food because she was leaving the hotel early as well. The quick meal was actually quite satisfying and the take away packed food was a bonus. We could have some snacks on the bus during our bus ride to Hue.

Waiting for Bus Transfer to Hue

After this we returned to our room to freshen up and then took our bags to head to front desk. We returned our room key and processed check out. Having made payment for the airport transfer that cost 340,000 VND we were ready to leave this very nice Hoi An Travel Lodge Hotel. It was 7 am while we waited in the lobby. Front desk staff helped us call our agent and was told the bus was on its way.

The staff in this hotel were really helpful and friendly. We loved the location of this hotel, just a street away from the Ancient Town. It is so convenient to visit the Ancient Town from here. The hotel also provides free bikes rental for hotel guests who wish to cycle around town or to the beach. Finally, our bus arrived at 7.30 am. A young man came into the hotel to look for us and we followed him and boarded the minibus and so that was goodbye to Hoi An for now till the next visit.

Bus Transfer from Hoi An to Hue

Our tour guide was Jack, a nice young man who spoke very good English. After boarding the minibus, we paid him 440,000 VND for the two of us. We were the only passengers on board while we travelled around Hoi An to pick up more passengers. Soon, two more passengers came on board and then we moved on. It was pretty obvious we were travelling away from the Ancient Town area. Not long after, we stopped by to pick up another two more passengers. We recognized this property. This was the place we stayed last May. The name of this hotel is East West Villa.

So with these last two passengers on board, we headed towards Danang. Moments later, we were travelling on the highway to Danang. After a while, we passed Pullman Danang Beach Resort where we would be staying in two day’s time. We were pretty familiar with the area having visited three times this past three years.

We then travelled along the coastal highway where the beach was on our right and passing Danang City on our left. Not long after, we turned left and crossed a very long bridge and then headed uphill after a short while. We were leaving Danang City far behind as we moved upward on this hilly terrain. It was a very nice and sunny day. After travelling on this winding road, we soon reached the top.

Stopover at Hai Van Pass

Our tour guide Jack gave us quite a bit of information on Danang and our journey for the day during the the bus ride. Once we reached the top, the minibus stopped along the side of the road. We had reached Hai Van Pass. Jack gave us ten minutes to explore the place to take some pictures before moving on to our next stop.

It was a really lovely day as we walked back up towards the top of the hill to check out the bunkers up there. There were some shops and eateries over here and some buses and vehicles parked outside these establishments.

We skipped all those and headed up hill to explore to take some nice pictures of the surrounding. Some visitors were already up there taking selfies and pictures of the surrounding as well. But walking up the slope was a little tricky to due the rocky and sandy nature of the paths.

The weather was very good with clear blue sky and we could take some nice shots here. We were told this place could be shrouded in clouds and fog and so we were pretty fortunately we had great visibility this morning and it was only 9 am when we arrived. The bunkers up here were riddled with bullet holes we were told but we didn’t have much time to check them out. Ten minutes came and gone so quickly and we had to return to the minibus.

We were nevertheless very glad to have this stopover for a quick look around. We travelled by train from Danang to Hue two years ago. While we loved the train ride and enjoyed the splendid sight of the beautiful coastal region passing this highland area, this was the first time we set foot on Hai Van Pass. In addition, this great sunny day was indeed a bonus for us to be up here visually unhindered.

Stopover at Lang Co Beach

Our minibus then continued its journey travelling downhill. It was a little winding and we were glad we didn’t over eat earlier. While travelling downhill, we soon stopped by the roadside again to admire and take pictures of the pretty Lang Co Beach area. We got down from the minibus again and soaked in the sight of this beautiful region with Lang Co Beach and the lake before us.

The mountains in the distance and the long bridge spanning across the lake were magnificent under such great sunlight. It was so refreshing to stop here for a while to etch this beautiful sight into our mind to be remembered for a very long time.

Below us was the railway tracks running along the perimeter of this coastal region in Central Vietnam. We vaguely remembered passing here during our train ride two years ago. It was so much better we could stop here to enjoy this very nice view during this bus trip to Hue.

Toilet Break at Lang Co Beach Resort

Couple of minutes later, we were back on our bus. Jack told us we would be stopping again in a few minutes at a resort further down the road for a toilet break. So off we went and indeed soon after, the bus pulled up in a very big carpark. We had arrived at Lang Co Beach Resort. We left the bus and headed to the toilets first.

Next was a quick walk through the souvenir shop. This was a huge establishment selling pearl products as well as artworks of all sorts. Visitors were very few during our visit. The staff on duty were not pushy. This was great as we didn’t like the idea of high pressure selling tactics being forced on us just because we were captive audience in this place we had no control over. Their artworks were actually very nice but we were in no mood to purchase anything.

Heading to Hue

Couple of minutes later after this toilet break, we were on the road again. It was just slightly after 9.45 am when we left this beach resort. We were quite surprised we were heading towards Hue so early and of course we were very glad. Now it was just flat road passing paddy fields, farmlands and the huge lake on our left. Jack told us we would arrive Hue in about an hour’s time. So some of us took the opportunity to take a quick nap. We also snacked on the food we took from Hoi An Travel Lodge Hotel earlier.

Around 10.45 am, we were heading into the city area. Jack briefed us about Hue and the itinerary in Hue. We were rather surprised as we didn’t take up any city tour or lunch. Our booking was purely transfer from Hoi An to Hue. So near 11 am, we pulled into town. Jack alighted with the other four passengers and then told us the driver would send us to Serene Shining Hotel not far ahead. Only then we realized Jack was taking those tourists from Hoi An to tour Hue.

We didn’t know there are tours from Hoi An to Hue for just a day tour. Personally, we think it would be too rush and too tiring to come all the way from Hoi An to Hue and then return to Hoi An later in the afternoon. While this is doable, this may not be a good idea unless you are really short of time visiting Central Vietnam. In addition, accommodation in Hue is so affordable and there are things to see and do here as well. No wonder we were given only ten minutes at Hai Van Pass and also another few minutes at Lang Co Beach earlier as well as the short toilet break. The day trip is really so rush.

Serene Shining Hotel

Anyway, two minutes later, we arrived along a small road and the driver stopped the bus and helped us collect our bags at the back of the bus. We simply had to cross this small road and walk into a side lane. Shortly after we found Serene Shining Hotel.

The road trip from Hoi An to Hue was pretty fast. It took only 3.5 hours and we were not complaining. We thought we might arrive in Hue at 1 pm. The cost of 220,000 VND per person travelling on a very nice and comfortable minibus meant for over twenty passengers with only six of us was really value for money. Moreover we had stops at Hai Van Pass and Lang Co Beach as well so we were more than pleased.

Once we entered the hotel lobby, we were invited to take a seat while they processed our check in for our two nights’ stay. Cold towels, fresh fruits and drinks were given. It was so refreshing. We were told our room would be ready in a few minutes while they check to ensure everything was ready for us. So we sat around and browsed their brochures and offers and planned our activities for the day. Near 11.30 am, we were given key to our room.

Nice Room in Serene Shining Hotel

We took the lift and went to check our room. It was a very nice room, with big, clean and comfy bed. Actually, the huge bed is made up of two super single beds joint together. We were fine with this arrangement. Usual furnishing are writing table with chair, TV on top of a cabinet, another sofa seat at the corner next to a coffee table complete with bottled water, coffee and tea facility and a plate of fruits.

Wifi worked well and TV with mostly local channels but an English movie channel was available as well. Bathroom was clean and spacious complete with toiletries. A bathtub is part of the setup. So everything seemed to be fine except we heard rumbling noise from the water heater inside the bathroom. We felt our sleep might be affected so we returned to front desk to sort out the matter.

Front desk staff promised they would check with the technician and then let us know whether we could still use this room or change another room for us. They were sincerely apologetic about this matter. So while they sorted out the matter, we went down to the restaurant for lunch.

Great Set Lunch in Serene Shining Hotel

When we entered the restaurant, the staff were actually having their meals. It was only 11.45 am and a little early for lunch. Anyway, the very nice and friendly staff attended to us as we took our seats in the empty restaurant. It was a little stuffy so we requested the staff to turn on the fan for us while we checked the menu.

There were two set meals on offer that cost only slightly over USD 12 for two persons. Instead of choosing from the a la carte menu, we took one of the set meals for lunch. We were not disappointed. Every dish from the set meal was very delicious. The food presentation was great. We loved the ginger tea we ordered as well. We could add more hot water to the pot for another round of ginger tea that was very strong but very good. Customer service was fantastic. It was a wonderful first meal for us in Hue.

After lunch, we went up to front desk to check on our room status. We were given a change of room because they were trying to fix the heater noise problem. Before going up to our room, we went to the wellness centre to check out on their packages. The staff on duty was very friendly and helpful. Having checked their facilities, we returned to check on our new room.

Upgrade to Suite Room in Serene Shining Hotel

This new room assigned to us was just next to the lift. However, when we entered the room, we didn’t see any bed there. It was a living area with wardrobe and an ancient Samsung CRT TV as a deco item. Sofa set with bigger coffee table, fruits as well as bottled water and coffee and tea set were provided.

The bathroom is behind the living room with a bathtub and full toiletries provided. The toilet was very clean and in tip top condition. Most importantly, the water heater here was working properly with no unusual noise.

Walking through the passage leads to the bed room proper. The bedroom is very spacious and very well equipped. The king size bed was very clean and comfy and not two beds pushed together to form a single big bed. The TV in this room is bigger and better in quality. Furnishing here is clearly of premium quality. So we were upgraded to a suite room. This was indeed a bonus we least expected.

Window views were not stunning however, just buildings in the neighbourhood with the river behind this precinct. It was very sunny out there and certainly a good day to explore Hue. This upgraded room was a surprised for us and we were very thankful. The bus ride to Hue was pleasant and interesting, in fact, quite effortless.

It was just 2.15 pm a little early to head out to the riverfront for the night market and a little late to go to the Citadel. So it was time to take a break to watch TV and enjoy this beautiful suite room. Wifi was good and thus we could surf internet and chat with the children back home. We didn’t have much planned for the day other than making a trip to Hue Train Station to purchase train tickets back to Danang in two day’s time. Taking a short break was in order to get us ready for our adventure in Hue later.

Buy Train Tickets to Danang

After 3.30 pm, we left Serene Shining Hotel. Once we reached the main road, we hailed a taxi to Hue Train Station. The train station wasn’t very far away. In about 15 minutes, we arrived at the station. We then walked up to the ticketing office. The station wasn’t very busy during this time. We joined the short queue and a while later, it was our turn to speak with the ticketing officer. We got our tickets moments later. Cost for each ticket was only 55,000 VND.

Initially, we booked our limousine minibus service from HAV Travel to return to Danang. The cost was 180,000 VND per person. Unfortunately, we would have to alight in their office in Danang near the train station. Since this wasn’t a door to door service, we didn’t see the point to pay so much more for the transfer. Moreover, this limousine minibus would travel along highway without going up Hai van Pass for a short stopover. So we decided to take the train instead. Travel time would be about the same anyway.

Visit La Residence Hue Hotel

With our train tickets in our hands, we left the train station. We crossed the road and walked along the river back towards the backpacker’s area. Few minutes later, we passed Hue University on our left and the Green Hotel Hue across the road on the right. Walking a little further we came to La Residence Hue MGallery by Sofitel. This is the hotel we wanted to stay two years ago when we visited Hue. We thought of using our complimentary stay from our Accor Plus membership but changed our mind to stay at the backpacker’s area.

We also passed by this stunning property during our boat ride to the Pagoda attraction further upstream along the Perfume River. So this was our chance to visit this fantastic property. After entering La Residence Hue, we were greeted by a fountain in the middle of the compound in front of the hotel. Although the fountain wasn’t the best fountain we had seen, it was nevertheless quite pleasing. The front compound was very well kept. The colonial buildings serving as the hotel were simple and elegantly coated in white. This must be the old world’s charm of yesteryears during the colonial era where colonial masters indulged in European luxury in the Far East.

Upon entering the main entrance into the building, the lobby lounge bar was there to assure hotel guests and visitors this was the place to be for a slice of colonial charm and opulence this part of the world. The lounge area was quiet during our visit but would surely bring out its magical charm at night where guests while their evening away in comfort and repose. A souvenir shop, business centre and a lounge furnished with a pool table are located in the rooms around the lounge bar on the same floor.

We then exited the building to the back and a very nice and pleasing garden welcomed us into this calm oasis beside Perfume River. The garden was very neat and tidy and clearly very well kept. This garden reminded us of those gardens we visited in Europe. The garden even has a corner for the French game of Boules. This garden is indeed very French in taste. Further in the middle is the outdoor swimming pool, another very nice place to chill out in the open.

Wonderful Dinner at La Residence Hue Hotel

Having checked out this wonderful garden, we walked towards the restaurant by the river. The outdoor courtyard dining area looks very relaxing and the ambiance must be very nice in the evening dining under the stars. It was already 4.30 pm, about time for an early dinner before visiting the night market further down the the riverfront.

So we made our way into the restaurant which is very grand, another opulent setting in this 5-star property. As the country was holding the International Food Festival, the restaurant had a French set dinner that would certainly appeal to those dying for French delicacies. However, this set dinner would only be available later in the evening. So we settled down and ordered from the a la carte menu.

We ordered the western items and also a pot of Earl Grey tea. Bread came first with quality butter. The pot of tea came shortly after. Not long after our dinner came. Food presentation was very good so was the taste of the chicken breast and the lamb. It was fine dining but at very good price because we are Accor Plus members enjoying 50% dining discounts. It was a very enjoyable dinner for us dining in comfort and style. Another thing worth mentioning was the restaurant staff, truly professional and service impeccable.

After this wonderful visit, we left La Residence Hue. Even though we didn’t have a chance to stay here, it was sufficient for us to have a slice of nostalgia and European indulgence. The location is quite private, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, a great place for solitude and rest. So we turned left to walk on with Perfume River on our left.

Explore Perfume River Park

Along the way, across the road on our right were some schools. One of the schools is very interesting. The colour of the school resembled the old city in Malacca with the town and buildings painted red. Walking a little further, we entered the park by Perfume River.

Once we entered the park, we saw a group of ladies exercising and dancing at one end of the open court with music accompaniment. It seems like Vietnamese loves to exercise this way as we also observed in other cities. The sun was about to go down and the environment was very pleasant. In fact, it was very cooling as we strolled along unlike two years ago when we visited in May that was very hot.

Not far from this open area is the very nice monument built after World War 1. This monument is uniquely Vietnamese, very grand and beautiful. This is a great place to take some pictures of the monument at different angles. It will probably look pretty at night as well with those lamp posts fixed around the monument.

Moving on is the park with lighted heart shape structures. We didn’t remember seeing these deco when we visited two years ago. Other lit up spherical objects accompanied these huge hearts in the park. There are more of such decorative structures in the park as we walked along the riverbank.

The river scene was a picture of calm with occasional passing boats breaking the silence on the river. A tall huge Vietnamese flag fluttered in the wind across the other side of the river. This is where the Citadel is located where we would be visiting the next morning. More boats were moored on this side of the river. The bridges spanning across Perfume River were pretty before dusk as well. Dragon boats along the river were waiting for passengers to go on river cruise.

Night Market at Perfume River

Walking on along the park, we reached the busy road junction. Traffic was busy here but no where near Ho Chi Min City or Hanoi. Hue is a very pleasant and relaxing city as far as road traffic is concerned. It is also authentically Vietnamese in this small city that has not become so commercialized like other bigger cities.

We continued our stroll and reached the starting point for the night market. There are restaurants, cafes and shops in this part of the park along the riverfront. There was still daylight but street lights were already turned on. Darkness falls pretty quickly in Vietnam. We roamed around this part of the riverbank taking in the sights and taking nice pictures as well. It was still very early slightly after 6 pm and business was quite slow. Tourists and visitors were here but not very many like our previous visit two years ago.

While we explored the shops, the sky was darkening turning deep blue and soon darkness covered the park. The park here became so much more charming with the street lights taking over to illuminate this night market area. More visitors were seen here after sunset. Families with little children were out in the park.

Nice Shopping at Riverfront Night Market

My wife did her shopping at one of the shops and bought some very nice pencil case and other souvenirs. I was looking for the shop that sold leather belts. I remembered this shop sold leather belts made to order during our last visit but it was quite busy and we didn’t buy from the owner the last time.

We managed to locate this shop and spent some time there. Besides leather belts, leather wallets are available as well. We couldn’t make up our mind what and how many items to buy and we told the young man running the shop we would return the following night after checking with our children whether they liked to have some more belts and wallets.

So we continued exploring other shops till we reached the bridge connecting to the other side of the river near the main market in Hue. Over here, hawkers and other street vendors were setting up stalls and displaying stuff on the ground. We chanced upon a round neck tee-shirt with a pretty looking adorable bear. My dear wife wanted to buy but couldn’t make up her mind whether to buy the white or black colour shirt.

The young girl manning the stall pointed excitedly to another girl manning the desserts stall nearby to show us how this tee-shirt would look as she was wearing the black colour tee-shirt. This other young girl waved to us happily and she looked good in her black tee-shirt so we bought the black colour one for 100,000 VND.

These few girls manning different stalls looked like sisters in the same family. They were doing business happily this evening attending to customers coming out to have a great time by the river. Although we thought the tee-shirt was a little costly, we didn’t want to bargain with these lovely girls. What was the point to get 10,000 VND off the price which is only 60 cents where we can make these young vendors happy for helping out with the family. Anyway we were not buying many pieces to begin with.

Return to Serene Shining Hotel

With this final piece of shopping done, we walked on to return to Serene Shining Hotel. Nearby is this very beautiful restaurant that looks like a lotus where the light changes colours that glows beautifully in the river at night. It was a sight to behold here at night, a centre piece in the river park. It was really pretty but we had never dined in the restaurant so we couldn’t report on the quality and price of the food.

Walking on we reached another huge restaurant. In front of the restaurant is a carpark and tour buses were bringing tourists to visit this night market and dragon boats area. We then walked out to the main road and crossed the road and walked in the direction of Serene Shining Hotel.

Walking through this backpacker’s area passing nicely lit cafes and restaurants, we were on our way back to our hotel. This area was lively and lovely at night. It was so different from the day. We also noticed there were quite a number of Korean tourists this time and not just the usual Caucasian tourists.

Enjoy Beautiful Suite Room in Serene Shining Hotel

Finally, after walking through a few streets, we reached Serene Shining Hotel. Moments later, we were back in our beautiful and comfy suite room. It was time to make ourselves comfortable and while away our time watching TV and getting in touch with the children. They didn’t want any more leather belts or wallets so we would return the next evening just to get myself a leather belt from a selection of leather and buckles available at the shop.

It was a very pleasant and enjoyable journey taking the bus from Hoi An to Hue. We didn’t expect the journey to take just 3.5 hours. Booking this transfer from Hue Tourist Vietnam at http://ticket.whr.vn/Bus was very easy by email. The person to contact is Teresa at sales@tourconduongdisan.com.

We were only required to make payment when we were picked up from Hoi An so no upfront payment was necessary. We also discovered it was possible to do day tour from Hoi An to Hue but we felt this would not be a good way to explore Hue unless really pressed for time.

Serene Shining Hotel was outstanding in every way. Service was very good and food at the restaurant was great and the price was extremely reasonable. Purchasing train tickets at the train station was very easy. A visit to La Residence Hue was fun and the dining experience was great as well.

The park by the riverfront was nice and the night market area was pleasant with happy people enjoying themselves in the evening in Hue. This place always reminds me of Queen Elizabeth Walk in Singapore during the seventies where the Satay Club was there and we spent our childhood running around by the waterfront at the colonial park.

We would have the entire day to explore Hue the next day. Citadel would be one of our objectives and more shopping in Hue would be in order where we found it cheaper to shop here than in other bigger cities in Vietnam. So we slowly but surely slipped away into the night watching TV and looking forward to another enjoyable day in Hue in a couple of hours time.

Continue to Day 4

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