Where old world charm meets new world

In this edition of the CEO story, Laurent revisits Central Vietnam to see whether the region still has its charm, its diversity, and its broad range of travel opportunities. From Danang to Hoi An, his experiences put into words.

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Where old world charm meets new world

There is no doubt that Vietnam has established itself as one of the top tourism destinations in the world. Thereare no signs of the tourism boom stopping as there are few places in the world with as many hotels, condominiums and villa properties under construction as in Vietnam.

I spent a few days in central Vietnam triggered by the motivation to inspect the new hotels that opened recently. I also aimed to visit the Golden Bridge and update myself on the developments in and around Hoi An, a city on the country’s central coast known for its well-preserved Ancient Town

For those of us who remember Da Nang as a‘small country town’ it is not so now. Today, it is Vietnam’s sixth largest city and resembles a modern metropolis. Its enviable location with its city beach attracts many young Vietnamese moving into the town to look for jobs. This ‘migration’ creates a distinctive young vibe with coffee shops, funky bars, restaurants, beer gardens and nightspots spread along the beach and throughout the town. For young Asian visitors this is the ideal place to stay.

Da NangInternational Airport has established itself as one of the country’s three key entry points with direct flights from most Asian cities.

Just an hour’s drive from Da Nangis the Marble Mountains. It used to be a quiet place for hikers and adventurous mountain bikers, but that has all changed with the opening of the Golden Bridge on top of Ba Na Hills. As Vietnam’s top destination for domestic travellers and Chinese tourists thebridge has become the most instagrammable spot in the country. Three cable cars carry up to 10,000 tourists an hour to the top of the mountain, but do not be surprised to see a queue to get onto the bridge – so popular is this attraction.

But Ba Na Hills is not just about the Golden Bridge. Developers have created a French village with castles, its own cathedral, bakeries, ice cream and flower shops, restaurants and coffee terraces. Visitors wishing to spend the night in the village are welcome to hotels with rooms located inside the recreated historical buildings. The village is alive with street performances, live music and shows, with thousands of visitors wandering through the squares and the narrow streets.

For Western visitors, Ba Na Hills is probably not their top destination in central Vietnam. However, if they have half a day to spare either on the way to Hoi An or on the way to Hue it can be worth a detour. For families with children there are kid-friendly activities in and around the French village that make for a fun outing.

From Ba Na Hills cable car station it is about an hour’s drive to China Beach and one-and-a half-hour to Hoi An.

China Beach, which became famous during the Vietnam War (1 November 1955 to 30 April 1975), is today a destination in itself. There are hotels –from budget to boutique properties and large branded resorts – to meet the needs of every traveller. This is not just a destination for leisure travellers to relax for a few days on a white sandy beach and enjoy the ocean, but also for our incentive clients interested to hold meetings, launch new products or host award ceremony for their best employees. Besides beach activities and rejuvenating in one of the numerous spas, there are many excursion possibilities including visits to historical sites, hiking and biking,drives through the countryside and village visits.

For me personally, the key highlight in central Vietnam remains the historical city of Hoi An. Despite some negative reports citing over tourism and hordes of travellers walking the streets in the evening it remains a charming town. Timing of the visit is of essence: there are few travellers in the morning and until late afternoon, so this is the ideal time for sightseeing on foot or by bicycle and to explore the town’s treasures. Don’t forget to visit the local market– it’s small but fun exploring. Apart from the famous Japanese bridge there are lovely streets, surrounded by historical buildings, to go for walks.

In the evening Hoi An comes alive with large number of visitors and the lighting of the lampions that the town is famous for. There are lampion-lit boats to take visitors along the river on short rides. The town’s atmosphere during the day and evening is distinctly different, and worth visiting during both times. Tourists will have fun shopping, drinking and eating all day long.

Hoi An is also establishing itself as a hidden foodie paradise. Many outstandingrestaurants mostly owned and managed by young chefs, can be found throughout the old town. It is also dotted with cosy bars to wind down the evening.

I am often asked whether it is better to stay in Hoi An or on the beach. The answer lies in the customer’s preferences. For explorers who enjoy going in and out of the old town and spend time walking the streets on their own without a guide, a Hoi An stay is preferable even if there are no luxury hotels there. For travellers who like to relax during the day and spend a few hours in the old town, a beach stay is probably more appropriate. What one needs to know is that Hoi An Beach has virtually disappeared due to erosion; so beach lovers should stay at hotels along China Beach even thoughit is a 20- to 40-minute drive to Hoi An.

Please contact Asian Trails for more information and for the perfect experience for your customers visiting central Vietnam.

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