Ready for your next family holiday? We love a quick escape for Singapore, and the summer school holidays are the perfect opportunity to get away with the kids. If you’re looking for something a bit different to your usual easy island getaway and want to experience some rich culture with the kids too, we think Hoi An, Vietnam is just the place…
This stunning slice of Vietnam offers the perfect blend of beach vacay in untouched Danang by day, and history and culture in Hoi An by night. It’s way more than just your average beach escape. The French-influenced architecture of the old town is charming and intact, owing to its status as a UNESCO World Heritage listed site. You’ll feel intrepid exploring the cobbled streets and secluded side-alleys of the ancient town with the kids, but still squeeze in a generous helping of chilled-out pool time. Holiday perfection, we say.
EAT AND BE MERRY
Vietnamese food is fresh, fresh, fresh. There’s just something so moreish about cuisine that goes big on lime, chilli, basil and mango. With staples like beef pho, fresh spring rolls and seafood pomelo salad, there’s zero risk of anyone going hungry. Our kids aren’t blessed with an adventurous palate, but went crazy for the delicious Vietnamese baguettes.
Incredible for both quality and price is local hang out Morning Glory. Head there early to avoid a queue and grab a booth inside where all the action is (you’ll likely have backpackers on one side of you and golden oldies on the other, such is this little gem’s appeal). We adored the Hoi An specialty Banh Bao Banh Vac (white rose dumplings), the five-spice pork belly and the papaya salad with sesame beef. And it’s all prepped before your very eyes by the talented lady-chefs in the steamy central kitchen. Delish. Note: we were forewarned to turn down street children passing through hawking their wares in an attempt to stamp out local racquets.
106 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Hoi An, Vietnam; www.morning-glory.com
Mango Rooms and Mango Mango
We enjoyed the hospitality of sister restaurants Mango Mango and Mango Rooms (on opposite sides of the Thu Bon River). Both are child-friendly, and not only serve mod Vietnamese fusion cuisine, but also have dedicated kids’ menus with fail-safe offerings like fish and chips if your kids want some comfort food. Our pick of the two is Mango Rooms for its eclectic interiors (think emerald green walls, mosaic tiled floors and glass-free windows).
Mango Mango 45 Nguyen Phuc Chu, Mango Rooms 111 Nguyen Thai Hoc; www.themangomango.com
Hoi An street food
The markets are bursting with ridiculously fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs, so it’s little surprise that the street food here is inspired. Lining the river you’ll find rustic tables and chairs jam-packed with locals and tourists alike feasting on Vietnamese noodles, spicy soups and local desserts. Travelling with three small kids, the focus was most definitely on exciting new sweet treats, and special mention must go to the local ice cream and the mango cake liberally dusted in icing sugar.
CULTURE FOR THE KIDS
There’s plenty to keep the Littles occupied in ancient Hoi An town. Winding through the streets observing the comings and goings of daily Life in the bustling marketplace, and checking out the spectacular architecture kept us occupied for hours. And, travelling with a six month old baby, we were happily able to navigate with a pram on the safe, pedestrian-friendly streets. (Hoi An old town is a car-free zone!)
At sunset we hopped aboard a traditional wooden boat (sans baby) on Bach Dang Street near the An Hoi Bridge, and a skilled uncle showed us the sights of Thu Bon River. Once darkness descended, the kids released bright paper lanterns on the banks of the river and watched as their tea-lights faded into the distance. Magical.
Take your time exploring the unique shophouses for divine lacquered bowls, hand-crafted fabric wares like stuffed toys and retro MacBook covers, intricate hand-cut paper pop-up cards and trinkets of every description.
Don’t miss Hoa Nhap – Reaching Out, a sustainable and fair-trade business selling one-of-a-kind clothing, art and homewares all handcrafted by local disabled and disadvantaged artisans. The design and workmanship are exceptional, so it really is a case of buying gifts that give twice.
103 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Hoi An 84510, Vietnam; www.reachingoutvietnam.com
Stash your favourite fashion in your bag and have it copied by one of the many skilled tailors dotted about town. Being measured up and selecting from reams of gorgeous fabrics was a definite trip highlight. Prices and quality can really vary, so it’s worth shopping around. BiBi Silk whipped up lovely dresses for US$15. Our tip is to order on the first day of your trip to give time for alterations.
Phan Chu Trinh 13, Hoi An; Bibi Silk on Facebook
Hoi An also has a well-deserved reputation for bespoke leather goods. Choose from hundreds of styles and colours (neon leopard print, anyone?), and the leather sandals of your dreams will miraculously appear in a day or two. Our family of four was decked out for under SG$140! As with your threads, leave some lead time to achieve a perfect fit. Next time we’ve got our eye on a cropped leather jacket…
Happy Day Leather 657 Hai Ba Trung Street Hoi An, Quang Nam, Vietnam.
WHERE TO STAY
When travelling with your tribe, accommodation can get a little pricey in this neck of the woods. But if you’re in Da Nang, you MUST stay at the beach – it’s beautiful. Here are a few options to consider:
For the luxe resort experience: Hyatt Regency Danang Resort and Spa
The Hyatt pips top spot for good reason. This is full-service, luxury beach accommodation at its very finest. Families swarm here all year round for immaculately appointed rooms, multiple pool-scape zones and world-renowned dining. We enjoyed a casual lunch of local specialty dishes at the Pool House (imagine crispy garlic and chilli-crusted prawns, grilled clams and Hoi An style shredded chicken rice, and you get the picture). It seriously helped the cause that our kids were free to frolic in the beach pool with real sand! And did we mention Camp Hyatt kids’ club? Drop your excited kiddos there for a couple of hours a day and the entire family will be blissing out.
Rates: 2 bedroom residences approx. US$475 /room per night.
5 Truong Sa Street, Hoa Hai Ward, Ngu Hanh Son District, Danang, Vietnam; www.danang.regency.hyatt.com
For the villa vibe: Sunrise Premium Resort Hoi An
Sunrise is so good families secure annual bookings for a well-earned dose of relaxation. There’s a lot to love about this oasis, with half/full board options, high tea in the afternoon, a cracking spa and unlimited access to the mini-bar. Opt for a grand villa and you’ll step directly from your living room out to the pool with view of the East Sea. Lucky Hoi An is only a 10 minute taxi away or you’d be tempted to settle in for the duration of your stay. Now that’s our kind of holiday…
Rates: Approx. US$600 per night for a two bedroom family villa.
Cua Dai Beach, Âu Cơ, tp. Hội An, Cửa Đại 84, Vietnam; www.sunrisehoian.vn.
For a boutique feel: Mangala Garden Villa
Ever since fellow HoneyKids mum Kate went to Bali with her family, we’ve been addicted to Airbnb for accommodation inspiration. We stumbled upon Mangala Garden, and hit gold with a circa 2015 two-bedroom apartment with kitchen and terrace. Nestled in the quiet, lush Ocean Villas estate it has three pools (one with a restaurant delivering cocktails to your sun lounge), a great playground, tennis court, daily vegetarian breakfast and golf buggies on call for pick-ups (the kids’ favourite part!). Our host was quite possibly the most zen person we’ve ever met. She patiently guided the kids through daily yoga and meditation sessions, and treated us to traditional Vietnamese tea and bell ceremonies. So if you’re up for a personalised service, Mangala’s your place.
Rates: Approx. US$160 per night for a two bedroom apartment (best value!).
J02 The Ocean Villas, Vietnam, Ngũ Hành Sơn, Đà Nẵng, Vietnam; www.mangalagarden.com
HOW TO GET THERE
Jetstar and Silkair run select direct flights to Danang, but plent y of affordable flights will involve a short stop-over (we had a short stop-off in Siem Reap). Flights will cost $250 return on budget airlines Jetstar and Vietnam airlines; Silkair is nicer but pricey, so use points if you can.
A HOT TIP ON VISAS
You’ll need a visa to enter Vietnam (but your helper won’t). Our tip is to arrange this in advance to save pain on arrival when the kids are tired. You can pitch up to the Vietnamese Embassy between 9am and 12pm weekdays (10 Leedon Park Street, Singapore, 267887) with your passport, a passport photo, $105 cash, and fill out forms on the spot. Your visa will be issued in one week. Easy!
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