The Oft-Overlooked Heart of Vietnam


Once relatively unfrequented by travelers from the ‘global west’, Vietnam has burst onto the 21st century travel scene as one of the most enchanting and beautiful destinations in the Eastern hemisphere. The most heavily-traveled and densely-populated areas of Vietnam are the Red River Delta in the north– home to the city of Hanoi– and ‘Đông Nam Bộ’ (literally ‘South-eastern region’) in the south, home to the nation’s capitol, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon). These two ends of Vietnam are commonly the focus of many traveler’s excursions, much to the neglect of the central region of Vietnam– a region whose deep cultural  heritage and myriad treasures yield many surprises, whilst its stunning scenery and world-famous cuisine captivate the senses. We invite you to take a look with us at Central Vietnam, a region that we think is deserving of far more recognition.


Home to a great variety of culture, history, and natural beauty Central Vietnam is acknowledged as the cradle of Vietnamese civilization. In Vietnamese, this central region is called ‘
Miền Trung’; literally meaning ‘The Middle’. Three of our favorite cities to visit in Vietnam– Hội An, Đà Nẵng, and Huế, are all located in this region of Vietnam. Let’s take a look at these three cities to see what makes them stand out as travel destinations that showcase what makes Central Vietnam so special.

Hội An

(easily confused with Hanoi even for the least dyslexic among us!)

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Hoi An’s beautifully lantern-lit canals at twilight

Known as the ‘Venice of Vietnam’ for its canal infrastructure and timeless charm, this city’s name translates as ‘peaceful meeting place’ in English. Hội An exemplifies much of the Japanese, Chinese, and French influence that can be found in Vietnam. Once a thriving port town and the commercial capital of the Champa Empire, Hoi An’s prominence and wealth rapidly waned at the beginning of the 19th century with the rise of the Nguyễn empire. Changing governments and trade policies led to the city of Đà Nẵng becoming the new center of trade on the Central Vietnamese coast, leaving Hội An to fade into relative obscurity.

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The Japanese covered bridge in Hoi An, emblematic of the Japanese influence in this timeless city

In a way, its obscurity throughout the 19th and 20th centuries allowed the town to remain unchanged by history, and to this day exists as an incredibly well-preserved example of hundreds of years of Vietnam’s multicultural heritage. For this reason, Hội An was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1999.

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Taking a hand-drawn rickshaw at twilight will allow you to fully immerse in the beauty of the surrounding architecture, and see for yourself how tangible the cultural influences are in this area. The dimly lit lanterns will guide you through the eminently walkable Old Town and local night markets, revealing the unique mixture of French colonial and Japanese-style influence. One interesting local service that caters to travelers is hand-tailored clothing and shoes, which you can commission and delivered to your hotel in as little as 24 hours!

 

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Nothing beats the feeling of strolling through the surf in Da Nang

Đà Nẵng

A coastal city known for its pristine white sandy beaches, Đà Nẵng has been gaining attention in recent years for its remarkable natural beauty and relaxing atmosphere. On our Vietnam tours, we enjoy two nights at the beautiful beach front Hyatt Regency resort hotel, where guests can relax and stroll along the private beach, letting the ocean gently caress their feet.

Đà Nẵng is the 3rd largest city in Vietnam by population, and has continued to be a major trade hub since even before its time as a French colonial port. The source of its name is somewhat unclear, but is usually attributed to the city’s location at the mouth of the Han river, with several theories correlating the name with words meaning something like ‘river mouth’. During the war, Da Nang was home to a major air force base used by both the South Vietnamese and US Air Force, and at the time was considered one of the world’s busiest airports due to its incredible daily traffic volume.

 

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Thien Mu Pagoda is one of Hue’s treasured cultural artifacts

Huế

(pronounced ‘who-eh’, not ‘he-you’)

Beginning with the overthrow of the Tây Sơn dynasty in 1802, Huế served as the imperial capital of Vietnam under the Nguyễn dynasty– the last ruling family of Vietnam. It was during this period that Vietnam came to be known by its current name, and experienced significant development due to the influence of French colonialism. Remnants of French colonial infrastructure are plainly visible throughout Vietnam, and Huế is certainly no exception to this. In addition, Huế is home to the Imperial City– a once grand walled fortress that was the Emperor’s seat of power.

The Nguyễn dynasty came to an end in 1945 with the fall of the Japanese Empire and the subsequent abdication of power by Vietnam’s final Emperor, Bảo Đại. This act of relinquishing what was considered to be the Emperor’s divinely-attributed ‘right to rule’ is seen by historians as the major contributing factor to the rise of Ho Chi Minh’s influence as the legitimate ruler of Vietnam, and a major turning point in the political climate of Southeast Asia.

Discover the uniquely captivating nature of Central Vietnam on our 9-Day Vietnam Tour, which visits Hội An, Đà Nẵng, and Huế in addition to Ho Chi Minh City in the South, and Hanoi in the North with a special overnight cruise on Ha Long Bay. Or if you’d like to extend your stay in Indochina, check out our 12-Day Vietnam + Cambodia tour featuring the incredible Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia.

Vietnam & Cambodia Travel FAQ

Do I need to apply for a travel Visa to visit Vietnam & Cambodia?

Yes, US Passport holders must apply for two separate Visas to enter Vietnam and Cambodia. For instructions on how to apply, visit the “Passports and Visa” page on our website.

When is the best time to travel to Vietnam & Cambodia?

Seasons of Indochina are dramatically diverse and climate varies significantly across regions– particularly so in Vietnam as it covers a long distance from North to South. That being said, you can always expect it to be hot and humid at almost any time of year. We recommend that guests plan their trip in the period of October to February, as weather during this period of time is cooler and more temperate than weather during other parts of the year.

Do I need vaccinations before traveling to Vietnam & Cambodia?

While you should always stay up to date on your vaccinations anyway, traveling internationally is a great opportunity to make sure you’re fully covered. According to the CDC website, Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccinations are recommended in addition to up-to-date routine vaccinations, but please check with your health provider for more information.

Is the water safe to drink in Vietnam & Cambodia?

‘Safe’, in this case as in many, is a relative term. Not what you wanted to hear? It’s unfortunate but true– travelers that haven’t been exposed to local microbial life are always at risk of contracting some kind of water-borne or food-borne illness while traveling abroad, simply due to a lack of natural immune system antibodies. In order to stay as safe as possible, avoid drinking tap water or eating food from street vendors (unless you really, really want to– but don’t say we didn’t warn you). When you’re traveling with Super Value Tours, your guide and all accommodations on tour can provide unlimited bottled water throughout your entire trip, so you won’t need to worry about water quality at all.

Can I use credit cards in Vietnam & Cambodia?

While most larger shops and restaurants will accept credit cards, smaller shops or street vendors are strictly cash-only. You can withdraw local currency from ATMs or bring new USD bills and exchange for local currencies. In Cambodia, you don’t necessarily need local currencies because in tourist areas, USD are widely accepted. We do recommend having small bills–ones, fives, and tens are perfect for most of the small purchases because sometimes vendors don’t give change back.