Not sure what to eat? Just choose the restaurant with the biggest queue
Whether you love art, the beach or food… we’ve found the perfect weekend for you. By Lightfoot Travel’s Vicky Pester
Want to get away from it all this weekend? Then head to Vietnam. With its jawdropping scenery, rich heritage and mouthwatering food, a weekend in the Land of the Ascending Dragon is hard to beat. So what’s stopping you? Head to the airport now.
Head to Saigon
Make yourself comfortable in Vietnam of old with a stay at the French colonial-inspired boutique hotel, Villa Song. After refreshing yourself with an ice-cold gin and tonic (or two), take its complimentary speedboat into town to fill that hungry belly with the flavour-filled dishes that Vietnam is so famous for. Then take a seat at one of the many street food places located around the city. Not sure what to eat? Just choose the one with the biggest queue! Or for a modern twist on the Vietnamese classics, pop into Xu Restaurant Lounge. Hit up Sorae Sushi, a whiskey bar and cigar club, to soak up the city skyline by night after dinner.
Start your day with breakfast at Villa Song, overlooking the Saigon River. Then meander the antique streets and temples in District 5, join an art gallery tour or haggle in Ben Thanh market. The vast tree-lined streets of District One are where you’ll find the best museums, galleries and parks. Right by the Notre Dame Cathedral, we recommend you pop in for a spot of lunch at Propaganda, a Vietnamese bistro with some vibrant examples of War propaganda decorating the walls and a unique twist on the classic Banh Mi sandwich. In the evening, try and snap up some tickets for a show at the Opera House, before heading for a late dinner by the river at The Deck or The Temple Club, one of the last remaining downtown villas offering an upscale experience of Vietnamese cuisine.
After a good night’s rest, awake early for a river day tour. Charter your own private speedboat and guide to take you on a leisurely trip either down the Saigon River to explore the eerie Cu Chi Tunnels, or head down towards the vast Mekong to discover the colourful and vibrant life of the locals residing along the Mekong Delta.
Head to Hoi An
A luxurious stay in Hoi An is a stay in the Nam Hai, an award winning, beachfront resort that personifies the understated charm and magnificent culture of Vietnam’s Central Coast. If you arrive early in the evening, make the most out of your first night in one of the most magical places in Vietnam. Hoi An by night really is quite special, as you stroll around the ancient streets bustling with tailors working into the night lit up with silk lanterns and their ambient glow. It’s also a great time to drop in and get measured for those special tailored outfits. One easy option for dinner is Brothers Café, formerly the French Police headquarters set among lush gardens and offers ample views of the action across the river.
Catch some rays and burn some calories by going kayaking, wind surfing or going for a mini jetski tour along the beach. Or if that sounds too hectic for you, just kickback on your lounger with a good book. If you wish to head back into town, another great spot for watching the sunset over cocktails is the riverside. Stay awhile for an early dinner at Mango Mango restaurant, which offers fusion cuisine and a view of the old town. For a sample of Vietnamese food housed in one of the notorious airy merchant houses of late, Ancient Faifo Restaurant is an awesome choice.
If you’re feeling adventurous, hop onto one of the local ferries to take you to the many fishing villages, where you’ll see boat yards still in production, rice noodles being made in homes, hidden temples and children smiling and waving to their heart’s content. When your stomach starts rumbling, you can head back into town and pull up a chair at the Secret Garden, where you can traditional Vietnamese dishes in a quiet, cool and leafy surroundings, and chat about when you’re next going to come back to this spellbinding town.
Take your luggage to the historic Sofitel Legend Metropole. Kickstart your weekend by enjoying one of The Bamboo Bar’s famed Graham Greene Martinis as you look out over the pool. Or if you want to venture out, go to the 88 Lounge, which is loved for its extensive wine list and delicious cold cuts. Or there’s the Rooftop Bar at Pacific Place, which offers great views across the city.
You’ve come for the food, so why not learn how to make some of the country’s signature dishes. The Hanoi Cooking Centre is the best place to learn about Vietnamese cuisine. After a brief introduction, the team will take you on a short walk to Chau Long Market where you will source all the necessary ingredients for the day’s class. Then once you’re back in the kitchen, the experienced chefs at Hanoi Cooking Centre will show you how to whip up several delicacies, which you’ll savour afterwards with local beer or wine.
Before you leave you need to make sure that you sample some of the best dishes that Vietnam has to offer. So for lunch, indulge in French cuisine at La Badiane, a former colonial villa that has been reconverted into a cosy restaurant. Then for sundowners with a view, head to 1911, which is set in the grounds of Hanoi’s spectacular Opera House. Then for dinner try Cau Go Restaurant. The sweeping views across Hoan Kiem Lake and the city are just one of the reasons we adore this stylish eatery which serves up Vietnamese food from across the country.