The central region of Vietnam serves as the dividing ground for the country's history. The Truong Son Mountains stretch along the coast separating the country's weather and language. It is less tropical than the neighboring south, but the spectacular scenery and diverse ethnic minorities make Central Vietnam a place worth landing on your travel list. Explore the bamboo huts and observe the simple and laid back lifestyle of the locals they'll probably even invite you in for a glass of rice wine.
While Central Vietnam is pretty laid back, there are areas that are full of energy. The third largest city in Vietnam is Da Nang. Founded nearly 3000 years ago by Cham Hindus, this city was the first point of colonial invasion so you'll notice a lot of French influence in modern architecture and historic buildings. This city is not as popular as other cities in Vietnam, but it easily one of the friendliest. To experience more of this city's long and rich history, visit the Cham Museum with collections of sculptures from the Hindu-practicing Cham civilization.
For the most stunning view in Da Nang, visit the Linh Ung Buddhist Temple. While you're there, put the camera down and simply enjoy the sea, sky and towering statue of "Quan The Arm."
Another interesting city you'll find in Central Vietnam is Dalat. This city has plenty of sights to see, but moreover you'll want to make sure you visit the three palaces and summer of home of the last emperor of Vietnam, Bao Dai. With parks, hotels and his own Golf Club. Sign up for a tee time or just take in the grandeur of this colonial-era site. For more French-Vietnamese combinations, be sure to spend some time in Dalat's Le Petit Paris complete with its own Eiffel Tower.
If you'd like to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Town Hoi An, you'll need to understand the coupon system. For 120,000 dong you can get a ticket to enter attractions including the Museum of Folk Culture, the Museum of Trade Ceramics, the Hoi An Museum of History and Culture, the Museum of Sa Huynh Culture, several old houses, some congregation halls, and then you can choose between the Japanese Covered Bridge Pagoda or the Quan Cong Temple. This package seems like a lot, but it's really do-able in a day. Remember to be respectful of this area and don't dress like you're going to the beach.
For an easily accessible hiking adventure, the Marble Mountains of Da Nang are within the city limits and consist of 5 different mountains. As you travel through, you'll see several Buddhist temples that have been built right into the caves and grottoes. Find the Am Phu cave to make a steep climb up for a view from the top of the mountains sprinkled with sacred images. Take care to remember that traveling the five mountains is a rather ambitious undertaking. If you find that you only have the time or energy for one, make it the Thuy Son (Mountain of Water). It is the largest of the five with the most attractions.
For more adventures, take a trip to Dalat where canyoning, kayaking, biking and white water rafting are popular.
If you're looking for some more leisure and relaxation on your vacation, the beaches of Hoi An are perfect for a quick dip and sun tanning. Lay back in your chair and let food vendors serve you as you enjoy the crashing waves and swaying palm trees.
Food and Dining
In Central Vietnam the thing to eat is seafood. If you find yourself in Da Nang, take a stroll along Pham Van Dong street for a deep breath of that sea air and a big dish of that fresh seafood.
Hoi An is also famous for particular dishes including cao lau, a dish of rice noodles made with water from a special well in the city and topped with pork, dough fritters, herbs and spices.
Within each city in Central Vietnam, you'll find that walking is easy and preferred. You'll see more, save money and towns are so small, it's really unnecessary to consider anything else.
If you're traveling between cities you have a couple options. If the cities are close to one another, consider hopping on a Xe Om, or a motorbike taxi. They're available on most street corners. For longer distances taxis are recommended, but pay attention. Meter fixing is a common practice through the whole of Vietnam.
Otherwise you can take the train, which can be slow and only connects to a few cities in this region.
Buses are a great option if you're looking to save money and go with the locals. Buses of various sizes travel between most towns.
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