After some time working in Australia, my childhood friend Mitch dropped by Vietnam for a reunion. It had been almost five years since we last met and we had some catching up to do. I was also determined to show him what three days in central Vietnam had to offer.
I picked up Mitch at Danang’s newly built international terminal. Unexpectedly, he’d brought a tonne of luggage and we took a taxi to the hotel. We stayed at the budget-friendly Ton Hotel beside the beach on An Thuong 2. Once showered, I dragged a jet-lagged Mitch from his room and took him to Taco Ngon for some Taiwanese-inspired tacos. As soon as Mitch’s hunger was vanquished, we went to the Village to catch some waves and cold beer.
At sunset, we headed to My Casa who were holding a Prosthetic Reality exhibition. Fortunately for us, it was happy hour on cocktails. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t have time for tapas. Danang is always more than a day’s worth of treats.
Once the cocktails were finished, we met Shaun of Danang Food Tour and some other friends at Quan 88. The restaurant serves seafood and shellfish in a bustling restaurant. Quan 88 was the perfect introduction for Mitch to the country’s love for seafood.
Being a special occasion, we decided to make the evening a real celebration. We headed out to the overwhelming New Phuong Dong Club, followed the legendary Golden Pine. It took a few people to know it was best to go home.
Our hangovers haunted us the next day but we knew there wasn’t any time to recover. We met up with Sam for breakfast and drove to the top of Son Tra peninsula. It was a hot sweaty day but the fight to the top was worth it.
We left Danang quite late and made the drive to Hoi An. Mitch packed a small bag and left his luggage in the hotel. As we drove along the coast road, it was funny feeling Mitch struggle with the discomfort of the bike’s back seat. After catching sunset at An Bang beach, we headed into Hoi An to show Mitch what I believe to be Vietnam’s best noodle dish; cao lau. At Ty’s Restaurant, we ate cao lau, hen tron (mussel salad with cracker) and some sua bap (corn milk). Ty’s is one of the few places in Hoi An that offers great local food at reasonable prices.
We spent the evening on the hunt for Bai Choi, a children’s game of bingo accompanied with live music. As each symbol is drawn from the pot, the MCs will sing about the symbol. I’m embittered I still haven’t won a game of bài chòi.
It had been around two years since I had last visited Hoi An and at times it was unrecognizable. I am not keen on Hoi An’s old town but wanted to demonstrate Vietnam’s diversity to Mitch.
After a visit to see the fantastic art of Ha Ha Gallery, we settled at Q Bar for a few pints of Pasteur Street Brewery. Pasteur Street have been infusing IPAs with local ingredients and have won multiple awards at international competitions. I always recommend visitors to hunt down their wide-range of beers during their time in Vietnam.
We were still feeling exhausted from the previous night and Mitch was looking dreary-eyed from the continual drone of jet-lag. We hit the sack earlier than we’d like to admit.
Our initial plan was to head to Hue via Prao and A Luoi on the Ho Chi Minh highway. It was only a few kilometres until I realized Mitch was still suffering from the discomfort of the backseat. Instead, we opted for the gruesome Highway One, going over the famous Hai Van pass for another stunning view of Danang, then stopping off for lunch in Lang Co. While Hai Van’s popularity continues to grow, Lang Co and the views from the Hai Van Pass continue to be unspoiled. Fascinating landscapes regardless of the day’s time or weather.
It was only a short ride from Lang Co to Elephant Springs where we stopped to freshen up. We met a family travelling from Ho Chi Minh City and were treated to some classic Vietnamese hospitality. After swimming, we all shared a few beers and some food over the afternoon.
Evening was approaching and we suddenly found ourselves racing the sun to get back to Hue. We stopped in Phu Bai town for a coffee. Mitch captured some footage of the traffic and later produced this incredible video with it;
Vietnam from Mitch Hargreaves on Vimeo.
When we got to Hue, I invited my football team to join us at Oc Sai Gon. We ate some spicy shellfish, grilled octopus and a thai-style hotpot. It was Mitch’s last night in Vietnam and I insisted we went on to karaoke. Mitch gave a great rendition of Aerosmith’s ‘I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing’, followed by stints at Cafe 054 and Brown Eyes. Mitch was desperate to watch the Manchester United game at 2am so I took him to my favourite football coffee shack. By half-time, we were once again exhausted and conceded that the match was too boring to stay up for.
Mitch’s plane left from Danang at midday. We ordered a seat to Danang in a HAV Travel luxury bus. Departure was at 8:30am and I felt obliged to show him some of Hue in the daylight. We went for breakfast at the Tam Duc vegetarian sandwich shack and salty coffee at Ca Phe Muoi behind the citadel.
It had been a fantastic few days that had left us exhausted. I hope Mitch enjoyed it as much as I did.
Have you visited any of these places? Would you recommend them to your best friend? Let us know your thoughts and feel free to get in touch with any questions in the comments section below.
Check out more of Mitch’s videography at his Vimeo account.