Vietnam as a family holiday destination – review

Hoi An Old Town

Vietnam is not an obvious destination for a family holiday – especially when that family includes a fourteen-month old child. But as my sister and I found when travelling there with my son, it’s a wonderfully welcoming place to travel with children.

Indeed, having a small child with us quite literally opened doors. The Vietnamese are a friendly, family-minded people, and as one tour guide explained to us, while they’re accustomed to foreign backpackers, it’s still a relative novelty to see very young foreign tourists in Vietnam.

Despite the rarity of younger tourists, the three hotels we stayed in were well equipped for young children: cots and high chairs were available upon request, and the resort we stayed in – the Palm Garden Resort, Hoi An – also had a wading pool, a kids menu, and a kids club.

Palm Garden Resort Beach

Hotel staff were indulgent to the point of it almost being embarrassing – we frequently returned to our room to find handfuls of chocolates stashed on my son’s pillow, and we were always greeted with wide, friendly smiles wherever we went. I can only remember a handful of occasions when my son ate with us – waiters and waitresses whisked him away to play while we ate in peace!

The culture is foreign enough that stepping out into the streets of Ho Chi Minh is an exciting and colourful experience in itself: motorcycles whip past on the roads, while the pavements are alive with street vendors selling everything from tea and hot pho to hats and sandals. Happily the hustle and bustle is easily escapable; the city is full of green, open spaces, little mini oases where people gather to play badminton, fly kites and simply relax. Eduardo loved the colours and movement of the Ben Thanh market, and I highly recommend the Cu Chi tunnels for tourists of all ages.

Hanoi retains a distinct identity from HCM, with its beautiful old French quarter, and again a focus on mini oases to escape the frenetic roads. Hoan Kiem Lake forms the focal point of the city, and across the ‘Rising Sun’ bridge Ngoc Son Temple greets you with its dragons and lush gardens. Water puppetry is a must-see: kids will enjoy the often chaotic music and the way the puppets seem to dance across the water. No trip to Hanoi is complete without a trip to beautiful Halong Bay, with its junks, 3000 islands and emerald green waters.

Thu Bon River to Hoi An Old Town

Hoi An was easily the highlight for us. Far removed from the hustle-bustle of HCH and Hanoi, Hoi An’s Old Town is closed to traffic: it’s all foot and cyclo. The entire town has been heritage listed, and provides an insight into what an old South East Asian trading port would have looked like some 400 years ago, with its paved streets and colonial-style buildings influenced by Japanese, Chinese, French and Dutch settlers. By day visit for the arts, crafts and tailors, by night visit for the lantern-lit streets and outstanding dining along the river.

Further afield, you can visit Hoi An’s numerous beaches, or head inland to visit My Son, a cluster of long abandoned Hindu temples recognised as a world heritage site. The area is strikingly beautiful: nestled in a valley, you need to trek up a gentle hill for approximately 20 minutes to reach the site of the temple, lending a bit of an ‘off the beaten path’ feel to the trip, reinforced by the relative lack of tourists. Local performers demonstrate traditional dances and songs throughout the day, and the drive out takes you past rice paddies where water buffalo work alongside men and women wearing traditional conical hats.

My Son

I really can’t fault our experiences in Vietnam. To be honest, Vietnam is no Disney resort. You’ll find very little in Vietnam that has been designed specifically with touring children in mind. But if your kids are the sort that are happy to simply bask in new experiences, new sights and sounds, and are adventurous enough to try new foods and talk to people with totally different backgrounds, as an exotic adventure that’s slightly off the beaten path, I can’t recommend Vietnam highly enough.

The above post is courtesy of Jasmine Norrie. Jasmine is a full time single-mum, sometime freelance writer, and just to mix things up, occasional burlesque dancer. She loves getting away from home, even if it’s just a trip to the playground.