The Perfect Stop Between Hoi An and Hanoi
To many travelers, Vinh and the surrounding area has the same appeal as flyover country. Many will simply pass through in busses or trains. Those who do actually stop will stay no more than a day to recharge as they continue north to Hanoi or head into Laos as part of their larger South East Asia trip. But this capital city at the heart of the Nghe An Province has so much more to offer than just a pitstop. If you want to get off the beaten path and explore the Vietnamese heartland, then a few days in Vinh is just the thing for you.
Off The Beaten Path
The first thing to note about Vinh is how off the beaten path it really is. With the growing number of tourists in Vietnam it’s easy to think the country has become overrun with tourists. However, this is really only if you stay in the tourist hotspots such as Hoi An. In reality it can take just a short journey on motorbike and you won’t see a foreign face for days. In Vinh you’ll get that flair of an authentic Vietnamese city and have the feeling you might just be the only out of towner visiting that day. Because of this, prepare for a lot of selfies taken with locals. The people of Vinh are very friendly and welcoming so you will have many opportunities engage with people you might not in other cities.
Ho Chi Minh Square
A walk through the city center and down to Ho Chi Minh square will give you a feeling for the city. Ho Chi Minh Square is very much the centerpiece of Vinh. A large park overlooked by possibly Vietnam’s largest statue of Ho Chi Minh. Be warned you cannot walk up the steps of the statue, this is reserved for those who are laying flowers. In the evenings you’ll find many people here enjoying an evening out. The park often plays host to events, festivals and concerts.
Vinh like any Vietnamese city has plenty of shops, cafes, bars and markets. You will also find a fair amount of movie theaters, spas and recreation centers. The city still has a slight utilitarian feeling to it than other cities and this is especially present in the markets.
While places like Ben Than Market are a must see, Vinh market feel more original. Gone are the endless stalls of cheap souvenirs, in its place the needs of the everyman. With its over 560 vendors, here you will find everything a Vietnamese person will need in their day to day life, from light fixtures, tools, and houseware to all sorts of clothes and shoes. Be prepared to haggle as vendors will quote prices which are often two or three times the market price.
Vinh market is also home to the famous Bọt Coffee or “Whipping Coffee”, a Vinh specialty. The coffee is made from mixing a lot of sugar with black coffee and whipping for a good 3 – 4 minutes. This give it its unique sugary foam. Think cappuccino but instead of milk foam you have sugar foam. Be warned though, its very sweet. The stall is tucked away in the back of the market and you’ll have to search through the vendors to find it, but once you do you can enjoy a truly local experience.
If you’re looking to try some local cuisine, súp lươn or eel soup is a Nghe An specialty. The eel used in the soup are native to the region and caught in the many nearby rivers and lakes. Typically it is eaten for breakfast, so if you’re feeling adventurous then it’s time to take a break from your morning Pho and try this soup.
Cao Restaurant in the heart of downtown offers some of the best casual dining the city has to offer. Here the tomato features heavily. With its unique menu of local recipes inspired by the nearby ethnic Thai villages, here you can sample many dishes you may not have seen elsewhere. The decor alludes to the diversity of the region with its many Thai crafts and pictures.
Vinh’s strategic location has made the city an important transportation hub for hundreds of years for goods flowing between the northern and southern parts of Vietnam. The city has grown at a steady pace along with the rest of Vietnam over the last 30 years. Its port serves an important source of transportation to the rural areas of Nghe An and its neighboring provinces. Recently, Vinh has been suffering from the same “brain drain” that plagues many parts of Vietnam. Many younger locals are moving to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh in search of new opportunities. However with recent economic developments and increasing progress in Vinh, many are moving back for the new opportunities Vinh has to offer.
Nghe An is also home to several historical sights that are a short drive from Vinh. A popular destination for domestic tourists and foreign tourists alike is Kim Lien, the birthplace and hometown Ho Chi Minh. The rustic reconstructed cottages are simple but provide an accurate depiction of how people lived in Vietnam over a hundred years ago. The surrounding nature will give you an impression of the inspiration Ho Chi Minh would’ve felt as a young man. The sight also has a shrine to Ho Chi Minh where one can pay their respects. Plenty of historical information detailing his early life and family history is also on display here.
Pu Mat National Park
A stay in Vinh would be incomplete without a tour of Pu Mat National Park. Established in 2001 as a nature reserve, the park is home to a rich ecosystem of jungles and animal life. The jungles of Pu Mat are home to several endangered species such as the Indochinese Tiger and the Indian Elephant. Their protected status in this nature reserve helps ensure their survival and is one of the many positive things Vietnam is doing to protect its environment.
Khe Kem waterfall is a sight to behold and a swim in its pool is a refreshing cool down from the trekking through the jungle. Swim under the waterfall and stand up in its shower to feel the true power of nature. If you listen closely you might just hear the spirits said to reside in the water.
Pu Mat is home to many ethnic minority villages. You will find many homestays here where you can spend then night and experience the rich culture there is to offer. Multi day tours to Pu Mat will typically include this as part of their tour.
If you are interested in a tour of Pu Mat try our Pu Mat 2 day tour