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- 25 Feb 2020, 3 nights
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Between the bustling city of Hanoi and the seaside town of Hoi An in Vietnam, you'll find the stunning beaches and palpable history of Dong Hoi flying under the holidaymaker radar. After the Vietnam War, the Quang Bình Province capital slowly began to rebuild, and it's now a laid-back place to spend your days basking on the sands or immersing yourself in the local heritage and culture. It's known for its delectable seafood dishes too. Try the delightfully tangy mực bóp xoài (squid and mango salad) for a typical Dong Hoi dinner.
Hostels in Dong Hoi include modern buildings with fresh decor beside the beach and traditional spaces with classically Vietnamese design. A stay with an on-site bar is a good spot to meet other travellers and immerse yourself in the hostel experience. You'll appreciate air con when the humidity gets high, and a place with motorbike rental is ideal if you're planning a day trip. Go for a Dong Hoi hostel with private rooms if you're after a little more peace and quiet.
The west bank of the Nhat Le River is home to most of the backpacker action in Dong Hoi. Along the coast and the river, you'll find the liveliest bars and restaurants, so make your way here once the sun goes down. My Canh, across the Nhat Le bridge, is a spit of land with lovely beaches and swaying coconut trees. Dong Hoi is just 45km from UNESCO World Heritage site Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park – explore its hundreds of caves on a day trip.
Thanks to its relaxed pace, one of the main things to do in Dong Hoi is to take it easy, whether that's by the white sand and clear waters of Nhat Le beach or in the bustling street markets, which come to life with the first catch at 5am. You can see the only two structures that survived the war by visiting the imposing Quang Bình Gate, built in 1631, and the ruins of the 1886 Tam Toa church. Visit the Vinh Moc tunnels to discover how locals lived during the conflict – in secret and underground.
There are regular trains to Dong Hoi from Hanoi and Hoi An, which take 10 and 3 hours respectively. You can catch a 23-hour train from Ho Chi Minh City too, though if you're tight on time, your best bet is to fly into Dong Hoi Airport. Like most of Vietnam, you can get around the area by bike, motorbike or motorbike taxi.