Hue & Hoi An
The next stop on our Vietnamese journey was the ancient capital of Hue. We'd heard mixed reviews of Hue and we were unsure whether to visit. We stayed two nights and that was enough for us. You can see most of the major sights in the city in a day or two and it rained heavily the whole time we were there so we weren't inclined to stick around. We visited the citadel, the heart of the old city and it was pleasant enough wandering around but we weren't blown away by it.
Other than that we did visit a lovely art museum dedicated to the Vietnamese artist Le Ba Dang, this is worth a visit if you find yourself with a couple of hours to spare. As a rule, I've found being vegetarian pretty hard in Vietnam and Hue was no exception; we did have a couple of memorable meals; dinner at the beautiful Les Jardins de la Caramboule (a French restaurant in an old colonial villa) and a cosy lunch at Nook, a cute little cafe hidden down one of Hue's side streets.
After two nights in Hue we were ready to pack our bags and move on to Hoi An. On arriving in Hoi An you immediately feel more chilled out, this town has a really vibrant vibe to it and we enjoyed the few days we spent wandering the colourful streets.
On our first day we rented bikes and set off to Cam Kim (a small island nearby) to experience the slower life of the Vietnamese countryside. We cycled past many lush rice-fields and people going about their daily business. It's a nice way to spend a morning when you have some time in Hoi An.
Tourists seemingly outweigh locals in Hoi An and it can feel like the whole town is just full of shops and restaurants aimed at tourists. This is nice for a few days, but it feels a bit samey after a while. We also bought the 'tourist ticket' which allows you entrance into 5 of the 20 or so sights. We mainly saw old Chinese houses and temples, both of which were pretty but we had to look up the history of each place ourselves as there's barely any information on offer.
We spent a happy three days in Hoi An, mostly exploring the cute little lanes and the cafes. We found one of our favourites Veggie restaurants in Vietnam, Minh Hien a little place with a giant menu where the walls are adorned with books. Check it out if you're visiting Hoi An, they also hold cooking classes, which we didn't have time to do but sounded really nice.
I also indulged in bit of fair-trade shopping, I really enjoy supporting local designers when I travel and I fell in love with Metiseko. Their clothes are all organic cotton or silk and are lovingly created and beautifully designed. I came away with a gorgeous silk-dress in this print and some wonderful organic cotton trousers. I assure you if you wander in, it's hard to leave empty handed.
If you're short of time in Vietnam I would suggest visiting Hoi An over Hue, there's more atmosphere, countless shops and good quality restaurants.