A holiday in SE Asia; Vietnam 2011

My wife and I visited Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in November 2011. This was our first visit to Cambodia and Laos, our forth visit to Vietnam. We had most of one day in Singapore – by accident. This page is about the few days we had in various parts of Vietnam.

The purpose of these pages is partly as a short record of our holiday, partly to show friends and others some of our better photos, partly to record some observations that I found interesting on SE Asian culture, and partly in the hope that it might be of some use to others who are considering a similar trip.

Written 2011/12/26, last edited 2022/04/06
Contact: David K Clarke – ©

Bai Dinh Buddhist temple, Ninh Binh
Bai Dinh
How many Buddhas are enough? There were thousands in this temple complex.
Click on the image (or touch it) to see full size


My wife, Denece, and I have now visited Vietnam four times; more visits than to any other country. Obviously we like the place.

The Vietnamese people (especially outside the two biggest cities, Saigon and Hanoi) are very friendly and honest. (Some of the taxi drivers and others in the two big cities are less honest.) The food is delicious, the accommodation excellent (you can expect an on-suite bathroom and air-conditioning in all but the most basic hotels) and everything is cheap by Western standards.

As an Australian, a citizen of one of the most greenhouse polluting countries in the world, I feel compassion for the Vietnamese who, while they have done little to cause climate change, ocean acidification and sea level rise but will have to live with the consequences: in particular, but not only, higher temperatures in their already hot country and rising sea levels in the densely populated, low-lying, and fertile Red River and Mekong deltas. With a long coastline the Vietnamese are heavily reliant on fishing, the acidification due to the burning of fossil fuels will harm all the world's fisheries. The government and people of my country are unwilling to take serious action to reduce greenhouse gas production. Enough on that subject for now.


Street scene in Hanoi
Hanoi street
Hanoi and Saigon can be fascinating, but certainly force travellers to keep their wits about them. No doubt they are good cities for young tourists who want night-life; but Denece and I will try to avoid them in future.

Sharp operators

Taxis: Be careful which taxis you take in Hanoi; make sure that the one you use has the charge rates printed on the side. Others can charge about twice as much for the same distance, even though both are metered.

Shoe-shine: more pathetic than anything else. A bloke offered to shine my boots at the Old Quarter end of the Hoan Kiem Lake; he specifically said $1. He gave them a polish and then started to stitch new thread into them; they didn't need it. I thought maybe he had spotted a weak bit that I hadn't noticed at first, but when he just kept on going I had to insist that he stopped and give them back to me. Of course he then tried to demand far more than the original dollar, because of the extra work he had done. I weakened and gave him $2; should have just given him $1. What a sad and demeaning way in which to try to make an income!


We stayed in Especen Hotel because it was the pick of the budget hotels in Lonely Planet. It was quite acceptable, but nothing special. It had no lift and only two computers, which seemed often to be in use and not available. The reception staff did speak quite good English. (Net: www.especen.vn; Email: especen@gmail.com)


Hanoi people walking by Hoan Kiem Lake in the early morning. Of course the early morning is the only part of many days sufficiently cool for a Westerner to be comfortable.

Curiously, most people walk around the lake in a clockwise direction.

Why would any city allow an ugly advertising sign like this on one of the most attractive parts of one of the cities greatest aesthetic assets? Hoan Kiem Lake again.

The text on the screen scrolled continually.

Vietnam Museum of Ethnology, Hanoi

Museum 1

Well worth a visit while in Hanoi is the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology.

Denece and I were surprised about how many diverse ethnic groups there were in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. We visited museums of ethnology in both Luang Prabang (Laos) and Hanoi.

Museum 2

Another display in the museum.

Note the very long hair on the girl in the foreground. Long hair worn as a poney tail was very fashonable for school girls, many older girls cut their hair shorter.

Museum 3

A reconstruction of an ethnic house inside the museum

Museum 4

A water puppet performance in the grounds of the museum. There was a band and singer just out of this photo.

Hanoi is famous for its water puppets. Most tourists seem to take in an evening performance in the purpose built Hanoi Water Puppet theatre.

Museum 5

A reconstructed ethnic communal house in the grounds of the museum; there were many such buildings.

Traffic in Hanoi


Most of the day traffic was very heavy on Hanoi streets. Motor scooters were most numerous, with many bicycles and quite a few cars.

Walking across the streets was challenging and frightening until one became used to it. The most important thing seems to be to not make sudden movements, so that other traffic can predict where you will be when they will go past you.

Traffic at night

This image shows how traffic moves on Vietnamese roads. People and vehicles make room for, and go around each other. They do not, as in the West, enter an intersection with the expectation of passing straight through unimpeded.

This system is perhaps slower (although there are many intersections where people are not held back by traffic lights – such as this one), but it works well.

Note pedestrians in several parts of the intersection.


It is common for motor scooters to park on the footpaths and completely block them. Pedestrians had to walk on the side of the roadway.


Lowering sun through the Hanoi smog. Unfortunately smoggy air must be expected in much of Vietnam. It often obscures what would otherwise be beautiful views.


Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh is on the edge of an area of karst mountains similar to those around Halong Bay, Krabi in Thailand and Guilin in China. However, the Ninh Binh area is not yet quite as well known.

The main road through Ninh Binh is Highway 1 that goes from Hanoi to Saigon and carries heavy, and very noisy, traffic; although the noise decreases somewhat at night.


View of Ninh Binh
The view from our room at the top of the hotel. The smog was typical of our first few days in Vietnam. Note the pool in the foreground; it produced a slightly cooler micro-climate.
We stayed in Xuan Hoa Hotel #2 (#1 is only about 100m away). It was very good; the proprietor (Xuan; pronounced something like Schwan), his wife (Hoa) and their Son spoke fair to good English; there was a lift and a restaurant.

Between Highway 1 and the hotel is a lake, and it was possible to sit beside the lake to sip drinks or eat; the lake slightly reduced the temperature while the distance between highway and hotel reduced the noise. (Highways in Vietnam are very noisy mainly due to heavy use of very loud horns.) Even though our room was at the front, we had no trouble sleeping; with the window shut the noise was no problem. We paid $20/night; breakfast was extra. (Net: www.xuanhoahotel.com; Email xuanhoahotel@hotmail.com; recommended)

An interesting example of the service that we received involved a misunderstanding. We had mentioned that we would try to book the 6pm train to Hue, but at the railway station we were told that the 6pm train was booked out – so we booked the 9.30pm train. We told the receptionist at the hotel about the change of booking and later went for a walk into the city. About 5.45 a girl from the hotel, who didn't speak much English, found us and said we had to hurry back to the Hotel. It was impossible to explain to her that we had booked on the later train. She had ridden around the town on a motorbike until she found us – this wouldn't have been easy. The change of booking had not got through to everyone, probably because of the distractions caused by a funeral (for Hoa's father) going on at the same time.

The following photos and notes are in approximately chronological order.

Eating house near Ninh Binh
Eating place

This is where we ate lunch on our way to Ninh Binh. Note the interesting earthenware pots filled with concrete to keep the posts off the damp ground and so protect them from rot.

This system would not give a building any lateral stability (it could fall over), unlike having the uprights in deep holes, so it would be necessary to have diagonal bracing where the uprights meet the roof (not shown in this photo). (An afterthought: the posts could extend down through the pots into the ground?)


Electric bikes
Most people travel by motor bike (or more accurately, motor scooter) in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, but a lot also ride bicycles.

Most of the bicycles do not have gears. We were told that this is because it can be expensive to fix them and difficult to get parts when they breakdown; but it seemed that geared bikes were becoming more popular, especially in the hilly areas.

The photo is of electric bikes for sale in a Ninh Binh bike shop. Electric assisted bicycles seem to be becoming more popular.

Travelling by bicycle or motor-scooter produces far less polluting greenhouse gasses than travelling by car.

Around Ninh Binh


Part of the interior of Vua Dinh Tien Hoang temple.

We travelled from Hanoi to Ninh Binh by bus. We thought that we were booked on a bus that would simply take us to Ninh Binh, but it turned out to be a tour bus; there was only two stops before our drop off, the first for lunch, the second for a visit to a temple.

We believe the bloke in charge of the bus cheated everybody by demanding an entry fee for the temple, before arrival, that was higher than the real entry fee – pocketing the difference. There are many sharp operators in Hanoi; the tour guide would have been from Hanoi.


An outbuilding at Vua Dinh Tien Hoang temple; vertical wall of a limestone mountain in the background.

The smog is visible even in this relatively short distance.

Trang An, Ninh Binh


The most popular place to be rowed on the waterways between the amaizing karst mountains in the Ninh Binh area is Tam Coc. We had read of tourists being hastled to buy souveniers at Tam Coc, so were pleased when Xuan, the owner of our hotel, suggested that Trang An is a better place to go.

We were not bothered at all by people trying to get us to buy things we did not want.

There were three or four tourists and one rower in each boat. The rower was invaraibly a woman, she always sat behind the passengers and faced forward, unlike Western rowers.


We were following the distant boat, which was about to enter the cave that can be seen beyond it. There were something like eleven caves through which the boat-tour went; all were electrically lit.


Leaving one of the caves


The only stop on the one and a half hour boat trip was at this temple, where we were able to get out of the boat and walk around; it was pleasant to stretch our legs, although the boat was not uncomfortable.

While this temple building was atractive, there seemed nothing outstanding about its interior or gardens; some other Vietnamese temples had what were perhaps the best gardens we saw in Vietnam.

Fake roof

This building is in the same area as the temple above.

The tiles are being laid on top of a concrete slab. So the tiles don't need to keep the rain out, the slab will do that, the tiles are just going to be there to look good.

Another cave

A boat coming out of another cave behind us.

Bai Dinh, Ninh Binh

Anyone wanting to see the best of Vietnam should see Bai Dinh.
Many Buddhas
There were hundreds of statues like these in Bai Dinh, each one an individual work of art.
There was a gallery like this on each side of the temple. This photo shows most of one of a number of sections of one of the galleries.

Bai Dinh
Bai Dinh is a huge complex of Buddhist temples being built on a 700 ha hillside site (at Minh Hoa, Quang Binh Province) near Ninh Binh.

It is one of the biggest and most impressive places of worship that I have ever seen, with the possible exception of the Angkor group of temples in Cambodia taken as a whole and Kek Lok Si in Penang, Malaysia. Unlike these, Bai Dinh seems to be a self-consistant unit, rather than a jumbled collection of components. I would think that it is bigger than any of the medieval cathedrals in Europe, bigger than Borobudur and Prambanan in Java, and has far more statuary and more impressive buildings than Besakih in Bali.

The question must be asked though, is this the best way for the Vietnamese to spend a substantial amount of their money when so many people are surviving on very little? Religion is, after all, no more than a set of baseless beliefs.

Still, Bai Dinh is in many ways a lovely and impressive piece of art and architecture, and is an asset to the World.


Some of the gardens and buildings of Bai Dinh.

The complex consists of two sub-parallel buildings running up the hill, a total distance of about 600m, with a number of groups of buildings joining the two long buildings; think of a huge ladder shape with perhaps five rungs. On top of the hill is a large outdoor Buddha and a tall pagoda – see the next photo.

Temples in Vietnam always seem to have beautiful gardens in their grounds. Bai Dinh was still under construction.

Buddha and pagoda

On top of the hill is a large outdoor Buddha and a tall pagoda. I took this photo from the road a few days after our visit to Bai Dinh; the air had become quite a bit clearer.

Many Buddhas

How many Buddhas are enough?

Each of the long, sub-parallel, buildings had three rows of niches in their outside walls, all either containing, or intended to contain, a Buddha image. (The place was very much a work in progress when we were there; many of the niches did not yet contain their Buddha images.)

Two of the large temples in the 'rung' buildings contained at least 1500 Buddha images each in niches such as these. Unlike the large stone Buddhas, these seemed to be mass-produced.

Golden Buddha

The two higher temple buildings in the 'rung' positions contained large golden Buddhas. The highest had three such, the lower (this building), two (only one of which is shown here, the other is out of the photo to the right).

Note the niches in the rear wall, for smaller Buddha images.

We should not be surprised that religious buildings are weird, since religion is, by definition, irrational.

Bai Dinh

From near the top of the Bai Dinh complex.

The view was badly obscured by the smog that had been hanging around for the last three or more days; it was to clear somewhat in the next couple of days.


This is a small, but elegant, temple between Bai Dinh and Ninh Binh. It was built up against the rock-face and there were stairways up to holes in the rock that seemed to serve as holy places of some sort.

An old bloke, about my age, gave me tea and demonstrated a number of Vietnamese musical instruments to me here.

As with Bai Dinh, there was no entry fee and no-one asked for any sort of contribution.

Click on the image (or touch it) to see full size.

Two day trip to Phu Luong from Ninh Binh

Bananas and pineapples
Our guide (and the owner of the hotel we stayed in while in Ninh Binh) Xuan (pronounced something like Schwan) on the left.

Bananas and pineapples growing along the road to Phu Luong.

A visit to a roadside sugar producing plant

The cane pile (with sleeping pup)Feeding cane into the crusher
Sugar cane 4 Sugar cane 2
The crusherBoiling away the water
Sugar cane 3 Sugar cane 1

This was obviously a small-scale cottage-industry sugar producing plant. There was a big commercial sugar mill not many kilometres away; one had to wonder how long the small operations could compete.

Note the lack of guards on the gears of the crusher and any sort of guard rails to stop anybody falling into the tubs of boiling sugar. One's safety is one's own responsibility in Vietnam. They expect people to have some level of common sense; what a quaint idea! (by Western standards)

Drying manioc along the roadside.
Drying manioc
Manioc was used mainly for animal fodder, but could also be eaten by people. It is similar to, but maybe coarser and more fibreous than, sweet potatoes.

Use of roads

Roadsides were commonly used for drying manioc, rice and other foods. All through the three countries (Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam) road users seemed very tollerant of other people who were also using the road – for whatever purpose. There was much more tollerance shown for the rights of other people, even when it caused some inconvenience, than is the case in the West.

If a person needed to do a 'U' turn, or move to the far side of the road, he or she would gradually move across the road and the other traffic would make its way around as best it could, with no obvious sign of anoyance.

There was lots of horn blowing, but not to show anoyance, just as a warning that another vehicle was approaching.

In Australia drivers are jealous of what they see as their rights: right of way, right to drive up to or slightly above the speed limit, right to not be inconvenienced in any way by other road users. It's not like that in SE Asia.


Buffalos, herons and karst mountains; from a roadside.

Buffalos, either grazing or pulling plows or carts, were common; large birds much less so (as I remember).


A miniature landscape at a roadside cafe – you can just see that there is some mist on the water.

This was at the place we stopped at for lunch both going to Phu Luong and returning. We tasted roasted crickets here, very nice.


These undershot water-wheels lifted irrigation water from the river into bamboo channels which then ran it to a nearby rice paddy. The channel close to us is from the smaller water-wheel partly obscured by the larger one.

Xuan took this photo of Denece and I.

Sugar cane

Sugar cane growing near a karst (limestone) hill.

At Phu Luong

Phu Luong

View of the rice terraces and mountains of Phu Luong.

Vietnam has two main very different types of land, fertile and well watered flat land of the coastal plain, and steep mountains further inland. The areas where the two come together, as in the Phu Luong region, are particularly scenic. The mountains around Phu Luong were around a thousand metres high, the valley bottoms maybe a hundred metres above sea level.


Rice drying on the roof beams of a house in Phu Luong


Typical houses at Phu Luong

Sunrise at Phu Luong


The mountains, in the early morning

The house in which we stayed the night we were at Phu Luong.

Late on the first of the two days Xuan got a phone call from his wife, Hoa, telling him that Hoa's father was very ill. It was perhaps only ten minutes later that a second call came, again from Hoa, with the news that Hoa's father had died.

This tragidy meant that Xuan and his driver had to travel back to Ninh Binh, leaving us at Phu Luong.

The people we stayed with, Hong and his wife Lee, spoke no English, and Denece and I certainly spoke no Vietnamese, so communication was limited from then on. It all went very well.

Xuan's driver, whose name I have forgoten, came back for us about 1000hrs on the second day (the day of this photo).

Phu Luong panorama


Lee (in the front) guiding us on a walk through the fields in the morning of our stay at her house.

Paths such is this were used by pedestrians and people on motor-scooters; obviously they were not suited for cars.

Valley view

A view over the valley bottom.

From this point the footpath became steep; we didn't go further.


Probably the path we were on, had we followed it far enough, could have taken us to this village.

Paddies and mountains

Denece, rice paddies, and the mountains of Phu Luong.

The weather was hot during most of the days, but not so hot as to be unpleasant. The month was November.

Drying grain

Drying grain on the road near the house in which we slept overnight. Some, at least, of the grain was rice.

The building on the left is a school (junior primary?)


We saw several pens such as this, containing a cow (left) and buffalo (right). There were also a few dogs and pigs around.

Phu Luong panorama
Taken from the main road, higher up the slope from the village we stayed in

Karst mountains near Ninh Binh

These photos were taken on our way back to Ninh Binh from Phu Luong.

This was about as clear as the air got while we were in the Ninh Binh area. I had to get a few shots of these extraordinary mountains.

Sugar cane growing in the middle distance.

Phat Diem Cathedral, near Ninh Binh

Phat Diem

A view of a part of the Cathedral area. The building on the right is the bell tower.

The architecture was a strange fusion of Western and Vietnamese.


A part of the Cathedral proper.

This is perhaps 30km from Ninh Binh, toward the NE (I think). There seems to be little of interest to tourists in the same area and we did not see any Caucasians at Phat Diem.

Bell tower

The bell tower

Mua Cave and climb, Ninh Binh

Mua climb

It is hard to see exactly what is meant by Mua Cave, but the area has a beautiful little lake, park, and a zig-zag climb to a shrine on top of one of the limestone hills.

There was a little cave to the left of this area, but it seemed largely taken up by some small native huts.

View from climb

A view toward the entrance from the steps. Ninh Binh city could just be seen in the same direction.

It was a hot and sweaty climb, because we were there in the middle of the day. Better to do it in the early morning; but you can't do everything in the early morning.

Denece and I had this place almost to ourselves; there was only one small group of Vietnamese when we were there.

Karst mountains

Looking in the opposite direction from the entrance area.

Tam Coc

Tam Coc from the hill-top above Mua Cave. Some canoes carrying tourists can just be seen on the river.


Some of the mountains in the Ninh Binh area from the top of the Mua Cave climb.

The views from this climb would be spectacular if the air is ever clear. This was about as clear as the air ever was in the six days we were in the Ninh Binh area.

Tam Coc, Ninh Binh

Tam Coc

We did not travel by boat at Tam Coc, but we crossed a bridge over the section of the river that is used by the Tam Coc boats.

Tam Coc

Some of the boats and mountains in the Tam Coc area.


Farewell to the karst mountains of the Ninh Binh region

End of Ninh Binh


Hue was once the capital of Vietnam, so has palaces and royal mausoleums that are major tourist attractions.

Yet accommodation is cheap. We stayed at a very nice little hotel called Nhat Nam, which cost us $15 per night, breakfast was extra if I remember correctly. There was a lift, TV (which we didn't use) and, as usual in lowland Vietnam, airconditioning. There was a good intenet cafe and restaurant just across the road. (The hotel is at 40 Ben Hghe St., Email nhatnamhotelhue@yahoo.com)

Coffee shop

Telephone box coffee shop!

I was out for an early morning walk, as was my wont, it was rainy and I stopped for a coffee in a little cafe across the road from this telephone box. In SE Asia many little roadside shops have coffee, many just have food. The cafe I had stopped at didn't have coffee, but that was no problem. When I asked for a cup, the waiter just went across the road and the bloke in the telephone box – which gave him some protection from the rain – made me a coffee from his thermoses of hot water.

Royal mausoleums, Hue

Wet pavement
It was dry season in Cambodia, Laos, northern and southern Vietnam, but wet season on central Vietnam, and there was no shortage of rain during the two days we had in Hue.

This was at one of the royal mausoleums.


The builders of the royal mausoleums used many steps to go up and down the obstacles that they placed in the way of visitors; but perhaps the mausoleums were not built with the intention of catering for many visitors; or perhaps it was to help keep people fit!

Denece and I took a tour to visit the royal mausoleums. We were to be picked up at our hotel at 0800; the empty bus came at 0730, but had to go away and find other tourists because we were at breakfast. It came back again at about 0750. We were dropped off at lunch time; we had opted for a half-day tour, everyone else on the bus was apparently doing a full day. The tour operators seemed very flexible.


The gardens in Vietnam were beautiful and must have kept many gardeners busy.

Glass decoration

Some of the more elaborate decoration in one of the royal mausoleums

Water garden

A water pavillion on an ornamental pond at one of the royal palaces.

Marshal arts

A demonstration of marshal arts on the outskirts of Hue. This was a part of our half day tour.

There were entry fees for the mausoleums (about $5 per person per mausoleum – a high fee by Vietnam standards) and also for this demonstration.

Agribank building

The Agribank building in Hue. Intersting neo-clasical architecture and use of colour.

Bridge across Pearl River

There were two road bridges across the Pearl River in central Hue. One was used only for light traffic; no cars or trucks allowed.

Road traffic

Traffic was heavy across the Hue bridges most of the day; indeed traffic was heavy in many Vietnamese cities most of most days. Fortunately most of the traffic is motor-bike; if motor-bikes are ever replaced by cars the roads will become impossibly congested (of course greenhouse gas production would also greatly increase).

Sculpture garden

There are quite a lot of sculptures in Vietnam; this one was on the north-western bank of the Pearl River. There were many other pieces scattered through the gardens.

Again, the gardening so common in Vietnam is apparent.

Unfortunately in my country, Australia, many of the public gardens are poorly maintained. Local governments don't have the money to employ sufficient gardeners and the local people generally lack the community spirit and civic pride to do the work voluntarily. Most of those with ample leisure time prefer to spend it in pointlessly bashing a golf ball about, playing lawn bowls, or similar. It's a pity when one considers how much a small handful of voluntary workers have done at places like the Gleeson Wetlands in Clare and in Crystal Brook's Central Park.

I have written on contributing to one's community on another page on this site.

Imperial Enclosure, Hue

Wedding photos

Denece and I kept on seeing wedding celabrations; we must have seen at least a dozen in Vietnam alone. Perhaps it was the season for weddings, or perhaps having weddings, or at least wedding photos, in the places that were popular for tourists, was fasionable.


Bonsai (or would it be more accurate to call it topiary?) in the Imperial Enclosure of the Citadel, NW side of the Pearl River.

Waste land

Much of Hue was heavily bombed during the Vietnam War (which, in my opinion was a completely unjustified crime against humanity inflicted on the Vietnamese people by the USA and its alies – including Australia). The Imperial Enclusure is still being rebuilt.


Some of the gardens in the Imperial Enclosure


One of the palace buildings in the Imperial Enclosure at Hue


Asleep on motorbike
Perhaps the cheapest way of getting your sleep in Danang
Danang is Vietnam's forth largest city. Most tourists only touch Danang as the nearest airport to Hoi Ann, but it is worth spending a day or two in Danang. There is a good museum of Cham Sculpture (N 16.059856°, E 108.22294°) and a beautiful Buddhist pagoda (what's the difference between a pagoda and temple?) called Phap Lam (or Chua [temple/pagoda] Tinh Hoi?) at N 16.062145°, E 108.215395°.


We stayed at Xuan Hung Hotel (56 Phan Chu Trinh). The rooms and breakfasts (included in the $20 per night tarrif) were good, there was a lift and the hotel was centrally located. The computers provided for Internet access were so slow as to be near useless and internet cafes in central Dalat, while present, are not easy to find; I'd suggest asking at your hotel, rather than just going out and looking as you can do in most of the smaller cities.

Museum of Cham Sculpture, Danang

Cham sculpture

Denece in one of the many rooms of the museum.

Some relics of the Chams are to be seen in other parts of Vietnam, such as My Son, and there are Cham towers scattered about along the coast, but this was a much more extensive collection than any we had seen elsewhere.

Cham sculpture

In another room of the museum.

The little I know about the history of the Cham civilisation gave me a greater appreciation of how fluid the national borders in SE Asia have been. The relatively stable borders of the past several decades seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

The present locations of the borders are much more to do with historical power-plays rather than ethnic or linguistic boundaries; or so it seems to me.

Eating, Danang

We would highly recomend Chen Shabu Shabu Roasted Restaurant (29 Pham Hong Thai) for its food and Pho Xua Restaurant (17 Phan Dinh Phung) for its food, architecture and ambience.

Pho Xua Restaurant, Danang

Restaurant 1
This was perhaps the architecturally most interesting restaurant that we have seen in Vietnam. There were three sections, each built in a completely different style (one section was still under construction when we were there).

The address is 17 Phan Dinh Phung; not far from the market.

Restaurant 2

The main path through the centre of the lower part of the restaurant.

The image is a high dynamic range compilation of three photos taken at different exposures; the scene was very high contrast between the sunlit areas and the deeply shaded areas.

Restaurant 3

Another part of the restaurant.

I don't know of any restaurant in Australia that would compare with this – not that I have seen many restaurants. I'm pretty sure that if there was an Australian restaurant with such interesting and pleasing architecture, I would be unable to aford to eat in it. Whereas, this one was no more expensive than many others in Vietnam; we probably paid (I don't remember exactly) about $10 total for two excellent main courses.

Restaurant 4

Not only was the architecture and surroundings outstanding, but the food was top quality and well presented too!

Traffic in a Danang intersetion

Phap Lam Pagoda, or Chua Tinh Hoi, Danang

Phap Lam 1

A small shrine adjacent to the main building.

We had seen this pagoda on a previous visit to Danang, but had a hard time finding our way back to it on this visit. After searching fruitlessly for some time, I called into a bank to ask directions; it didn't help that I didn't know its name. Not many people in Danang speak English; it's not a tourist city. After much discussion and a great deal of help from the bank staff a girl finally was found who spoke sufficient English to understand what I wanted and explain how to get to the Pagoda. I find it hard to imagine that many Australians would take so much trouble to help an overseas visitor who didn't speak English.

Phap Lam 2

One very happy, and well fed, Buddha. (Chinese influence?)

Phap Lam 3

There was a cerimony of some sort happening while Denece and I were visiting.

This is the main building.

Phap Lam 4

Some of the decoration on the main building.

Chen Shabu

Another excellent Danang restaurant, Chen Shabu Shabu Roasted Restaurant, 29 Pham Hong Thai.


Dalat Market
Dalat Market
A fascinating place to wander around and look at what is on offer, perhaps buy some souveniers, and maybe a meal.



We had previously stayed at Dreams 2 Hotel (164B Phan Dinh Phung), which was then run by the son of the couple who run Dreams (151 Phan Dinh Phung). For this visit we tried to book a room via the Internet, but were misled by a fake site (http://www.dreamshoteldalat.com, info@dreamshoteldalat.com). The correct email address is dreams@hcm.vnn.vn. (The photo on the fake Net page is not of the real Dreams Hotel, but the street addresses are correct; the TripAdviser photo is the real Dreams Hotel.) Anyway, because of the fake email address we weren't able to book ahead, and when we arrived we found both Dreams to be full. The propriators kindly arranged for us to stay at another hotel owned by another family member, the Thien An Hotel (272A Phan Dinh Phung, thienanhotel@vnn.vn).

We stayed two nights in Thien An Hotel, then moved to Dreams, because it was significantly closer to central Dalat. We highly recommend all three hotels. The lady who runs Dreams has excellent English and is genuinely helpful, the rooms in all three are excellent. We had a room at the front of Dreams, Phan Dinh Phung is a busy and noisy street, but with double glazing, the room was quiet. All three hotels charged $25/night.

Air conditioning seems not usually provided at Dalat, and we found that the ceiling fan was quite sufficient in Dalat's relatively cool climate (it is 1500m above sea level).


Tam Chau restaurant and shop, So 01 Quang Trung, Phuong 9, Tp. Dalat (by the Flower Garden) was very good, and the prices were low. Ditto a vegetarian restaurant.


Dalat Airport

This building was constructed after our previous visit, in 2008. The photo shows an internal courtyard with potted plants; which are a feature of Dalat.

Thien Vuong Pagoda, Dalat

This is one of many buildings in a temple complex at the far end of the Dalat Cable Car.

There happened to be some sort of cerimony happening while we were there; it seemed that the people dressed in the white smocks were lay-people – there were also monks dressed in safron robes.


This great bell, at Thein Vuong Pagoda, is said to be made of bronze and gold; it's great weight makes it very diffucult for anyone to steal. (Even if someone did steal it, what would they do with it? They would need a large specialised smelter to melt it down and extract the gold.)

Inside temple

Inside one of the temple buildings.


Like so many Buddhist temples, Thien Vuong had a beautiful and extensive garden – in fact it was outstanding even for a Buddhist temple.

These are just a few of the bonsai on display.

Woven shrubs

More of the Thein Vuong Pagoda garden


Detail of a minor temple on a side street above Dreams 2 Hotel

Dalat Flower Garden

Coffee pot

Anyone visiting Dalat and interested in gardening would have to visit the Dalat Flower Garden.

Flower beds

Flower beds

Broom sticks

Inspired by the Sorcorer's Apprentice in the early animated movie Fantasia (and the music by Musorgski).

Golden Buddha

Chau Van Hanh's enormous golden Buddha.

Chau (temple/pagoda) Van Hanh also had lovely gardens, and, more unusually, beautiful carved woodwork, tables and chairs in particular; many of which were for sale at very reasonable prices by Western standards.

Giao Su Thien Lam Church, Dalat


I believe that this unique Dalat church is named Giao Su Thien Lam Church. (There was a sign-board inside it, on one of my photos, that said "Chua Thanh Than" (Chua seems to translate to temple, pagoda, church, etc.), but that might have been refering to anything.

It is Catholic

Bell tower

Unique church bell tower in Dalat

Giao Su Thien Lam Church bell tower

This image was produced by combining three photos each having different exposures (because the subject had a 'high dynamic range', ie. was very 'contrasty'.

Motorbike park

Motorscooter park above the Dalat Market


Some sort of confectionary at a Dalat bakery.

It looked colourful and interesting; we didn't try it. Unlike much other Vietnamese foods, bakery products were often disapointing. They looked good, but didn't live up to expectations.


This little dog barked at me as I walked along the ally by his house


A typical ally in Dalat


Another ally, this time going up one of the steeper parts of the city.

Although streets in Dalat, and Vietnam in general, were kept pretty clean, it was not unusual to see rubbish dumped along allies.

Lam Dong Museum, Dalat


The Lam Dong (named for the province in which is Dalat) Museum is well worth a visit, mainly for the archeological and ethnic material on display.

This embossed copper panel is in the foyer.

Stone slabs

These marble slabs were made to ring when they were struck; apparently not to serve as musical instruments, which they could be used as, but probably to frighten unwanted birds or animals away.


Miniature landscapes such as this are popular in Vietnam (and I have also seen some in Georgetown, Malaysia).

Note Tripitaka, Pigsy and company in the foreground. This is a very popular theme in Buddhist sculpture, and was used in the Japanese 'Monkey' television series.

Vegetarian Restaurant, Dalat

At 17 Huynh Thue Khang

This is a very pleasant place to eat: good surroundings, good food, quiet, good service, nice gardens and fascinating sculptures (also lots of dogs – the owner must be very keen on dogs, as he has about a dozen of them).


One of the more surealistic of the sculptures at the Vegetarian Restaurant.


A view of a small part of the garden, and a very few of the sculptures, at the Vegetarian Restaurant.

Seen from our hotel room
Dalat windows

Finally, a view from our hotel room (Dreams Hotel)

The Vietnam War

As a young Australian man at the time of the Vietnam War I could have been called up to fight. As it happened my 'marble didn't turn up', so I wasn't drafted.

The French first committed crimes in their attempts to hold onto their Vietnam colony. After they were chased out South Vietnam became a corrupt dictatorship. But the USA establishment much preferred a corrupt dictatorship to a communist state, so they used their military might to prop up the tyrants.

Over the years of the Vietnam War (the Vietnamese call it the American war) a great many acts were committed by the USA that in a just world would be condemned as heinous war crimes. Just as a few examples, far more bombs were dropped on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, including on civilian targets such as cities, towns and hospitals, than were used in WWII, napalm bombs were routinely dropped on civilians, thousands of cluster bombs were dropped, a great many civilians were killed by soldiers. Huge ares of rainforest were poisoned by chemicals that contained contaminants such as dioxins that were toxic to humans and animals.

It has been estimated that anything from 600,000 to two million Vietnamese civilians died in the war, over a million North Vietnamese and Viet Cong fighters, and a quarter of a million South Vietnamese soldiers. The Vietnamese were not the only victims of the war, another quarter of a million people were killed in Cambodia and an unknown number in Laos; thousands of American and Australian soldiers were killed and probably even more were traumatised.

The crimes committed by the US establishment in Vietnam were comparable to those committed by the Nazis in WWII. Crimes were committed against the US troops by their leaders as well; US and Australian troops were victims of the war. Had the US been defeated in the same sense as Germany was defeated, rather than just being forced to withdraw, there would have been similar war crime trials. As it was, those US citizens with consciences were ashamed of the crimes and, quite understandably, didn't want to dwell on them and those in power or the media generally preferred to keep them covered up.

For anyone who wants to learn some of the dirty facts of the Vietnam war I can highly recommend:

  • 'The Sorrow of War' by Bao Ninh and
  • 'A people's history of the Vietnam War' by Jonathan Neale. I will warn you that it is horrifying and shocking.
Did Australian forces in Vietnam also commit war crimes? I don't know.

Did the Vietnamese people hold a grudge?

We saw no indication that there was any bad feeling against us as Australians. I suspect that this would have been at least partly due to the fact that the Vietnamese were as much at war with each other as they were at war with the USA and Australia.

They just wanted to get on with life. They had enough problems with development and, as individuals, just making a living. They didn't want to dwell on the past.