My 5: Bonsai Exhibition Garden – The Imperial City – Hue, Vietnam.

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1. Bonsai Exhibition Garden (The Imperial City, Hue), April 2018. I’d more or less finished exploring the main grounds of Hue’s Imperial City when I stumbled upon this gorgeous Bonsai garden, accessed via the inner courtyard road. 

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My 5: The Imperial City – Hue, Vietnam.

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1. The Imperial City, April 2018. I’m not much of a history buff; all those dates, names and battles tend to go in one ear and right out the other. I tend to avoid guided tours too, I just can’t seem to focus on what’s being said, invariably a flurry of facts and figures, most of which will be lost to me by the time I’ve settled down for dinner. Instead, I like to wander and explore with my own thoughts, try to breathe in the essence of the place. I’ve always loved the sense of reflective calm these historical palaces bring and knew I was going to like Hue’s Imperial City from the moment I approached Ngo Mon Gate, the palace’s main entrance.

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My 5: Nhat Le Beach – Dong Hoi, Vietnam.

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1. Nhat Le Beach, April 2018. Dong Hoi’s city centre beach is a delightfully laid back affair, even during the city’s annual Seafood Festival where the crowds only seemed to kick in during the evening for live music and sizzling street food. My visit came on a warm, overcast weekday afternoon and I was the only westerner around.

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My 5: Monkey Island – Halong Bay, Vietnam.

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1. Monkey Island, April 2018. I really enjoyed my boat tour with Green Trail! Beginning with a cruise through the peaceful waters of Lan Ha Bay, we eventually reached Halong Bay, Northern Vietnam’s most famous waters. There we were treated to swimming, kayaking and a delicious feast of freshly prepared local food. On the way back to Cat Ba Island we made one final stop at Monkey Island, with its small, pretty beach and rocky mountain trail.

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My 5: Sweet Potato Homestay – Cat Ba Island, Vietnam.

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1. Sweet Potato Homestay, April 2018. If I could only give one piece of advice to someone planning a trip to Cat Ba Island, it would be a categorical “Don’t stay in Cat Ba Town!!!” Check out My 5 on Cat Ba Town for more info. Instead, base yourself at one of the many charming guesthouses out on the island’s deep country lanes. You’ll be closer to The National Park and the Hospital Cave, while your nighttime meal comes with the gentle backdrop of buzzing grasshoppers. My Cat Ba base was the excellent Sweet Potato Homestay, a family-owned hostel famed for its laid-back vibe and friendly service.

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My 5: The Hospital Cave – Cat Ba Island, Vietnam.

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1. The Hospital Cave, April 2018. Whether you’re staying on Cat Ba Island or just nipping in and out on a whistle stop boat tour, do try and make time for this curious Vietnam War site, set deep in the countryside about three kilometers from the entrance gates to Cat Ba National Park.

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My 5: The Note Coffee, Hanoi.

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1. The Note Coffee, April 2018. Coffee is one of the great joys of life! I can barely get through a morning without a big life-affirming mug of caffeiney goodness and I like it milky with sugar, all the way! Maybe a morning latte tinged with hazelnut or vanilla. Perhaps a mocha, although at least these days I do it without the whipped cream. In Vietnam the coffee scene was a tough one for me, the status quo being a cup of thick, malty mud served with… wait for it, condensed milk! Happily then, I heard about an exciting alternative, so off I traipsed to The Note Coffee, a certified Hanoi institution.

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