Louise Pyne explores South-East Asia with her two-year-old son
With as much a spirit of adventure as a sense of trepidation at the thought of taking our toddler, Leo, halfway across the world, we set off on an epic 12-hour plane ride to Vietnam’s cosmopolitan Ho Chi Minh City. Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City happens to be far more of a family destination than you might assume. While this sprawling metropolis is pretty chaotic, it also offers a perfect mix of activity and relaxation that’s suited to family life.
Ho Chi Minh City is the place where you can spend the morning marvelling at mega malls, skyscrapers, street markets and Buddhist temples, yet kick back for some quality family time come the afternoon. We were staying at The Reverie, a sky-high hotel located in the heart of the city, which offered a welcome break from the hustle and bustle. The huge outdoor pool was our go-to hangout, providing plenty of splashing fun for Leo and sun-soaking time for mum and dad.
When it comes to dining options, The Reverie is in a class of its own. With five restaurants serving everything from local cuisine to Italian and Chinese dishes, the chefs are more than happy to make child-friendly meals off the menu that will suit even the fussiest of toddlers. And before our stay in Ho Chi Minh City came to an end, I made a conscious effort to fit in an afternoon session at the hotel’s state-of-the-art spa, where you’ll find everything from salt crystal body wraps to ocean-inspired facials on offer, plus a sauna, steam room, beauty salon and hair salon.
After a week in the big smoke, it was time to head to our second destination, the quaint town of Hoi An. Located in central Vietnam, just an hour’s flight from Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An’s colourful lantern-lit cobbled streets are made for families. We whiled away the days in the old town, browsing boutiques and soaking up the town’s café culture while chatting to the friendly locals. The picturesque river front also gives you the chance to explore the tranquil surroundings by boat, for an hour or so.
Hoi An is also a bicycle-friendly town so it made sense for us to rent a mountain bike (which came fitted with a child seat) for an afternoon of sightseeing. We meandered through the stunning patchwork of rice paddies, spotted exotic birds and water buffalo, and watched farmers tending to the land wearing their traditional conical hats. Leo was in awe. And after we’d had our fill of town and country life, it was time to hit the powder-soft sands of Cua Dai beach, where we had plenty of fun making sandcastles in the sunshine.
Two wonderful weeks later, it was time to return to London. All three of us knew we would miss the laidback locals and colourful culture. Vietnam is a very special place, and we’d go back in a heartbeat!