Guest Author - Teresa Coates
The province capitol, Thanh Hoa City is 3 hours south of Ha Noi and can be reached by train or rented vehicle. While most tourists visit only to access Sam Son beach, there are other local sites worth visiting.
As in most cities in Vietnam, there is a main thoroughfare named for the infamous soldier and emperor Le Loi (known as Emperor Le Thai To), but Thanh Hoa went further and erected an enormous statue in his honor. At the corner of Hwy. 1A and Le Loi Street, the statue stands watch over an open courtyard that is used by sellers, xe om drivers,and in the cool of the evening, families flock here to rent motorized motorbikes and cars for the little ones to zip around the square.
Across Hwy 1A is a small shopping center with a book store and grocery on the second story and various electronics shops and a Blue Exchange clothing store on the first floor. If you are looking for packaged snacks, this is the place to go.
Head south on Hwy 1A for a couple of blocks to find neighboring banh mi sandwich shops. My personal favorite is banh mi trung—a small baguette stuffed with a fried egg topped with homemade mayonnaise, picked daikon radish and carrots, some cilantro and a bit of pepper. They're delicious and will set you back less than 15,000VND.
Get a taxi and head north to Ham Rong or east to Sam Son beach. Ham Rong is well known to locals for its beauty and is just 4 km north of the city. The site is punctuated by the land formations that resemble a dragon, ending in a grotto at the “head” of the dragon. The naturally-formed holes in the mountain resemble eyes and it's said that when it rains, the water collects in them then pours out, resembling tears.
Heading east to Sam Son, you'll pass through much of Thanh Hoa, passing Hong Duc University and along a road bounded by lush rice fields that stretch for several kilometers in both directions. The road comes to an end at the shore, known as Beach A. There are four lettered beaches, but it's easiest to be dropped off, and later find a taxi, at the first beach. Keep an eye out for fortune tellers, fruit sellers and small horses painted to look like zebra.