Thanh Hóa is the capital of Thanh Hoa Province, about 150 km directly south of Hanoi. Like Tuy Hoa on the South Central Coast of Vietnam, Thanh Hoa doesn’t get a lot of tourism traffic.
I got a flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Thanh Hoa as it’s the closest airport to Ninh Binh. Rather than go straight to Ninh Binh though, I stayed in Thanh Hoa first. I’m a sucker for wandering around overlooked provincial cities, and I also wanted to see some sites around the province.
The airport is 45 km northwest of the city. As with many of the airports of Vietnam it started out as an Air Force base, and it wasn’t built for convenient access to the city.
When I arrived I soon realised that my plans to travel around the province were not going to happen. The north has distinctly different weather to the south, and I had arrived in the hottest month of the year. Even though Thanh Hoa is in the tropics, it has weather that more resembles a 4-season weather system. Autumn here is the best time to visit, with temperatures in the comfortable mid 20c range. January has an average temperature of 17c, which is too cold for my tropically adjusted blood stream.
Thanh Hoa was in the midst of a prolonged heatwave when I arrived, with temperatures getting close to 40c. I had planned to rent a motorbike for a day and see the old churches that the region is famous for. Instead all I wanted to do was hang out in air conditioned cafes.
After regrouping my energy in a cafe and consulting my map, I began my wanders punctuated by frequent cafe breaks.
If you find yourself in Thanh Hoa I’ve listed everything mentioned in this post on a map.
[Map of Thanh Hoa sites.]
Things to see in Thanh Hoa
Not knowing where to stay, I picked a place near the Vincom Mall. Here is the Vinpearl Hotel, which is the tallest building in the city and a useful landmark.
The central point of the city appeared to be the Le Loi monument, so I made my way there. As you travel around Vietnam there are recurring names that appear on the streets. Le Loi is one of the most common street names in the country.
Le Loi was born in Lam Son (later to become Thanh Hoa), so he has a major road named after him as well as this monument.
There is no statue of Uncle Ho, but there is an elegant memorial hall and garden at the President Ho Chi Minh Memorial.
[President Ho Chi Minh Memorial.]
Next to the memorial is Hoi An park.
In the park is this armless Yin-Yang clock, reminding me that time is just a construct. Or maybe they just ran out of funding and didn’t finish the clock.
When I’m in a place that doesn’t have much information about it, I will look on Google Maps for interesting geographical features. I saw a little lake that looked promising. It reminded me of the urban lake in Ben Tre. This is Thanh Quang Park.
[Thanh Quang Park.]
Next to the park is an abandoned tower and shopping mall project. Maybe by the time you visit this will be finished and there will be a nice cafe in the building overlooking the park.
If it’s a provincial capital in Vietnam you can be sure there is a provincial museum.
[Thanh Hoa Province Museum.]
Every provincial museum I have seen has some kind of war remnant out the front.
[War remnants at the Thanh Hoa Province Museum.]
The catholic cathedral of Thanh Hoa.
Near the railway station is Lam Son Square and Lam Son Theatre.
[Lam Son Square and Lam Son Theatre.]
There is a market on Ben Ngu street, and in addition to the main market there are mobile vendors on bicycles.
These were the main sites that I saw in my wanders. For me though the main sites are the streets themselves.
For places like Thanh Hoa I put stars on the Google Map for the main sites, and then just walk from site to site while savouring the street activity.
As far as food goes I had a hard time finding places to eat in Thanh Hoa, and many places seemed to be shut in the middle of the day.
Bun thit nuong is one of my favourite lunch time meals, so I was disappointed that this place by the communist mosaic was closed.
In the morning was the best time to find places to eat. My favourite meal was this Banh Cuon Nong. I forgot to note the address and I could not for the life of me remember where it was. I’m the world’s worst food blogger.
A popular destination near Thanh Hoa is Sam Son Beach. It’s 16 km away so it’s an easy side trip. Sam Son is a separate city and not part of the city of Thanh Hoa, so I will post that in a separate blog.
From Thanh Hoa I got the train to Ninh Binh, which is only an hour away. Trains in Vietnam run at odd hours of the day so there are only a few trains a day that are useful for this trip.
Up next is the Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex and Ninh Binh City.