Photo: Fishing boats at anchor.

Eat and meet

Most travellers only stay in Dong Hoi for one or two nights on their way to Phong Nha and the caves. You will have no problem being satisfied with some tasty eats during this time.

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For a breakfast bowl of noodle soup, definitely head to Bach Duong at 3B Le Quy Don, at the corner with Duong Van Street. They have every kind of pho or bun (rice vermicelli) for only 30,000 dong a bowl. The pho is particularly delicious. Bach Duong also has seafood hot pot and other dishes such as fried rice for lunch and dinner. Co Xuan, another pho joint at 101 Ly Thuong Kiet, delivers an enormous bowl piled with meat. We thought the pho at Bach Duong was tastier but if you are looking for value for your money, Co Xuan wins.

A block south of Bach Duong is a little heaven for travellers looking for Western comforts. 7th Heaven is a cheerful, cosy, chatty spot owned by Doc and his wife. Doc (called “Mr Doc” by the locals) is a former US Army medic, now an artist raising awareness about the affects of Agent Orange, an issue that still haunts the country four generations after it was used. He's even walked the entire length of Vietnam for the cause. Come for the interesting stories and helpful travel advice, stay for the gigantic portions of delicious and hearty fare: hamburgers, onion rings, chlili con carne, mashed potatoes and home-grown chicken roasted, grilled or fried. Mains are around 125,000 dong. Expect to waddle out patting a happy belly.

For Vietnamese coffee, look for Light Art Coffee and Gallery tucked away at 12 Phan Chu Trinh (west of Nam Long Plus Hotel). The decor is funky and playful, full of art for sale as well as an eclectic collection of found objects. The inside room or garden patio are enjoyable places to have a coffee, tea or beer with the locals.

Tree Hugger Cafe is another cute spot with a central location, across from a park and the river. Books, bamboo baskets and twinkle lights adorn the walls and it’s a lovely spot to pass an afternoon with a Western- or Vietnamese-style coffee, snack and WiFi. There are all the usual drinks (including alcoholic beverages), along with a selection of Vietnam-grown teas and a limited, simple food menu. The all-day breakfast will only set you back 30,000 to 55,000 dong for pancakes or muesli with yoghurt and fruit. The helpful staff can point out sights of interest in Dong Hoi and they’ve produced a great map of the city with a recommended walking/biking route.

For bread, cakes and steamed buns, head to Tien Phat Bakery at 64 Ly Thuong Kiet. It’s considered the best in Dong Hoi.

Unsurprisingly, Dong Hoi is famous for its fresh seafood. Seafood restaurants line Nhat Le Beach and in the summer months, this is the place to chow down on the catch of the day.

For some nightlife, head to lively Buffalo Pub Hostel. In between games of pool, sips of Huda beer and bites of backpacker pub fare you can mingle and share caving stories with your fellow travellers.

7th Heaven: 39 Duong Van An St, Dong Hoi; T: (052) 3833 856;; open daily 10:30-22:00.
Bach Duong: 3B Le Quy Don St, at the corner with Duong Van St, Dong Hoi; open early until late.
Buffalo Pub Hostel: 4 Nguyen Du St, Dong Hoi; T: (052) 381 5599;;
Co Xuan: 101 Ly Thuong Kiet.
Light Art Coffee and Gallery: 12 Phan Chu Trinh St, Dong Hoi.
Tien Phat Bakery: 64 Ly Thuong Kiet St, Dong Hoi; T: (052) 6282 773.
Tree Hugger Cafe: 30 Nguyen Du St, Dong Hoi; T: (093) 5983 831;; open daily 07:00-22:00.

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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Dong Hoi? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Vietnam.

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