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Why Dong Hoi is special ?
There is now lots more going on in this city it is developing nicely and attracting more visitors each year, but there are nearby beaches and caves. There are few tourists in Dong Hoi, so you will be greeted with many hellos. Nhat Le beach is nearby, but the focus of the town is very much on the river and canals.
The locals acknowledge that their prices are higher than almost anywhere else in Vietnam and tell you this for justification if you question their prices. They themselves do not know why Dong Hoi beckons higher prices. This is a shame because travelers tend to rush through rather than spend a few days, so in the end its the locals who are losing out.
What to explore at Dong Hoi?
If you spend time in a nice coffee shop and act friendly, you'll probably get to speak to some educated Vietnamese people with good English skills. Then you can learn about local life. You can also try to pick up a few words of Vietnamese language – which is a great way to break the ice with locals.
There are researchers in Dong Hoi from Europe who come to study the forests of the area.
You can use Dong Hoi as a base for exploring the Phong Nha caves, in case you don't want to stay in the town of Phong Nha itself. There are cheap public buses that go between the two towns (but check the time of the last bus!), and more expensive organized tours that your hotel can arrange for you. You can also rent motorbikes or an Easy Rider trip in either Dong Hoi or Phong Nha.
If you want a place to sit back, relax, and enjoy all the benefits of a small Vietnamese city without the usual city hassles (traffic, tons of tourists, hawkers, etc.) -- then Dong Hoi is a great place to spend a few days. Some travellers end up staying longer than they expected, because life is so pleasant and easy here.
Quang Binh Province Vietnam