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Vietnamese Foodie Family Heaven At The Red Bridge Villa

A villa attached to a cookery school?  You couldn’t imagine a better family holiday for Hong Kong foodie entrepreneur and blogger extraordinaire Helen from Mango Menus and MM Fresh Food. Read on for her review of the Villa at Red Bridge in Hoi An, Vietnam….

Hoi An - Scott Family

Who went (ages of kids) 

My husband & I took our two children Scarlett & Jamie, aged 4 and 2 respectively, along with an unmatched set of grandparents, my mother and father-in-law.

Where did you go?

We flew from Hong Kong to Da Nang and then took an airport transfer in a minibus to a villa on the outskirts of Hoi An.

When did you go?

We spent 6 nights there from April 22nd -28th inclusive. The weather was utterly fabulous. Hot every day with blue skies and lower humidity than Hong Kong. There was the odd rain shower but nothing serious and the complete opposite to a very bad weather forecast I had read before leaving.

How did you book the trip? 

The trip was booked fairly last-minute by searching Google for available villas that fitted everyone’s uncompromising criteria, including:

-must not be big hotel chain

-must have pool

-must be near beach

-must be near some culture

-must have cooking facilities and restaurant(s) nearby

-must be short flight and transfer time

We booked the flights and accommodation separately.

What did the price include?

The price of the villa included airport transfers, breakfast cooked to order and served to us in our villa and daily maid service (few hours every morning) with laundry.

Did you have to organize visa in advance?

Having consulted the oracle of Facebook HK Moms, I decided the easiest thing to do was organize visas in advance. The forms are short and straightforward, although it did require a family visit to the Photomax in Aberdeen for new photos. Don’t wear white as my daughter and I did. It’s not allowed and led to the comical moment where my 4 year old had to squeeze herself into my 2 year old’s t-shirt, and two her eternal embarrassment, her mother did the same thing, which was rather more tricky, all to save an additional trip back to the photo shop. My helper kindly took the forms to the Vietnam embassy and picked them up 2 days later. I had been warned that visas on arrival might incur a long wait in the queue, which is never ideal with stir-crazy children. However, the queue seemed very short, perhaps because we travelled off peak. We took the kids out of school for a week “because we can” at their age…

How was the flight? Any tips?

You can’t grumble at a 90 minute flight. Everything was on time and ran smoothly.

How far was the hotel from the airport? How did you get to hotel?

The villa was a mere 40 minutes transfer from Da Nang airport, making the overall journey a no-brainer for HK residents looking for a quick mini-break, especially if travelling with young children. 

What did you think of the hotel?

We were extremely pleased with the villa. It’s slightly unusual in being the only villa attached to the Red Bridge Cookery School. It’s a very spacious 4 bed (3 doubles + 1 single = sleeps 7) with a private walled garden, beautiful views over the river and an idyllic pool shaded by fragrant frangipane trees.

How was your room? What baby/kid amenities had been provided?

The rooms were simple and spacious with comfortable large beds (our kids co-sleep a lot so this worked out well).

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Each of the three ensuite bathrooms had an outsized freestanding bath as well as a rainshower in a wet room.

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There was a very large open plan kitchen, dining and living room. Since attached to the cooking school, the kitchen was well equipped including a juicer which we used daily with the local fruit.

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An open staircase led to the 3 bedrooms upstairs while we slept in the largest bedroom downstairs with the kids. We moved the mattress from the 4th single bedroom into this room and placed it next to our bed.

Note that were our kids much younger, this open staircase might have been problematic but aged 2.5 and 4 years old, they managed to negotiate it fairly well. We slept downstairs with them downstairs nonetheless.

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There were some toys in the villa and a large collection of Disney DVDs sufficient to allow us some adult downtime for the odd hour every day!

How were the facilities?

The 20m pool is a decent length to swim in, which later in the afternoon was fairly shaded so ideal for the kids to play in without getting sunburnt. There is a shallow end where they could stand and a deep end where no adult could touch the bottom.

image1 As well as having a cookery school on the premises, there was a restaurant where we dined a few times, once with them serving us in the villa. This is often cited as one of Hoi An’s finest Vietnamese restaurants so we were lucky to have it on our doorstep. 

Was there a beach? How was it?

We went to An Bang beach for a morning. It’s an attractive stretch of sand with high waves to jump in. However, there can be strong currents plus it looked a little violent, so I was uncomfortable with the kids swimming. We built sandcastles and paddled however. On arrival, we were offered free sunbeds in return for our custom at the local restaurant. Having eaten like a king until that point, we wondered what could possibly go wrong, only to encounter the worst meal of the trip.

Did you do any trips/excursions? How did you book them? Would you recommend them?

We hired a guide and drove 45 minutes to Myson, a cluster of ruined Hindu temples built between the 4th and 14th century AD. Despite the high temperatures and relative lack of shade, our kids fared well and enjoyed running into each of the temples as if they were wendy houses.

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Without the kids, my mother and I had a fabulous day the Red Bridge Cookery School, kicking off with a tour of the local organic vegetable and herb gardens. We then spent a few hours cooking some Vietnamese dishes including a beef pho and shrimps cooked in banana leaves. We ate all the dishes for lunch, with the whole experience including freeflow booze. This led to a very long siesta afterwards! I would highly recommend this day for any foodies or amateur cooks, especially for HK residents where all the ingredients are so readily available so dishes should be easy to replicate afterwards.

Dingo Deli is an Aussie run café in Hoi An with an adventure playground, trampoline and sandpit in the garden. Perfect for a couple of hours in the daytime while we plan your day over a cold drink and they run riot.

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How was the food?

The Lonely Planet’s description of Hoi An as a culinary mecca could not be more spot on and ideal for our foodie party! Researching restaurants is an integral part of my life if not holiday due diligence so we tried to eat in Hoi An’s very best. This doesn’t mean most expensive and in fact, fine dining does not really feature here. For lunch, we enjoyed Banh Mi Phuong which Anthony Bourdain once visited and proclaimed as the best Banh Mi in the world! There was also a restaurant on the Red Bridge premises which was reliably excellent based on our 4 experiences.

Overall, our standout meal was at Morning Glory, named after the water spinach grown all over Vietnam. We selected all the signature dishes including the smoked eggplant, white roses, pork spring rolls and various salads. Everything surpassed expectations and we declared it not only the best in Hoi An but possibly one of the best meals in our lifetime. And if you compound that view with quality versus cost, it was definitely the best meal ever! It’s difficult to get sick of the local cuisine, but if you do, we highly recommend Ganesh for a curry.

How were the staff?

The Red Bridge staff bent over backwards to help us e.g. opening the restaurant for us on the night they normally close, when we mentioned we were too tired to go out for dinner. Another member of staff spent 30 minutes ringing different beauty salons until he had successfully booked me in for a pedicure. Needs must… On the downside, watch out for the taxi drivers and their “scenic routes”. Most journeys back to the villa were longer than they should have been until my husband started paying more attention to the route!

How was the trip overall? What tips would you give to someone booking this holiday?

This was hands down one of the best family holidays to date. My husband likes to stay in boutique places which I used to adore pre-kids, but now feel a large hotel might be more useful given the facilities on hand for the children. In fact, the Red Bridge was the best of both worlds as we had our own private villa, garden and pool with a super helpful army of staff of hand to help us, on site restaurant and room service facility. This combined with the fantastic food, great weather, luxury, beauty, culture and short transfer time made it an unforgettable trip.

Apparently, April is the best time to visit Vietnam. Before, it’s too rainy. Later, it’s too hot. Our week was spot on weather wise.

One miniscule caveat is that on arrival, we were slightly aghast to see a large bulldozer at the entrance to the Red Bridge. We were told that they were widening the road. While an eyesore at the time, it was not visible once in the confines of the villa and its gardens. It did have a faint whirring noise but not all the time or all day. In fact my two-year old son was quite intrigued by it and we would walk to see the “digger” most mornings after breakfast at his request. I wonder when the work will be finished…

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Would you go back?

I feel like we have “done” Hoi An, but would love to explore different parts of Vietnam in a year or so. That said, we did discuss the possibility of returning to the villas with adults only for more of a party weekend! Better not tell the villa that… We would unequivocally recommend the trip to families, foodies and pretty much anyone really.

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2 comments

  1. Lattemama

    We have eaten at the Red Bridge restaurant and loved it! Also loved the fact that you could get there by river from Hoi An. Didn’t know they had a villa – it looks lovely!

  2. Luke Mitchell

    Those rooms are spectacular, I love when they’ve got nice clean lines like that, and the surrounding area is equally stunning. For a foodie, Asian is a real treat for sure.

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