Thanh Hoa is the capital of Thanh Hoa province. The only feature of real interest is a large and attractive church on the northern outskirts of town, and you will pass through the town on the way to Sam Som Beach.
Thanh Hoa province was the site of the Lam Son Uprising (1418-28), in which Vietnamese forces, led by Le Loi (who later became Emperor Ly Thai To) expelled the Chinese and re-established the country’s independence. Muong and Red Tai (Thai) hill tribes live in the western part of the province.
Place to Stay & Eat
Hanh Hoa Hotel( 852517, fax 853963; 25A Đ Quang Trung; rooms US$10-35) is on the western side of the highway in the center of town. It’s expensive for what it is – the rooms are small and in need of refurbishing.
Loi Linh Hotel( 851667; 22 Đ Tran Phu; rooms US$10) is a family-run hotel, rather oddly designed above a sort of massive entry hall. Rooms are small and dark, but they’re clean and have air-con.
Soup shops, cafes and a few restaurants can be found along Hwy 1, especially near the southern entrance to town.
Getting there & Away
Thanh Hoa is a stop for the Reunification Express trains (see the Getting Around chapter). The city is 502km from Hue, 139km from Vinh and 153km from Hanoi by road.
Sam Son Beach
Sam Son is possibly the most popular beach resort in the north. It’s too far from Hanoi for day-trippers, but during summer (May to September) the place is chock-a-block with weekenders escaping the oven-hot capital. During winter, Sam Son is pretty much deserted and only a few hotels bother to stay open.
There are in fact two beaches here, separated by a rocky headland. The main beach, which is beautiful out of season, is on the north side of the headland and is where you’ll find a concrete jungle of hotels, karaoke bars and massage parlors. It’s not to everyone’s taste, but is probably fine for an out-of-season day trip, if you’ve got your own transport. Thesouthern beach is mostly undeveloped, but it can still fill up with picnickers. The headland itself offers some decent hiking and scenic views, though the promontory has a military base and a sign (in English) telling you to keep out. The rest of the headland is a park and is open to the public.
The area is notable for its pine forests, enormous granite boulders, sweeping views and long stretches of white sand.
Places to Stay
Most of Sam Son’s ugly state-run hotels offer luxury hotel prices without the luxury. Be aware that prices tend to go up between June and August (high season for domestic tourists). It’s possible to negotiate discounts in winter, though there’s not much point visiting at that time.
Most hotels are state-run but Hoa Dang Hotel( 821288; 3-bed rooms low/high season 100,000/350,000d) is a smaller private hotel. Don’t expect too much for the price, but at least you can sit on the balcony overlooking the beach and escape the room.
There is a crowd of hotels(rooms low/high season US$15/30) along the beach.
Getting There & Away
Access to Sam Son is from the Thanh Hoa road and railway junction. It’s only 16km to Sam Son, a short enough trip by motorbike.