Asia,  TDM,  Travel Journal,  Vietnam

Sầm Sơn (Vietnam) – Seaside resort where JB is the only foreigner

I found it fun to take JB to places I used to go when I was a kid. It makes me feel like a pilgrimage, and for him, an opportunity to get to know me a little more

Sam Son is one of those places that marked my childhood. My parents are civil servants and it is customary for each department of the ministry to organize inexpensive vacations for their employees and their families. This is still the case today and I still enjoy it sometimes


When I was little, Vietnam was very poor and suffered from the American embargo. Going on vacation was unaffordable. Flying was unimaginable. Each department had its own hotel (which is now open to all) to accommodate its officials and their families on vacation. Sam Son, only a 3 hour drive from Hanoi, was a popular seaside destination, despite its unclear water. Sam Son’s water is a bit red because of its black sand and its proximity to the rivers nearby. Even the tap water is a bit salty. But the sea water is clean and even has therapeutic virtues (it’s like bathing in water with clay, it’s not bad for the skin)

As I was saying, I often went there in the summer, and preferred this beach to the one in Halong where there was no sand (at that time, you couldn’t yet sleep on the boats sailing the transparent waters of the bay). I liked Sam Son for another reason: seafood. We would go to the beach, we would randomly choose one of the restaurants on the sand, my mother would buy seafood from the fishermen in the morning, which she would bring back to the restaurant and pay only for the drinks and the preparation. We would swim, jump the waves, and go up every hour to eat, lying on the deckchairs, with our feet in the sand

It looks idyllic like that but in reality, everyone was doing it so the beach became a giant garbage can. Until someone had the idea to forbid wild restaurants and impose an official restaurant every 100m, with facilities (paying) like shower, restaurant, pharmacy… Now, the beach is all clean, we only see a few unofficial “guards” with their parasol, handing a plastic bag to the tourists so that they can put some things to keep

Vietnamese don’t come to sunbathe, they come to the beach to swim, build sandcastles, play soccer, kite or eat. Here you can rent buoys that are old car tires for 1€ and have your stuff kept for 50 cents

In the evening, everyone walks on the beach where there are lots of clothing and toy stands. Tandems, mattresses, segways, karaoke and darts can also be rented

When we go along this superb 6km long beach, there is no lack of restaurants, but we choose to eat at our hotel. There is no menu, we say to the owner what we want to eat and she manages to find ingredients and to cook. My favorite dish: crabs with tamarind


The closer the hotel is to the beach, the more expensive it is. Our hotel Sao Mai is only 50m from the beach, for 20€ per night with air conditioning. People put on their bathing suits and walk like this in the street to go to the beach, it saves them from having to pay for the clothes


Sâm Son is also known for its fish sauce. We visited the place of manufacture: the fish are marinated in salt for 1.5 to 2 years. After 2 years, all this is filtered and gives the sauce you know, with different concentration rates. A sauce concentrated at 40% is rather used for cooking or to eat with boiled vegetables, while a less concentrated sauce is used for the sauce of nems for example

My parents take us there by car and on the way, we discover places very little frequented (unknown even by the Vietnamese tourists). Like this set of 9 wells which form a source of water, transparent, which reminds Emerald Lake in Thailand. Except that here, it is hidden by a temple and two houses. This temple (den co chin), has the particularity of being able to chase away evil spirits. Look at it!

Part 2: Practical Tips


  • Go there with a Vietnamese guide or a Vietnamese friend, because the city isn’t touristic, nobody speaks English
  • There is a 5 star hotel in the area (FLC) but staying at FLC takes away all the charm that Sam Son offers. If you like resorts, go to Nha Trang instead
  • You can rent a car with driver for the round trip from Ha Noi for 3 400 000 VND (135€) and stop at Ninh Binh, Halong Bay land (which is on the way)


  • Hotel: between 20€ and 30€ with air conditioning
  • Seafood: between 400 000VND and 650 000VND per kg of seafood
  • Seafood meal: 300 000 VND for two/meal
  • Business daycare service: 10 000VND
  • Buoy rental: 20 000VND
  • Water bottle: 10 000VND
  • Breakfast: between 25 000VND and 30 000VND
  • Electric car rental for a ride: between 60 000VND and 100 000VND
  • Coconut at the Hubway: 50 000VND
  • One Coke: 27 000VND
  • Segway rental: 20 000VND for 40 minutes (local price). Price for foreigners: 30 000VND for 20 minutes lol

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