Hoi An is a beautiful, peaceful enclave. The second we got off the bus, we discovered that no cars can enter the old town, and motos only on business (taxis, deliveries etc) meaning it is a world away from the hustle and bustle we are used to in the rest of Asia.
We arrived at night and decided to leave exploring the old town until the next day. Instead, we had a bite to eat by the night market- a few local specialties such as Cau Lau noodles and Banh Vac steamed shrimp dumplings. We love the food in Hoi An – so much, in fact, that we decided to write an extra blog all about the food here!
The next day we set off into the quiet streets of the ancient port town, lined by French colonial style buildings, Chinese style carved wood shop interiors, Vietnamese tiled roofs and fantastic pagodas. We actually spent two hours just sitting with an iced coffee (in a cafe we would become regulars in) watching the world go by, next to the covered Japanese bridge, the only one of its kind in the world.
For the next two days, we wandered the lantern strung streets, looking around old traditional family houses and assembly halls, trying not to succumb to tailor made clothing (it is the place in Asia to get suits and dresses made) and eating great food. A stunning town full of history, it is a great place to just soak up the culture and relax.
Despite the apparent sleepy feel, we still managed a night out, bar hopping to take advantage of the outrageous drinks deals (2 drinks and shisha pipe for $2, or even completely free drinks in one bar, how could we not?). Hoi An is the first place we have come across Bia Hoi (beer brewed daily and sold for about 3000-8000 dong, so between 10p and 40p), so that was a factor…..
On our last full day, we planned to see My Son temples. However, on looking at options, pretty much the only way to do that was on a packed tour bus, and knowing how we feel about tours, we opted out. Also, the Americans managed to flatten about 40 of the 60 temples (thanks again Nixon). Instead, we rented bicycles and made our way through paddy fields to the river delta, where a lovely lady called Loi took us out in a completely round bamboo and coconut leaf boat (basket boat) to fish for crabs, make coconut leaf hats and have a good chat. She then led us to a tiny local restaurant for some great Banh Xeo, purely out of good will. It is nice to be reminded that not everyone wants to take you for as much as they can. We then cycled on up to the beach for a spot of sun bathing.
While in Hoi An, we also got a chance to start decorating our future home, by making our very own traditional lantern. With pointed instructions from an old Viet lady, we bodged together a half decent looking lantern, which she pulled apart and remade better. Now all we need is somewhere to put it.
What with our regular coffee house, the photogenic streets, phenomenal food and cooler climate, Hoi An might be stacking up as our favourite place yet in Vietnam.
Phuong Tranh homestay
$15usd per night for a double room. $17 for balcony.
Not a homestay but a guesthouse. Perfectly nice, basic and clean room with en suite wet room, air con, old tv. Locked at night so you have to wake up the old boy who works as a night porter. Staff seem to want to get every last dong out of you – pushy about tours and bus tickets and told Abby off for buying water elsewhere. Fine, but nothing to set it apart.
Public bus number 1 from centre of Da Nang cost us 30,000vnd each (suspect a tourist surcharge). Then 10,000vnd each for moto to centre of town from bus station.