14 August 2014
Hoi An, Vietnam
Hoi An, what a gem!
Travelinds had heard the hype around how ‘wonderful’, ‘amazing’ and ‘beautiful’ Hoi An was, but it was only when we actually arrived here to experience it for ourselves that we believed any of it! It really is a place that finds its way into your heart and no doubt, the memory bank of best holidays ever.
Hoi An was our last stop before Ho Chi Minh City, after two weeks travelling down from northern Vietnam. The week here consisted of delicious food, cheap beer, fantastic shopping, tailor-made clothes, exploring the area on scooters, riding bicycles through the rice paddies, rejuvenating down time and plenty of fun at the beach and in the pool at Sunshine Hotel.
For a change, we were travelling in a group of 11 friends (not just the two of us anymore) and this served to double the fun (and, of course, the stress at times). All of our group thoroughly enjoyed their stay in Hoi An and each said it was the experience of a lifetime!
- Best Ice-cream – a small shop (window) up near the wooden ‘Japanese covered’ bridge. Coconut flavour!
- Best Beer – TinTin Restaurant, opposite Sunshine Hotel (4,000 VND per glass – about R2.50)
- Best Tailor – this was hotly debated in our group because everyone used different places. There are hundreds to choose from in this area. We used Bari Tailor (right at central entrance of Old Town, where the scooters are parked, corner of Le Loi and Phan Chau Trinh) and Mr Xe (both in Ancient Town) and were very happy with the results (e.g. about $100 for a full suit, with trimmings). The girls used a little tailor fifty metres down the road from Sunshine Hotel who works out of her tiny clothing shop; they were very happy with their clothes too!
TIP: We were told that the tailors tend to line the suits with paper (to save on material etc.) and this later crinkles and ruins the suit. Be aware of this practice and ask the tailor for guarantees, quality and honesty – you still have to place a lot of trust in them though and unless you’re a professional, you may not be able to tell whether these dishonest practices have been used or not.
- Best Beach – Cua Dai for shade, An Bang for quiet time
- Best Souvenir – aside from shopping up a storm, my favourite souvenir was the scar I now have on my right knee due to a little scooter accident in the rice fields at sunset (the accelerator got stuck and R thankfully reacted fast enough to let it down easy and not have us both land in a boggy rice field or the deep drainage trench).
- Best attraction – the Ancient Town by night is simply beautiful! Lanterns light the way along the old buildings and lotus candles float down the river. Puppet shows and Vietnamese theatre, romantic restaurants, delicious street food, stone paved streets and an atmosphere of pure contentment. There is a street market on the other side of the Cau An Hoi bridge.
We had taken the train from Hanoi to Hue and then decided on taking a day tour (16-seater van) from Hue to Hoi An, via Lang Co beach, Hai Van Pass and the Marble Mountain in Danang. There are also 4-5 hour busses (about $5) from Hue to Hoi An. At some point, we were considering doing it on motorbikes (with luggage delivered for us to the hotel in Hoi An), but we chickened out as we didn’t know the way, didn’t speak the language and it was hot (and sometimes raining). Later though, part of our group took the bikes up Hai Van pass from Hoi An (a sunrise ride and they were back at the hotel for a 9am breakfast).
In Hoi An, and Hue, we cycled around on creaky old bicycles (with no helmets) and blended in to the hustle bustle of the traffic without any problems. In Hoi An we also hired scooters to get around, although the Old Town and market were only about 15 minutes cycle from the hotel. There was also a free shuttle to and from the hotel at certain times of the day (except on Sundays).
TIP: Right outside the Sunshine Hotel is an enterprising Vietnamese lady with an innocent-looking snack cart. The snacks are good, but she also hires out scooters, does laundry, advises on tailors and can probably organise anything else you might need, including tours. Don’t be fooled by her initial friendly banter, she’s a business woman through and through – better not be more than five minutes late giving back the scooter unless you want to pay for a whole extra day.