When we chose to visit Vietnam I knew I wanted to experience Hoi An for it’s old Asian charm but also for it’s mix of foreign influences. With domestic flights being so affordable we couldn’t wait to arrive and begin this leg of our adventure. I wasn’t disappointed as Hoi An probably ended up as my favorite place in Vietnam due in part to the old town, which is amazing and so picturesque and also offers exactly what I mentioned earlier, that mix of Asian, Japanese and European flavour, style and culture. We jumped on our flight from Hanoi (which was definitely Micks favourite place), 55 minutes later we had reached Danang. We were picked up by the driver at the airport, we had organised the taxi when booking our hotel at an extra cost of $25 and he took us straight to the hotel. We chose to stay at the Rock Villa Hotel and it was a lovely choice. www.rockvillahoian.vn
Mick freaked out a bit as he thought that we were somewhere very remote, the taxi driver had decided to take the route with little traffic and this gave the impression that we were staying in an area in the middle of nowhere as the roads he took were literally deserted and in some cases not even tarmac with no sign of civilization near by. Once we arrived, to a lovely welcome by Tram, the manager, Mick was frantically searching on line to see where on earth I had booked for our stay and how far we were from anything other than fields and cattle…hadn’t listened a single word she had said…we headed up to our room, put our bags down and we (I) decided to borrow a couple of bicycles and rode towards the old town….I needed to show Mick how close we were in fact to all the action as his search online didn’t appease his worries. Upon riding for 4-5 minutes, Micks’ gloom lifted somewhat as the traffic increased, as did the array of shops, bars and restaurants. After a pleasant 10 minute cycle we arrived at the historic central district of Hoi An….Now to find a place to park and lock up the bikes….we quickly learned that there are ‘designated’ parking places for anything 2-wheeled, most of which are controlled by the street vendors, for a small fee of course. So we parked them up (and pad-locked them too to the annoyance of the old vendor who wanted us to leave them unlocked in case she needed to move them, I refused as I wanted to make sure both bikes were secure). We headed for a small place called Streets Restaurant that serves delicious Vietnamese food. I had done plenty of research before we traveled and wanted to dine here not only for the wonderful, authentic food but we both love to support good causes and this restaurant does exactly that. It is helping young Vietnamese start a career within the restaurant/culinary industry and only employs local, under-privileged youth, teaching them everything they need to know in terms of customer service, restaurant management, food preparation and even offering them the opportunity to learn foreign languages. This for Mick and I is wonderful and in our view should always be supported…..the added bonus is that the food was so yummy!! After dinner we wandered around the old town (by now Mick was praising me for my choice and a lot more relaxed about our whereabouts…), the lanterns that line the small lanes were lit up and look magical, I think this is why I loved this place so much because it was so charming and stunningly beautiful.The Thu Bon River snakes its way through the old town and during the evenings, little old ladies sell ‘lucky’ charms, it is essentially a paper float with a tea light inside that you lower into the river, the lanterns flow down river with the soft tide and this (they say) brings good luck…we imagined the pollution and environmental damage caused by thousands of these things in the river and refused to buy one, preferring instead to buy from the rows and rows of small stalls selling homemade bits and bobs.
The next day we decided to ride through Hoi An and explore this gorgeous town. We headed towards the beach and was told to head towards An Bang beach. We got lost for a while which we don’t mind at all as this is the beauty of exploring new places, off the beaten track, we managed to find our way to some lovely areas of town. We stopped at a secluded beach, it was so beautiful there wasn’t a single soul to be seen. We dipped our feet and took some beautiful photos. We then cycled through the old town, by which time we were sweating profusely in the scorching heat so went searching for a nice cold drink while still admiring the beauty of Hoi An, which made suffering the heat well worth it. During the evening we visited the night market, it was very lively and thrumming with excited and enthusiastic crowds, we bought a few trinkets for our home and sampled lots of street food. We ate only Vietnamese food during our trip and the Cargo and Orivy Restaurants were our favourites and would highly recommend them. We decided to switch from the bicycles as our backsides were sore from all the riding, so we hired a motorbike, again, available from the hotel at a rate of $6 per day. It was so much fun. We went into Danang and visited the Marble Mountains which were just amazing… You need at least 3 hours to explore the area. We paid 15000 Dong (€0.60!!) entrance fee, very cheap and well worth it. We then traveled further down the coast to make our way up the mountain to experience up close the Lady Buddha. This beautiful (and rather huge) structure was on the outskirts of Danang. The drive alone has amazing views of Danang with Hoi An in the distance. Entry was free and we took heaps of pictures. Danang city was just like any other city, busy and rather congested, we didn’t really like it as there wasn’t much in terms of authentic Vietnam although the beach side was pretty and a good escape from the ever present roar of the traffic. Hoi An on the other hand was pretty and quaint, very French inspired in the old quarter but those lanterns give this place an extra special feel. There were cafes, beautiful shops to buy local products and (too) many tailor shops if buying a tailor made suit or a dress is your thing. Near our hotel we found this cute cafe/ restaurant called the Field Cafe, it was absolutely gorgeous!! I could have stayed all day. We sat for drinks on the stunning grounds made even more beautiful by the fact that is sits on the river bank, ducks jump in and out of the water all around and I regret not making the time to return during an evening for dinner.
Hoi An is in many ways a ‘tourist’ destination but there are many things to explore off the beaten track and many amazing things you can experience.
If I had to describe it in one word? Beautiful
Would I go again? Absolutely