If one should go anywhere in Vietnam, it would have to be Hoi An (and go there ASAP before it gets even more expensive and touristy). Hoi An is a gorgeous coastal city (South China Sea) in central Vietnam and it is one of the most relaxing and still untouched places in SE Asia. I foresee that in 5 to 10 years, the beaches will be packed with international resorts and all the locals with their charming sea side lunch huts will be kicked off the beach.
Flying into Hoi An from Hanoi (1 hour flight) was an experience! I do not know if it’s because people here are naturally loud, or if it’s just the language that causes people to sound like they are yelling, but the entire flight was super loud. What we later realized is that for many local people, this was likely their first time on an airplane, so the excitement was on a different level. It was fun to participate in laughing and screaming with children on the plane as it took off (my screaming is due to flying anxiety, theirs due to excitement – but hey, at least I didn’t seem weird on this particular flight).
Palm View Villa: this is a brand new B&B which consists of only four gorgeous and modern rooms. We booked this place for one night as it didn’t have any other availability and then moved to another spot for 2 more nights. We did decide to come back after the two night stay somewhere else as we loved it here so much. It is a bit far from town and the beach (about 3+ km’s each way), but it sure was a good daily work out in 100 degree weather.Breakfast set-up…Some days were spent here… Garden Aroma Homestay: another great spot where you actually stay with a family that lives on premises. It wasn’t as nice as Palm View, but the location was great – very close to the beach.WHERE TO EAT:
Pho Xua: sometimes, without the help of TripAdvisor, you walk into a place due to sheer hunger and you hope for the best. THIS PLACE WAS AMAZING! Wonderful owner, amazing vegetarian and non vegetarian Pho, spring rolls, ginger tea, etc. When a place is clean, cheap and does wonders for your gastrointestinal tract, there is no reason to go anywhere else. And Kieran had a beer here on nightly basis for $0.75 cents.
Reaching Out Tea House: A great little spot right in the center of the ancient town which has a great cause attached to it. Everyone that works here is deaf and mute; all proceeds go to help citizens with similar disabilities. It is a silent tea sanctuary with lovely choices and you even get to play with word blocks while explaining what you would like to order. Loved it! CocoBox: a yummy vegan spot for delicious desserts and smoothies. A bit pricey for Vietnam, but a great place to have a snack and to people watch.Phi Banh Mi: A favorite lunch spot. Banh Mi is a Vietnamese term for “all kind of bread”. So, really it’s just a french baguette sandwich. Many folks go for Banh Mi Phuong which was made popular many years ago by Anthony Bourdain. But, like most things that become too popular, the place no longer looked that great or fresh with far too many options on the menu. So, we decided to go to a more hidden gem just a few blocks away. When it comes to Banh Mi, most tend to order the pork option, but Kieran and I opted out for the vegetarian option which is always available and it consists of fresh veggies and a fried egg. For $0.75 cents, lunch was served! The owner, Phi and his wife were lovely as was Phi’s father who is a Vietnam War vet (or as they call it in Vietnam, “the American War”) and you are literally eating lunch in their living room. We spent a lot of time cycling around town and the neighboring villages and walking into cute little schools. Here is communism in full effect!WHAT TO DO:
Hoi An Ancient Town: a beautiful little water front town which you can bike through or walk around while checking out numerous tailor shops, art stores and cafes. We hung out here every night while I was having a dress custom made (more on this later).Cua Dai Beach and An Bang Beaches: Both the Cua Dai Beach and An Bang Beach are really the same beach, An Bang is just a bit further from the center of town. Cua Dai is nice but packed. An Bang is pretty quiet and still has preserved its beauty and cleanliness for the most part. The water is super warm and clear. You do get harassed by locals to park your bicycle and to pay them money, but after reading many reviews and suggestions, we just went a bit further out and parked in an alley way for free and spent most of our days at this wonderful beach (when we weren’t at the pool).
Cui Dai beach on our first day here . . .
Lifestart Foundation Workshop: a really great way to spend half a day if you are recovering from second degree sun burns. You learn how to paint traditional Vietnamese cards followed by a lantern making class. All proceeds go to the Lifestart foundation that was started by an Australian woman who supports all employees that work here (each one with some type of disability – missing limbs from the war, childhood polio, land mine tragedies, etc.). We loved the concept and the beautiful crafts these women/men make!
We especially enjoyed being yelled at by our painting instructor who thought we were useless, but the end result turned out to be pretty great. Tough love works!
The original work by the artist…Our final product…good enough to sell!Followed by a lantern making class … And finally, while here, get yourself some clothes tailored. As you may notice from every single picture from the 7 days here and the last 6 months, I am wearing the same outfit. As Kieran, my favorite fashionista would say, my LBD (little black dress). Yes, backpacker life means having only 1 dress. So, I went to a tailor shop (after spending days walking around and bargaining with various shop owners) and had my dress that was on me copied and made within 24 hours. After two fittings, the dress fit like a glove. You can have ANYTHING made here. It’s kind of crazy! The final product – my dress in coral…get ready to see this in every blog post going forward…
And naturally, I spent most of my time (when not at the beach) playing with random dogs! The owner of the dog below was worried when the dog ran out of the house; when I asked why he was concerned, I got the familiar “we know what happens to dogs here in Vietnam…so, I must keep him locked up at all times or he will be stolen for meat” — YIKES!I could have easily stayed in Hoi An for another week just to chill at the beach, eat at my favorite Pho place and listen to Kieran make puns like “pho real” on daily basis. But we had to keep moving.
Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) awaits!