We arrived from Dalat in Hoi An after our first overnight sleeper bus. Considering the sleeper buses aren’t equipped to deal with the height/length of us Westerners we still managed to get a decent-ish sleep with our knees in our mouths before we arrived, so managed to spend the day wandering around the streets.
The first thing that grabs the attention of any tourist in Hoi An isn’t the beauty of the quaint little town (although it is stunning) but instead it’s a random Vietnamese lady appearing out of nowhere who commences to chat and practice English. How friendly. Although after about five minutes the conversation turns to the shop that her uncle/cousin/brother has which is only a short walk away. A hidden agenda after all, we should have known! This happened to us within minutes of setting out to explore the town on foot. Even on a moped or bicycle you aren’t safe – twice other moped drivers came up beside us to “practice their English”. But it’s all part of the fun and they weren’t aggressive or over-forceful.
Once that is out the way and you get accustomed to ignoring these pests you are free to be grabbed by the beauty of the town. Quaint little ancient streets, hanging lanterns, French colonial buildings, Chinese shop houses and the infamous Japanese bridge. It’s a great town to just wander in. Even though it’s small you can lose yourself on the same street again and again as the bustle of daily life continues to offer differing scenes of enchantment. Although the downside to all this is that it attracts a lot of tourists, it was the first place in Vietnam where we felt as though we were part of a tourist spectacle rather than seeing the real Vietnam.
That said it’s easy to escape the tourist onslaught. Hire bikes and you can cycle out to the countryside to get a glimpse of rural Vietnamese life. A nice circuit takes you through villages and past rice paddies before heading to the beach and back to the ancient town of Hoi An.
As well as the quintessential Hoi An tailoring where we can get suits, dress and outfits custom made (just show them a photo of the designer dress you want and they will replicate) there is also a fantastic food and drink scene – after all, anywhere which has a dedicated Mr Bean Bar takes its drinking establishments seriously. The best food we found was at a small shack run by Mr Son, great spring rolls and Vietnamese pancakes – yummy.
Even with the pesky (but friendly) sales people and the hordes of tourists, Hoi An captured our hearts as it’s a place you can’t help but adore. Vietnam continues to impress.
Stay: We stayed at the Tribee Kinh Hostel which was amazing. Each night they host some sort of event of either: free beer, free rum and cokes or free spring roll dinner. Also a fantastic self serve breakfast is included.
Eat: The aforementioned Mr Son’s is definitely worth a trip. Really cheap and very tasty.
Do: We recommend hiring bicycles to go off and explore the surrounding area. The rental place should provide you with a map that shows the route through the villages, to the beach and back to town. It’s about 16.5 miles and you can check the route out here. Also ensure you have plenty of time to walk about town and this is a great place to buy custom made clothes.
Moving On: The next logical place to go is Hue. You can get a bus there, however, the drive includes the famous Hoi Van Pass which was featured on Top Gear so it’s much cooler to rent a scooter/motorbike and drive yourself. Blog on our adventure doing this here.