Hoi an is a special place- it is a jewel that shines on the bank of a river casting its shadow through its sparkling lanterns; populated with beings that are hardworking, honest and simple; with food and architecture being a fusion of Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese and European influence, making its’ spectators witness a timeless air for however long one chooses to stay here. The longer, the better!
We landed in Da Nang airport for a three day visit. Enroute to Hoi an, our enthusiastic chauffeur (a feature very common in Vietnam) took a pit stop at a large stonework factory outlet displaying magnificent sculptures of the common suspects-buddha, dragon, lions and good luck charms, set in marble, jade, garnets etc. It was stunning and of course, beyond the reach of our pockets and therefore, we quickly bid our goodbyes and set out for our destination.
At Hoi an, we had chosen to stay at the beautiful Hoi An Greenlife Homestay, set out in the middle of paddy fields and located equidistant from the old quarter and the beach. As we were early for the Check-in, we chose to hit the spa at Nguyễn Duy Hiệu street.
After a relaxing spa treatment, we set foot to discover the street lined up with houses and boutiques, baked in yellow, with wooden facades and small window panes. These shops are stalked with tailors, who are famous for their made-to measure anything-Suits, leather jackets, traditional Aio dais, boots, shoes, bags. Choose your fabric, confirm the design and have it ready, all in a day. Plus you can bargain! This must be paradise!
While dreaming about all the extra baggage we were going to carry home, we chanced upon this little hole in the wall cafe called the Nocturnal Artist, owned by Lam and his wife. Lam makes beautiful paintings which are displayed on the walls of the cafe as also in a small gallery off the road. Lam and his wife work very hard to support their two sons to be educated, something they didn’t get and use the rest of the money to buy a house for the family. The seating at this beautiful cafe was relaxed and we were served with some delicious treats-mango salad, orange, mango and tamarind based vietnamese chicken curry, stir fry with vietnamese noodles and some refreshing smoothies!
Day Two in Hoi an was quite incredible as we all jumped on our bicycles and pedaled our way to the An Bang Seaside Beach. We were met with several paddy fields where farmers riding on their buffalo backs were ploughing the area around. The beach itself is about a 15-20 minute ride from the centre. An Bang is a white sand beach lined with palm trees, canopies and shacks, with few water sports options to offer. One can also see rocky mountains and a city line from a distance from here.
It is quite a lovely spot, especially on a sunny day. However, as the forecast for the day was for rain, the beach received strong currents, which, for us, was the least of the reason to deter us from jumping into the water, which was surprisingly warm. My experience at An Bang became painfully adventurous, when I got stung by a jelly fish. My lovely friends, without a wink’s waste, jumped into action and did everything to ensure that the poison did not spread- we learned that vinegar, morning glory leaves scrub, icing and being adept in sign language communication helps and the influence of ‘Friends‘-the sitcom, doesn’t! Peeing is a big NO NO and even though Chandlier swore by it, do not attempt it on a jelly fish sting!
All our evenings were spent at the dazzling Old Quarter, which enjoys the badge of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Old centre is completely car free and you have to dock your cycles at the port side, making it the only town in Vietnam to be pedestal only. It is also the only place that forces local businesses, by law, to dangle lanterns from their facades, which lights up by nightfall- sparkling the alleys and the riverbank. As this part of town, was my favorite in all of Vietnam, I thought it right to place it in a separate entry and you can find the details here- https://raaheinblog.wordpress.com/2016/01/24/old-quarter-hoi-an-part-ii/
The Pottery Village close to Hoi an has some beautiful world famous replicas, with our Taj Mahal having a venerated spot. The silk Village is a miss and is not worth the ride. One should definitely make a trip to Hue, which resonates with the glorious era of Imperial Vietnam, My Son, which has enchanting ruins from the Cham dynasty (miss if you have been to Cambodia) and the Marble Mountains, which is a beautiful coastal ride.
Hoi An is romanticized by travelers and for all the right reasons. A well preserved ancient city that keeps its traditions alive yet flows with the current beat- all of which makes it my favorite place on the Vietnamese Map. Until we meet again, Chào bạn’.