I LOVE Hoi An! After leaving Cambodia, we spent a few days in Hoi Chi Minh City in the south of Vietnam. I instantly preferred Vietnam to Cambodia and despite HCMC being an Asian city like many we've seen before, I did like it. We spent our time there wandering round the city and took a coupe of tours to museums and places of interest in the city. However, I'm not going to share too much about that as I'm too excited to tell you about Hoi An!
Hoi An is a little town, halfway up the country near the East coast. It's a riverside town, with a pedestrianised 'Old Quarter' that takes you back in time and makes you feel like you're on a film set! The Old Quarter is full of little yellow buildings and every available hanging space is taken up with lanterns. I was drawn in to a lantern shop and couldn't resist buying a big silk lantern for myself, as the shop owner kept lowering and lowering the price until it was about 3GBP! [I don't want to admit that it was too big and got in the way slightly and I've just shipped it home, with loads of other stuff, for about 30GBP - oops!] The town is full of lovely wooden fronted shops, filled with books, stationery, hundreds of tailors [it's the place to get something made!], made to measure shoes, cute cafes - it has everything!
It's a quiet little place, compared to the cities we'd been in previously, but still packed with history and easy, fun things to do. We took a trip along the river with a hilarious Vietnamese woman, chatting away to us in very broken english, cackling and smoking a tiny cigar off the back of the boat! She also convinced us to buy candles and floating lanterns from her, to float down the river for good luck. We got the wrong end of the stick and thought we were meant to put the money in the lanterns and float that down the river! Much hilarity and scrabbling for the lantern ensued when she realised what we'd done - haha! The sun was just setting as we went on our boat trip and it was lovely to see the town from the water.
We also bought a combined ticket to visit all the historic sites within the city. We took a day to wander around and visit the Japanese influenced bridge, the Chinese Meeting House, an ancient artifacts museum and looked inside a traditional Vietnamese house.Another popular tourist attraction in Hoi An seems to be cooking courses - we did one at One Moment Restaurant and it was great. We took a trip to the market to buy the produce with our guide, then cooked up an amazing lunch on the restaurant balcony overlooking one of the town's streets.
We met up with some friends we'd made in Cambodia for dinner one night, they suggested we go to Bale Well - a street food restaurant recommended in Lonely Planet guide book, it had also been recommended to them by some local expats. As soon as we sat down around a little table with plastic chairs [rather than stools, making it more than just streetfood...] our table was filled with plates of salad, different meat on sticks, rice paper, sauces, vegetables, spring rolls, omelettes and noodles - despite us not ordering anything yet! Apparently that's how the restaurant works, they only really sell one meal - a massive roll-your-own tasty rice paper feast! As we looked bemused, a lady came over to show us what to do. You literally just grab a bit of everything, shove it into two layers of rice paper [otherwise it falls apart] and then 'DIP, DIP' she kept shouting to us! It was a really fun, different meal out to normal and it tasted amazing. It was nice to try something that I wouldn't have normally chosen from the menu.
We also hired bikes, Sound of Music style - complete with baskets, and cycled to the local beach. It took us about 20-30minutes to cycle there, luckily in a completely straight line from the main road in the guesthouse area of Hoi An town, otherwise it may have taken longer. It was a really nice journey, through the rice fields and past the fishermen fishing in the river. The beach itself was nice too, the waves were pretty rough on the day we went so it's not really so much of a swimmers beach - we stood in the water and waited to get bashed by the next wave haha. The local restaurant provides free sunloungers and big bamboo/leaf sun shades for free, if you agree to have lunch with them. The prices and the food looked good so we agreed - and it was a tasty meal at lunchtime so that worked out well. We also met this tiny dog in the restaurant, it was so cute! It attached itself to Josh's leg and started biting his leg hair, haha!
Hoi An has been my favourite place we've visited so far, there's so much to do for such a small place but you can easily spend a lot of time doing not very much there too! We almost missed Hoi An out of our trip, as we didn't think we'd be able to make the route work. It took a couple of flights and some extra money but I'm so glad we went!