I had already booked my flight from Hanoi to DaNang. Hoi An is 30 minutes from Da Nang and is a village famous for lanterns, super-quick stitched suits and pubs. I was there for 4 more days.On the first day at Hoi An, I decided to hit the pub. The best thing about backpacking is, you meet fellow travelers every now and then. We left from our hostel to Tiger Tiger, the famous bar in Hoi An and to our luck they offered us 1 vodka bottle & a sheesah per 4 people. And yes, we were 10+ by the time reached there. It was hell of a night.
This is one of my very favorite places in the world. Yes, it is filled with tourists, but I still loved it. With art galleries, lanterns, custom made clothing shops, beaches, beautiful nature, and back roads to get lost on, I said from the first hour in that I could happily live there. I'm still thinking about it! Just have to find a job...
Hoi an is a small European town, also located in the Center of Vietnam. It has the feel of an old French town. This was another highlight of my trip. I stayed at Dk's house but I would advise doing a home stay here.
There is no direct transport to Hoi An. You have to go via Danang, which is a short bus/train/motor bike ride away from Hue. Danang to Hoi An is a half hour cab ride. The motorbike is highly recommended for anyone who is comfortable riding a bike. The hai van pass is one of the most scenic roads you will come across. I would not recommend taking the bus since it does not go via the scenic route. I took the train just because I do not know how to ride a motorbike. The train route is also very scenic but the only thing is that you don't have the option to go at your own pace.
The train goes until Danang. From there you need to take a cab to Hoi An. A lot of people are looking for cabs to Hoi An, so try to find people to go with.
Hoi An has a lot of pagodas and heritage houses. You need to get a pass for 120000 dong to see them. Just rent a bicycle and roam the streets. Apart from that it's got a vibrant night life, great food and awesome tailors. Yes, I said tailors. You can get anything stitched/customised for cheap prices (USD100 for a suit). Just select the design, fabric, lining, buttons and they will stitch it for you in a day.
There are some great places to eat. Out of all, I really loved the Bazar Cafe. Try the chicken curry there.
Divine Hoi An
A couple of days ago, when we were staying at the exceptionally lazy and beautiful HOSTEL, ‘Under the Coconut Tree’, out at Cua Dai beach, I went on a lil’ dive trip. Water logged itself in my ear canal during my first dive and in the words of Ed from Birmingham, I tried the “old hoppadeemus” to free it. It didn’t work, and 24 hours later, with the water still sloshing mildly in my head, I went to sleep in a very coldly air-conditioned room where it solidified. Two flights two days later left me walking a little wobbly as I nervously handed over my passport at Bangkok passport control!
As for the Diving…
The prestigious, I use that term loosely, Cham Island Diving centre took me to, well, Cham Island. As beautiful as the sparse reef and clientele were, the guides and safety standards left a lot to be desired. Before I got on the boat that morning, no one had checked my dive creds, only our word. Which is fine, if you say you can dive and you can’t, it’ll become pretty obvious when you arse up a buddy check or breath from the wrong regulator. I can dive, I am also qualified to drift dive as an advanced open water diver, *salutes PADI.
The thing about a strong drift dive is that if you don’t understand the basic idea of staying close to the bottom where the current is weaker, you may well lose your dive group. Which is pretty dangerous, in case that wasn’t obvious. Han, from Bulgaria, ended up thirty meters from the island. As the numbers of ours, and other groups, dwindled, we rose to the surface early. While Han was located my buddy and I were left to cling on to a large barnacle covered buoy and await the dive boat’s arrival.
I will concede that they stuck to their duties in getting us all safely out of the sea, but they could have easily avoided losing clients and their fins by,
A, ensuring we were all qualified to drift dive.
B, actually checking that we were all genuinely certified to the right standard with experience in drift dives,
C, taking us to a site with better conditions.
Hoi An is totally flippin’ amazing. We spent 4 days here and really wish we didn’t have our onward travel booked. he old town is UNESCO protected and as a result there has been no modern development. The narrow streets remind me of a small Grecian coastal village, but instead of being painted blue and white, they are all a gorgeous shade of yellow, with dark wood blinds. Pete thinks it looks Cuban! Each tree and lamp post is strung with beautiful coloured lanterns which glow at night and cycling down by the river is a joy.minimal traffic and a ‘no horns’ rule in the old town makes Hoi An a much a softer place. At night, a PA system pumps out quiet classical Vietnamese music and the river is dotted with floating tea light lanterns and long row boats offering rides. Restaurants with open balconies look over the water while street sellers offer flowers, Vietnamese doughnuts, lanterns, jewelry and more. It’s one of the most romantic places I have ever seen (Paris eat your heart out)!
Day 12 Hoian – Tra Que village (BL)
Am: Have breakfast at hotel. In the morning you will spend your time walking around HoiAn ancient town. Visit old houses of Tan Ky, Phuc Kien Hall, Ong pagoda, Sa Huynh Museum, Japanese Bridge and enjoy traditional music show at old house. Have lunch at restaurant.
Pm: This afternoon you will cycle around the village and beautiful sights to visit the Tara Que vegetable village. Local farmers use traditional methods to grow without pesticides and fertilizer. Free to have your own dinner. Overnight at hotel.
Day 13 Hoian – Da Nang – flight to Nha Trang (B)
Am: Have breakfast at hotel. You have more free time to walk around Hoian ancient town. Hoian is a good place for shopping and tailoring clothes at reasonable prices. Free to have your own lunch
Pm: This afternoon the driver drops you off the airport for your flight to Nha Trang. On arrival, guide and driver welcome you at the airport and transfer you to downtown, check in hotel. The rest of the time is your free time to relax at the nice sandy beach of Nha Trang. Free dinner & overnight at hotel.
There’s plenty to do in Hoi An, so I would recommend three nights here. Ms Vy’s cooking course (as featured on Gordon Ramsay’s “Gordon’s Great Escape”, May 2011) is fantastic. It lasts six hours, but the time flies by as it includes a tour of the local market, starting at 8.30am.
Another really good outing is the Hoi An countryside bicycle tour, which shows you another side to the town, including the beautiful Japanese Covered Bridge where the Quiet American (starring Michael Caine) was filmed.
We explored the shops, villages, and ancient Chinese and Vietnamese Temples along the Thu Bon River. From a lively vegetable market to in-vogue French bakeries and restaurants, this town is a fun place to relax for a few days. The earliest evidence of human habitation in Hoi An dates back to over 2200 years ago. From the 2nd to 10th centuries, this was the center of the Kingdom of Champa. An interesting way to look at this ancient Champa civilization is to take the inexpensive tour to My Son, passing through the countryside and up into the mountainous jungle where the ruins are located. Catch the seductive Shiva/Kali dance near the first ruin and opt for the boat trip back to Hoi An, stopping to see woodcarvers and boat builders along the way.
If I ever want to describe the word 'charming' to someone, I'll do it with a picture of Hoi An in my head. A UNESCO World Heritage Site that has preserved much of its quaintness since the 15th to 19th century when it served as a port town that absorbed every cultural influence that came its way, the Hoi An Ancient Town is a surreal little world of pale distressed yellow walls tucked around the muddy Thu Bon river.
You can spend several days just soaking in the atmosphere on a bicycle, spending evenings walking by the river and nights marvelling at the fairytale beauty of the riverfront that is lit up with a million lanterns every night. And if you find the time, head out to the surrounding countryside, where the backwaters crisscross with paddy fields and tiny huts. Nothing in Hoi An is less than a picture postcard.