What to see and do in Hoi An, Vietnam
By Matt Preston
One of the great joys of traveling and meeting fellow travelers is getting recommendations on places to go and good hostel and hotels to stay in. Our new friends Luke and Anneka sent us a Facebook message letting us know about the “Vinh Huy” which was cheap, comfortable and had an indoor swimming pool!
After a prolonged journey waiting for our delayed train in Hué and then a taxi getting a puncture, we arrived at the hotel and settled in. The room was indeed comfortable and the swimming pool was the size of a large bath. As expected for $15 really.
We went out for one of the best meals we’ve had in Vietnam. At the “Streets” restaurant on Le Loi street. A great place where they help underprivileged kids get skills in cooking and serving in a restaurant. We both had Spicy seafood spaghetti which was sublime. So good in fact we ate there again with friends the next day!
Within hours of being in Hoi An, famous for it’s tailors, we had ordered 4 shirts, 2 each. Long sleeved for our time in Cambodia where Malaria is much more of an issue than in Vietnam. We were told to come back the next day at 1pm to try them on. We ordered them around 10pm!
Speaking of friends we soon bumped into our drinking buddies from Hué, our good friend Brendon from Sa Pa among others. While our itineraries are not unusual the chances of being in a shop when they walk past or even on a different road would be pretty high, it would appear not.
We spent our first full day wandering the streets of Hoi An, visiting amazing temples, old houses and handicraft workshops. While Hoi An is very much a tourist town it still has a charm and character and the streets look much as they did hundreds of years ago. Typhoon Ketsana hit Hoi An just a week before we arrived there but you’d hardly notice. A few roads are stained a muddy orange but that’s the extent of the damage at least in the centre of town.
We arranged to meet friends in the evening at the only bar in town, called “Before and Now”. There really is no where else to go but that’s good. You’re guaranteed to bump into all the fellow travelers on the same route as you, cheap beers and a great atmosphere. There must have been about 20 of us in the end, causing all sorts of fire hazards with a huge circle of chairs. We had heard there was a minibus that would take you on from the only bar in town to a beach bar just 4km away. Once the bar started to wind down and we’d had 2 or 3 too many already, we all piled in to the minibus and disappeared into the darkness on a magical mystery tour. We arrived and they switched on all the lights, started up the music and this rather deserted hotel bar with a pool and right next to the beach kicked into life. It was a messy night of “buckets” of spirits with mixers, skinny dipping in the sea (not us thankfully, we were drunk, not mental!) and we managed to make it back to our hotel room at a vaguely civilised 2:30am.
The next day we returned to the beach with mild hangovers and had a stroll and a quick swim. I say swim, the tide is so strong you’re really just thrown inland by oncoming waves, then dragged out to sea as they recede. I’ve never been in sea with quite such a strong current! A lunch of something that vaguely resembled a chicken burger was soon followed by a read and a snooze on a sun lounger. Listening to the waves crash on the shore and being hassled by sellers every 3 minutes.
We picked up our perfectly fitting clothes including another top we had made for Debs.
A rather subdued night with travel buddies, just a few tiger beers after a repeat performance at Streets (The seafood spaghetti really was that good!). We were all seeking a lay in before we went our merry ways, this time a train down to Saigon with our traveling friend Charlotte. We even managed to share a room and have a few beers as we traveled.
Hoi An is a great place and should definitely be on any Vietnam itinerary. It’s crumbling buildings and quiet streets give it an almost Venice like feel. It’s bustling marketplace is full of women selling everything from fruit and chickens to scorpions and fly infested fish. The sound of hundreds of gossiping women sounds like clucking chickens and you really get a truly Vietnamese vibe there. Accommodation is plentiful, the best restaurant and best bar in town are close by and if you’re up for a late one there’s a free minibus. Having clothes made is mandatory and highly addictive. We would have bought a lot more if we didn’t have to carry them across Asia!