Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Hoi An: My Favourite City in Vietnam

Three years ago today I was absolutely loving life in Hoi An, Vietnam. I was travelling south from Hanoi (a city that I was not a fan of) and planning to meet a friend in Hoi An, a friendly, majestic little town that I’d heard and read so much about. It would be a nice change of pace from the big smoggy city where I’d already been scammed twice

A pleasant surprise waking up to this beautiful view of Central Vietnam
I took a sleeper bus down the coast of the country and remember feeling a bit nervous as the bus was clearly overpacked yet I was alone. Foreigners paid full price for tickets (getting a proper bed/seat to themselves) but locals were picked up along the way and were relegated to the aisles to lay out for the ride. All the other travellers seemed to be in pairs or groups, but there I was by myself, backpack straps tied around my legs and trying to catch a few hours of sleep. It was one of the few instances that I wore my money belt.

A Vietnamese sleeper bus. And yes of course the toilet is broken for an 18 hour trip
The bus missed its connection in Hue but eventually I arrived unscathed in Hoi An after 18 hours of travel. I joined my friend at the Nhi Trung Hotel where she’d reserved a room with a balcony for us for $14 a night, including free wireless internet and breakfast. Friendly staff greeted me and showed me to our spacious, clean accommodations. My friend had a little secret that she swore by – pre-booking her rooms through Trip Advisor. Okay, not really a secret I suppose, but when you pre-book through the site the hotel is made aware of that fact, and they tend to treat you better because they know there’s a greater chance you’ll post a review about their establishment. It’s a nice way of keeping hotels accountable to their advertised standard and it certainly worked out in our benefit.

Anyway, once I got settled in, it was time to take care of business. First stop – shopping. 

Hoi An is a shopper’s paradise. Everything is within walking distance. We did a little comparing and decided to order through a shop called “Su Tailors” on the main strip. They offered me a fabulous deal for custom-made clothing (well, after a little bargaining on my part): $100 for a three-piece suit (blazer, skirt, and trousers); $20 for jeans; $27 for two blouses; $30 for a nautical-striped dress; and $35 for a halter top multi-coloured maxi dress. 

Aside from the three-piece suit, you might be thinking you could find these kinds of prices at your local Tar-jay, but considering that these items were custom-made for my measurements, and I got to design them myself from quality fabrics, I was quite pleased. I’m sure I could have bartered down the ladies a bit more, but to be frank, I didn’t want to. From the time I put in my order, these ladies were working round the clock. I had two fittings before the final session, and all clothing was ready in one week. I thought it was such an indulgence to be able to afford this tailor-made clothing and wished I could have treated my family and friends too.

After I put in my order, it was time to relax. Next stop – beach.

Cua Dai Beach is about 5 km up the main strip. Instead of staying in the super touristy area, we followed the locals and turned left after the Cua Dai Road Junction to find a quieter spot just minutes away with free parking for our little rented motorbike. I love the beach but I hate when sand goes up places it shouldn’t be, so 15 000 dong (75 cents) for a day-long umbrella and chair rental was right up my alley. 

Feeling happy and relaxed
During the nights we tried to stick to ma-and-pa type establishments and were rewarded with truly fabulous meals. My favourite joint was Cafe 96, a little hole in the wall along Thu Bon River boardwalk that served the renowned local speciality of Cua Lau. Made with pork, noodles, crispy wontons, and mint leaves in some sort of special spring purified water, this soup-like dish is fantastic (Aimee – you would love it!). We added white rose steamed dumplings, papaya mixed green salad, and two bottles of Dalat wine  heaven I tell you!

via This Battered Suitcase
Hoi An at night
Even though three years have passed, I still think about my time in Hoi An regularly and hold great affection for this little town in Central Vietnam. The people were friendly, the weather was beautiful, the sites were majestic, and time passed by lazily. Despite having wonderful travel buddies during my time there, I remember seeing couples everywhere and feeling envious that I couldn’t share those experiences with my partner (we had been apart for 8 months as he had a work contract to complete in the US at the time). Now that we’re finally reunited (and married to boot!) I look forward to planning our next adventures together. 

Hoi An, I’ll be seeing you again...

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  1. Thanks for the shout out! I think you are right too! You know how much I love me some good soup!!
    I'm so envious of your travel posts! Love that you are sharing them!

    1. As soon as I started describing it I thought of you hehe! Thanks so much for the encouragement, I'm glad you're enjoying these posts. I enjoy sharing them too!!

  2. Wow thanks for sharing this awesome adventure & letting us live vicariously through you! I'm glad to have found you & your lifestyle via this blog!


    1. Thanks Rebecca, hope to see you around here again :D

  3. What an awesome adventure! I have an admiration for women who aren't afraid to go alone. Hoi An looks gorgeous. I can see why you'd want to go back!

    1. Thanks Alison! I was only using a point-and-shoot at this time but I hope to share more pictures and posts in the next couple of months. And it might take me a few years, but I definitely hope to visit again! Do you have any adventures of your own coming up soon?


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