Last week we left bustling, noisy Hanoi and boarded the sleeper train for Hoi An in search of a little peace and quiet. We arrived around midday to an incredible amount of rain which transformed the streets from arid scooter-filled highways to small rivers. The Vietnamese of course were well prepared with enormous rain ponchos, whereas we were not and ended up getting rather soggy.
Hoi An was a refreshing change from Hanoi, with smaller, cleaner and quieter streets and quaint French architecture dating back to colonial times. The city is relatively small and is a gastronomic paradise - you could virtually eat in a different restaurant every night for months, probably longer at the rate a lot of them turn over.
We initally checked into a lovely hotel with a swimming pool but decided that we would only spend two nights there in order to preserve our travel budgets. We moved across the road and spent two nights in the Sea Star Hotel which was far from exquisite, but doable.
I can't say that I really did much in Hoi An and this is precisely why I loved it. The pace of life is slow, and more notably it was too hot to really do a heck of a lot. Early in the stay we attended a cooking school which turned out to be great fun. And, contrary to popular belief, I am actually capable of cooking edible food! The fact that I am still alive and writing this is proof, as I ate everything I made. We met Sanj and Kristy, a British couple who have been travelling for almost two years. They were absolutely lovely and we ended up having dinner with them a few times before we left Hoi An.
We also met up with Cristian, a Chilean traveller we met in Hanoi. A fairly large night was had on Wednesday after dinner - Billy and I ended up in a strange bar in what seemed like the middle of nowhere drinking vodka and playing pool with four Polish guys. Vincent and Cristian (French and Chilean guys) arrived later and the night went on until the wee hours when we finally managed to navigate our way home.
On Thursday Vincent, Cristian and I hired bikes and rode out to China Beach and spent the afternoon swimming and relaxing in the sun. Billy paid us a surprise visit later in the afternoon looking like a human lobster after deciding to ride a scooter all the way to Da Nang and back without any sunscreen on. Needless to say he spent the next few days regretting that decision!
My final day in Hoi An was spent relaxing, posting home the clothes I had tailored, and having lunch down on the river. We then rode around the island for the rest of the afternoon and met Billy, Kristin, Sanj and Kirsty for a final dinner before departing for the airport to catch our flight to Saigon.
All up, it was a brilliant stay in Hoi An - I really loved the city and it's sleepy vibe and of course the people we met there. I hope to go back one day soon with an empty suitcase as it's a shopping paradise!
Onwards to Saigon ... more soon.
|The lantern bridge spanning the river, Central Old Town|
|Tree-lined streets in the Old Town|
|The river heading out to China Beach|
|Having dinner at our favourite restaurant by the river|
|Looking up the river from the island|
|Traffic jam, Hoi An style|
|Cooking school - getting taught the basics!|
|My Hoi An pancake - not quite to recipe, but absolutely delicious!|