Vietnam | 4 Days in Hoi An

20/12/2017 – 24/12/2017

With some time off work for winter break, my friend and I explored central Vietnam. Firstly stopping in Da Nang, then Hoi An, and finally Hue.

Day 1

When we arrived into Hoi An we checked into our hotel, Huy Hoang Garden Hotel. We’d picked this hotel the month earlier based on the fact it had a pool. I never ended up going in because of the unexpected bad weather we had!

After doing some life admin stuff we had lunch by the river. I thought I’d actually have some Vietnamese food so opted for Cao Lau, a noodle dish only found in Hoi An. Next we got chocolate pancakes at So Co La (Vietnamese for chocolate), a cafe that serves all kinds of deserts and chocolate. A lot of our time in Hoi An revolved around food!

Without many plans for our first day in Hoi An, we took a walk around and stumbled across the ancient town, managing to hop across the Japanese Bridge without buying a ticket. The old town is a UNESCO world heritage site and the buildings have been preserved from when Hoi An was a major South East Asian trading port in the 16th – 19th century.

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We did some shopping and had a couple of cocktails, Hoi An loves a happy hour! At night there are lanterns lit up everywhere. I’m sure I heard somewhere that it’s law for shops to put them up. The old town is definitely touristy but it’s easy to see why, it is so pretty!

Day 2

Our second day in Hoi An was spent in much the same way as the first – eating, drinking and shopping! For someone on a budget I definitely managed to do my fair share of shopping. Hoi An is famous for it’s tailoring and there are tailors everywhere. Some even followed us down the street to try to get us to go to their shop. It would have been great to get something tailored, but I was conscious of the lack of space in my suitcase coupled with the fact that I’m the most indecisive person in the world. Even without tailoring though, there’s plenty of shopping to be done. We had planned on getting a ticket and going to the old houses in the ancient town, but in the end didn’t feel like we needed to.

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Japanese Bridge

To get a break from the rain we stopped off at Rosie’s Cafe and had some amazing smoothie bowls. Because it was so rainy, we decided to go and get another(!) massage. I don’t feel too guilty because the weather was bad and it was nearly Christmas so treat yourself.. We chose White Rose spa based on the TripAdvisor reviews and we weren’t disappointed. We both had a hot stone massage and Indian head massage and it was pretty great.

By the time we got out of the spa it was getting late so we went and had Greek food at Mix. We got a vegetarian platter to share and it was the best. At home I have a massive hummus addiction and haven’t found any in Vietnam so I loved Mix! As was now tradition we had some happy hour cocktails after.

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Day 3

The next day we went on a tour of the My Son Sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located just outside of Hoi An. My Son is a Hindu temple complex built between the 4th and 13th century. Unfortunately, the site was heavily bombed during the war and bomb craters can still be seen.

The temples were really beautiful and in lush surroundings, and interestingly they were built using bricks but no mortar. Our tour guide was nice enough but quite annoying and didn’t impart much actual information about the site. We ditched him to look around the complex ourselves. The tour we had booked included a trip to My Son, and lunch on a boat trip back, stopping at a woodcarvers village.

When we had finished at My Son we went to get the boat, when our guide told us that the village was closed because they were celebrating, so we would get the boat and have lunch straight away and go back to Hoi An. The lunch consisted of cold rice, carrots and green beans and we arrived back over an hour and a half earlier than scheduled. It was definitely not worth the money we paid and I wish companies would just be honest, we had booked the tour just the day before so they would have known that the village wasn’t taking visitors.

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When we got back we were still pretty hungry so we got brownies and ice cream at Cargo and shopped around some more, later going for dinner and more happy hour cocktails.

Day 4

For our last full day in Hoi An we went on another tour. Luckily it was much better than the previous one! We went on a free bike tour of Cam Kim island, a tour run by volunteer students wanting to practise their English. Just before the tour I remembered that I had only ridden a bike once in my adult life. I was nervous to get on the roads, but after a somewhat wobbly start I turned out to be okay.

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The island was a short ferry ride away and we cycled to our first stop. Here we saw how boats were made from scratch using only wood, which was pretty impressive.

Next we went to see women making sleeping mats. There were two generations of women there and they had been making them for like fifty years, they were really sweet. They work really long hours and it takes a long time just to make one sleeping mat. We had a go at making one ourselves, but I think we were hindering rather than helping them, we were definitely slowing them down!

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Expert noodle maker

Then we went to a temple, and I learnt the difference between a temple and a pagoda (in a temple people pray to their ancestors, an in a pagoda they pray to Buddha) and that the gargoyle-y looking statues are actually unicorns!

Our last stop was to see rice noodles being made. We got to have a go at making those too; I’m not going to give up my day job. We did eat what we made though and they weren’t bad!

Cycling though the countryside was beautiful and this tour was probably my favourite thing I did in Hoi An. The guides were really sweet and spoke really good English. The tour was really cheap; we just paid a small amount for the bike rental, ferry ride and a donation to each of the local people we visited. I saw some people on TripAdvisor complaining about having to pay anything when the tour is labelled as ‘free’. However the guides are volunteers, and it’s important to give a donation so local people can do their traditional work.

After the tour we chilled and wrote some post cards. We ended up getting food delivered to our hotel because we left it too late to get dinner and everything in Hoi An closes real early.

Overall, I thought that Hoi An was very touristy but very pretty. If I had a lot of money and suitcase space I think I would have bought everything! And I definitely would have gotten some tailored pieces. It’s a great place to relax, shop and enjoy happy hour.

Have you ever been to Hoi An? Or on a shopping holiday?

If you want to see more photos of my travels you can go look at my Flickr where I upload them all

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