As the sun goes down, Hoi An’s Old Quarter transforms into a colorful, magical place that begs to be explored. Good Evening, City of Lanterns – Hoi An, Vietnam!
Everyone loves picturesque Hoi An! The travel bloggers all lament that they didn’t have enough time in Hoi An. I planned on staying long enough.
We love our big room and the pool in the peaceful garden at Gia Lam Villa Homestay. It is a great find – operated by a multi-generational family: father, mother, their two daughters, husbands and two adorable young grand daughters. Family members hang out and nap together on a huge daybed in the reception lounge where one of the men stays on duty all night. The 9-room villa is completely full.
“Antique Hoi An was once Vietnam’s most cosmopolitan port, as evidenced by the genteel shophouses that survive today. These have been repurposed into modern-day businesses: gourmet restaurants, hip bars and cafes, quirky boutiques and expert tailors. This is a sightseeing city offering historical wanderings through the warrens of the Old Town.” Lonely Planet Vietnam
Drinking my coffee in the open air cafes I enjoy people-riding-motorbike-watching. The motor scooters carry 1, 2, 3, 4, and sometimes 5 people! Children ride standing or sitting in front, or turned around with their heads in their mama’s laps, or sandwiched between two adults – maybe even standing on the seat so they can see over the driver’s head or sitting at the back. Babies are held in arms by a rider, swaddled on chests or belted to the driver. Many lady passengers ride gracefully side-saddle. I’ve seen scooter drivers looking at mobile phones, texting and calling while driving.
It seems as if there are no laws for scooters or that they just do what seems right in their own eyes. They drive on the wrong side of the road, and go through red lights if no one is in the way. For us to drive here we must forget everything we’ve been taught about safe driving and think like the Vietnamese. I’m not critiquing or implying they aren’t safe drivers. I’m sure they don’t want to hit or be hit; they carefully watch and weave around other scooters, bicyclists, buses, cars and pedestrians. I haven’t seen a crash, or bodies lying in the streets.
How We Visited Hoi An
I made reservations to stay in one place for a nice long week during Tet, the Lunar New Year holiday, and left the next week open in case we wanted more time in Hoi An.
We flew from Hanoi to DaNang on VietJet. Our Guest House convinced us to have them schedule a airport pick up to drive us to Hoi An. The taxi ride down the coast revealed gorgeous beaches and resort hotels.
Our guest house is outside the historic quarter. The area is more extensive than I thought. To walk in the heat through thick crowds and chaotic traffic in search of coffee shops and eateries has gotten tiresome. If you can’t beat them – join them! We join them and rent a scooter.
I am surprised to feel safer riding the motorbike in the traffic than as a pedestrian. Renting a scooter is cheap and a great way to explore the countryside and go to the beach, but it’s a pain to have inside the crowded historic district, which is supposed to be a pedestrian zone.
After 8 nights at Gia Lam Villa Guest House we looked for accommodations closer to the action where we can just walk and won’t need the scooter.
We moved to T & T Villa Hotel and stayed 3 nights.
The hotel staff booked us a tourist shuttle to travel to Hue.
I will detail expenses in a future “Cost of Travel” post.
Visiting During Tet – The Lunar New Year
During Tet school children are on a 2-week vacation, banks close and many businesses either close or have reduced opening hours. Even so, enough businesses stayed open for all the tourists and no one had to beg on the streets. As I write this, we are in the second weekend and have found lots of Out of Order ATM machine. They are probably out of cash! Plan ahead and have enough cash on hand for 10-14 days.
Throughout the day we hear music, singing, chanting, and talking broadcasts. We think it comes from the local temple. Our hosts say it is for Tet.
At midnight on Tet New Years Eve the city had a firework display. I heard them from bed.
Basically, it was extremely busy and crowded with locals on holiday, other Asians traveling over the Tet holiday and tourists like us.
There’s more to Vietnam than the picturesque story-book town of Hoi An.
Let’s Meet in the Morning from somewhere up the coast!