Good Evening, Hoi An!

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.

The port town of Hoi An spills over the river to several islands. Gaily colored lanterns festoon the boats and vendors ask, “Boat ride?”

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.

The warm, incense scented air envelopes me as I doze in a chaise by the pool to the sounds of roosters crowing, motorbikes honking, monks chanting, and off-key karaoke. I love the smell of the incense and wonder if it is burning for the Tet holiday or is it a normal daily occurrence?

Prominent in the city’s old town is the covered “Japanese Bridge,” dating to the 16th-17th century.

“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

After the chaos of Hanoi we found we could really appreciate Hoi An, but it was extremely busy, crowded and touristy. The shops sell the typical touristy stuff and there are lots of tailors in Hoi An where it is possible to bring in a clothing design to be copied and made-to-fit in 3 days or less.

Old Town Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century.

The buildings are a mix of Chinese, Japanese, and French Colonial architecture.

Wandering the lanes in search of the most atmospheric place to eat takes a lot of time.

Eateries like this abound! Atmospheric? You betcha! The chairs just don’t cut it for us.

Cao Lau is the local specialty. Noodles in a tasty broth with roast pork, fresh greens and croutons.

Having a scooter is great to explore the surrounding countryside and beaches. We went out to the coast two times. These are fishermen’s round basket boats.

We stopped here to have a cool drink in one of their chaise lounges.

Some of the best food – and cheapest – and we ordered it from a menu while sitting on the beach. The order was texted to a restaurant, delivered by motorbike, and served us on plates right on the beach!

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.

In Hoi An they sell candles in paper boats to be lit and released in the river. How lovely – if not for the muck it leaves in the river! Hmmm.

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!

2 responses to “Good Evening, Hoi An!

    • Sorry your trip was postponed! I’m remembering the good food. Oh, and the Tacos NGON (fusion tacos) on the main drag are really worth it. Loved The Noodle House on the river and the set menu at Bale Well and the croissants and baguettes…

      Liked by 1 person

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