A flavour of old Vietnam
Trip Start Jun 15, 2011
84Trip End Jun 01, 2012
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Despite the bus looking quite nice, once we set off and moved it sounded pretty dodgy, no matter how fast we were going the bus sounded like it was in 1st gear and struggling along. Then just an hour into the journey we pulled over on a dark street seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Nobody told us anything but then we could hear what sounded like a drill being used on the left hand side... someone was removing the wheels
To be fair, the rest of the journey wasn't too bad and we managed to sleep most of the way. When we arrived into Hoi An it had been about 13 hours since we left Nha Trang and we were herded off to our hotel called Hoa My, and were very pleasantly surprised. The hotel was ornately decorated with a Chinese style, had a swimming pool and our room was beautiful. For $12 (USD) a night we had a big double room with a balcony, cable TV, hot water (with a shower that had a door!), a fridge and art work on the wall. I thought we'd be slumming it in Vietnam, but we've had much much nicer accommodation than we had in Thailand and for less money.
Hoi An is known as the place in Vietnam to get tailored clothes and it feels like everyone here is a salesman. The moment we left our hotel a women on a bicycle came up to us with the classic opener "where you from?" and she was wanting us to go to her friends tailor shop
I don't think I'm exaggerating to say that it's the most beautiful town we've been to in South East Asia. It's perhaps a bad example but I thought it was like the 'Venice of Vietnam' (and that's not to do with the recent flooding, although a few days ago people did have to get boats to and from their hotels). The buildings are incredible, they all have lanterns lit up hanging outside and aged walls with beautiful paintings and so much character... simply incredible. When you're walking around you can imagine that it looked exactly the same decades ago, except with less tourists and less tacky souvenirs for sale
We started our walking tour of the old town by crossing over the old Japanese bridge which is a bit of a Vietnamese icon. It's very ornate, taking influence from China, Japan and Vietnam and guarded by a monkey God on one side and a dog God on the other. We then wandered around the shops being tempted to buy the beautiful souvenirs and artwork before we visited an ancient house. The architecture is amazing, and even more amazing is that just a few days before, the whole place was under 1.5m of water. Looking at it, you would never have known that the place had been flooded at all. We asked the owners of the ancient house what it was like and they showed us where the water went up to and explained that they had to move everything upstairs during the floods. this happens 4 or 5 times every year so I don't know how these houses have survived that over so many years. You'd have thought they would design it as a town on stilts.
Near the Japanese bridge they play traditional music all day and at night there are often all sorts of performances in the town
I think one of the best things about our time in Hoi An was just sitting in a small restaurant overlooking the river, eating amazing food and soaking up the atmosphere whilst paying next to nothing. You can get a fresh beer for 4000 dong - which is 20 cents (US) and really nice beer too. For dinner we had an incredible set menu meal which included 3 taster starters of local food, a main course with rice and a dessert for £2.50 each from a restaurant that gives cooking lessons in the day. It was awesome and we watched people floating their lanterns down the river, and chatted to the restaurant owner, Mr Phong all about the war. Amazingly, he fought for South Vietnam and his uncle fought for the north even though they lived in the same town
Whilst in Hoi An, we also went on a day trip to visit an ancient Cham temple called My Son. Apparently there is evidence to suggest that there were temples in that area from around 400AD but they're just ruins now as several of them were severely damaged by bombing during the war. After taking some photos in ridiculous humidity we caught a boat back to Hoi An which was a different experience of Hoi An altogether. Our boat was ancient and had some wooden chairs to sit on which were all falling apart. They served us a bland lunch of rice and vegetables which we had to balance on the pop-up tables from the seat in front, and you'd have to hold your plate still or it would just slide off. Even the ramp to get onto the boat didn't work properly so on the way back we had to climb onto the boat through a window. It was rubbish, but miraculously it did get us back to Hoi An without sinking which was great!
So, our couple of days in Hoi An have been fantastic and you could easily spend much more time here. We are now on our way to Hue (seems to be pronounced H-way) on a sleeper bus.
To get to the bus was quite interesting though
We have absolutely loved Hoi An, what a beautiful and brilliant place! The real ancient Vietnam!