Shopping and Eating In Hoi An

Trip Start Jan 03, 2012
Trip End May 02, 2013

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

We flew out of Phu Quoc prepared for a six hour stopover at Saigon airport.  On arrival, we settled in at a restaurant with free wifi, wrote a blog and did some more planning.  When the time came we went to check in for our first Jetstar Pacific flight.  Compared to Vietnam Airlines that we flew the last couple with, the counter was complete mayhem.  People were jumping over each other and luggage.  Some were eating lunch on the floor in line while others were screaming that they wanted to check in immediately because they hadn't eaten yet.  After switching queues several times, we finally got to the front of one and were told that our flight was delayed by two hours.

We solemnly made our way back to the restaurant but found a cafe on the way where we picked up the most delicious buns.  Coconut, egg, pork and green onion... mmm mmm.  With Everton (in Thailand's Beer Chang jerseys of course) leading Chelsea 1-0 on the tele at the gate, at least one of us was entertained.  The flight itself was uneventful.

Since Hoi An doesn't have an airport, we flew into Danang, another city made famous by the Vietnam war.  Today the waterfront is quickly being consumed by five-star resort developers, with one including a Greg Norman designed golf course.

Arriving in Hoi An by taxi we were greeted like royalty by our guesthouse staff offering us tea, cake and cold towels.  Unfortunately our assigned room smelled a bit off so we inquired about a switch but they were full.  We grinned and bore it for two nights and moved on the third.  Everything else about Hoang Trinh Hotel was wonderful.  They really went out of their way to ensure all of our needs were met.

The old town in Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It was simply delightful to wander through the narrow streets lined by golden stucco buildings with chocolate-coloured shutters and rainbows of lanterns dangling above.  And on the subject of chocolate there are also several
tempting French bakeries in the heart of it all.

Another big claim to fame for Hoi An is the custom-clothing industry.  There are literally hundreds of tailor shops in a very small area, all displaying their 'wears' and drawing customers from all over the world to stock their wardrobes with reasonably priced made to measure garments.  They even keep your measurements on file so you can order more from home.  Needless to say, postal service is also a good business to get into there.

Hoi An is also well known for its great food, with some dishes being unique to the town, including:
White Rose - shrimp and pork rice paper dumplings topped with fried garlic and dipped in chili-garlic-fish sauce
Cao Lau - doughy noodles and pork in delicious sauce topped with sprouts, greens and crispy croutons.  We ate this four times in three days.
Fried Wontons - large crispy wontons stuffed with pork and topped by tomato and pineapppe sauce.  Think nachos with an Asian twist.
Banh xeo - crispy savoury pancakes and herbs rolled in rice paper.
Noteable restaurants included Vi Cafe and Cafe 43 where the draft (aka 'fresh') beer was 3,000 dong (15 cents) a glass.

Strolling the streets made it impossible to resist the many temptations and we sprung for a number of souvenirs, including colourful silk lanterns, clothes and shoes.  After several fittings, everything was just right.  Two postal service representatives came to our hotel to package
everything up and whisk it away on a motorbike.  We hope to see it all again in the same condition.

For our second full day we decided to rent a motorbike to check out the local beaches and sites.  The weather started out cool so we didn't go swimming but the seemingly neverending lines of sand and sea on Vietnam's east coast continued to beckon.  From An Bang and Cua Dai beaches we moved on to the Cham ruins at My Son.  Our navigation skills (and the signage) were much better this time so we only made one wrong turn on the way back.  It seems no journey is complete without some minor mishap though.  This time the lady who sold us gas out of plastic water bottles had clearly diluted it because we were rapidly running low.  Another stop for $2 more fuel from an honest merchant set us straight.  We were somewhat apprehensive about visiting My Son because we'd read that vandals are known for messing with motorbikes in the parking lot, then later offering to fix them for ridiculous costs.  Thankfully our's was in working order on our return.  Surrounded by lush green mountains and flowing streams, the Cham empire couldn't have picked a better setting in which to settle.  Built between the 8th and 12th century, My Son is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Our trip out of Hoi An gave us our first sleeper bus experience.  The fully reclining seats were pretty cozy despite a slightly cramped foot box.  A quick stop at the Marble Mountains was a nice surprise as we'd missed them on the way in to Hoi An.  Jason's tunes played on to the letter F, with 'Fast Blood' by Frightened Rabbit and 'For Real' by Okkervil River as highlights.
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Jinnie on

Goodness...I wonder what the gas was diluted with -- pretty crazy.
I've heard so much about the tailor shops and can't wait to see your custom fitted purchases!

Neil on

Soak in Vietnam for me- I loved it when I was there last...Hoi An was a fav -got a kimono, and a suit, amongst other things, and your food descriptions are getting my mouth watering and bringing back good memories!

I liked North Vietnam in some ways more than South, as it had a different vibe...Go to Sapa if you can!

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