Our next trip was to Hoi An where I had booked a house for five days through Airbnb. We had asked the owner if he could arrange for a taxi to pick us up at our hotel in Da Nang at midday and to take us to Wooden House II in a suburb for of Hoi An, which he did for 300,000 dong (£10.18). We drove along the coast road observing all the new condos and hotels being built along the 30km which separates the two cities. We then turned inland and a few minutes later we pulled up outside our home for the week.
The owner, Nguyen was on hand to welcome us and show us around the house, a traditional Vietnamese style house, built in the last century but now modernised to include air-conditioning with a western standard bathroom, small kitchen, wifi and cable television. Nguyen also provided us with information on local shops and restaurants, a guest book full of recommendations and free bicycles to use to get into the historic old town and An Bang Beach both just a couple of kilometres away. Although with my arm in a sling we decided to walk to a nearby restaurant on the first night.
The weather during our time in Hội An was perfect, beautiful sunshine and blue skies during the day and a little cooler in the evening. It was great for spending time on the beach, which we cycled to, or just sitting at the front door enjoying a glass or two of wine. One of the negative things about Thailand, and there aren’t many, is the price of wine, which is just so expensive. It’s no wonder that the locals drink whisky instead. Wine is much cheaper in Vietnam and in Hoi An it was much cheaper than in HCMC.
There were a number of highly recommended restaurants near our house, which were very good
but they were aimed at the tourist market, which is fine if that’s what you like. You can even sign up for one of the cookery classes that they offer. But I like to experience the authentic places and we were fortunate in that we noticed how busy the roadside restaurant, just two doors away from our house, was every night as we walked past it. I’m glad that we decided to give it a try. We were not disappointed, true the menu was in Vietnamese but one member of the family/staff, the daughter, spoke some English and we were able to get by. We were rewarded with excellent local food and a large ice bucket to keep our beers nice and cold.
The beach is one of the best in Asia and if you but a litre bottle of water from any of the shops you get free parking for your bicycles. Similarly, the sun loungers and parasols are free as long as you buy something from the attached beach front restaurant. Even at weekends, when the influx of locals make the beach busy, it’s still noise free, clean and safe. There is a gentle incline into the clear water surrounded by beautiful scenery.
The French colonial old town was declared in 1999 as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and it’s easy to see why. Picture a south-east Asian trading port of the 15th or 16th century with its brightly coloured buildings reflecting a blend of local and foreign influences, narrow wooden boats on the river and hundreds of people going about their business, visiting the numerous shops, many of which offer to make you hand-made shirts, suits and even shoes of your own design overnight for a fraction of western prices. Visit the bustling riverside market with its bright colours and aromas. Dim the lights and close the market and Hoi An at night appears. Lit up by lanterns and the stars above, the old town invites tourists to stroll leisurely through its traffic free streets and lanes, window shopping, people watching or searching out one of the many romantic restaurants to enjoy a meal in a perfect setting. Of course, prices here are more expensive but you are paying for the location. Traverse one of the bridges over the Thu Bon River to Cam Nam Island, stopping to take a photo or two and then find a seat outside one of the bars. Sit down under the sky and enjoy an evening cocktail or two as the sunsets. Just relax and let this gem of a town work its magic on you. Sometimes it’s ok to be a tourist too.