Part II: Hoi An Vietnam
I’ll be honest, the only reason this place was on my radar was from following #hue on Instagram, as I’d always wanted to visit Hue. It was the scene of some pretty intense fighting during the war and had also been the capital of Vietnam in the past so it’s packed with history. I started seeing #hoian popping up in my feed and I was pretty blown away by the pics. So the plan was to fly into Da Nang and then grab a taxi down to Hoi An, stay overnight on new years eve, and then head back to Da Nang. We used Vietnam Airlines to take the short in country flight and were happy with the service & modern fleet they were flying (we flew an airbus 321). It was cool watching the scenery go by out the window, very picturesque. On landing in Da Nang, we had our first snafu. A ride was supposed to be supplied by the airbnb we were using from the airport to Hoi An, but no one was there and no communication forthcoming. Eventually got someone on the phone and thru some very rough communication we were made to understand that there was a misunderstanding and no one was coming.
Meanwhile we were being eyed by groups of random taxi drivers wanting to make a buck. A group of youngish guys standing nearby had been watching us the whole time, and when they figured out we weren’t going to have a ride they offered to take us there. They asked where we were going and cousin Jessica told them and and asked how much to take us there… “750”. Translation, 750,000 dong which equates to about 32$ to haul 10 people and luggage 45 miles. We were all worn out and so we didn’t yet agree but started following them towards the parking lot. In most third world countries, it’s not really a great idea to use ‘unofficial’ taxi services, they often quote one price and then pull another when you arrive and use the communication problems and reluctance of foreigners to argue against you to extract big profits. My wife was growing quite uncomfortable with the look of this group and I peeled off towards the official taxi stand and yelled in vietnamese, how much for 10 people and luggage to go to Hoi An? 450 they guy hollered back. LOL. 19$. I yelled at Jessica to come back and the whole group turned towards the taxis. I could see the look on those guys faces, they thought they had 32 american locked up… Sorry dudes!!!
We managed to stuff 10 people and 20 pieces of luggage in a regular size minivan and we were off for the 40 minute drive. I was the only one comfortable in the front seat alone. =)
After the intensity of Saigon traffic I was really excited to be getting out into a more rural setting, the rice fields and water buffalo and the more relaxing vibe of ‘old’ Vietnam.
We arrived in Hoi An soon and checked into our airbnb, which was really an old guest house, and man was it beautiful. Definitely had that ‘old asian’ charm about it.
Our AirBnB in HoiAn
The view from our balcony
A quick bit about Hoi An:
Hoi An was a very famous trading port from the 15th thru the 19th century and a lot of various ethnicities settled in the area due to the wealth that those activities brought to the area.
It is considered one of the best preserved examples of a southeast asian trading port and its buildings have a definite french colonial period vibe. It is now billed as ‘the city of lanterns’ because of the tens of thousands of chinese lanterns hanging about town which give it a very colorful and pretty vibe at night. A photographers dream basically. There is also a 16th century covered Japanese bridge that is also a temple there that is really cool. So cool they make you buy a ticket. I opted for pics from the outside.
We spent our first evening wandering about town, checking out the local market & food scene and doing a bit of shopping. By the time the evening was over we realized one night would not be enough and decided spur of the moment to change plans and try to stay another evening. Our airbnb was already booked but we managed to find a hotel in town that would serve the purpose.
The next day was more wandering about town, the usual shopping, eating, drinking and sightseeing. We managed to move our luggage over to the next hotel which sucked in comparison to our airbnb but any port in a storm!
The next morning I had my first really crappy moment in VN. We had spotted a highlands coffee down the street from our hotel, and I was excited to get some ‘western’ coffee with pre-defined menus and large serving sizes. The coffee in VN is amazing but getting a correct order is totally hit and miss and I was jonesing for an easy order.
After ordering a large, black, no sugar, no milk, no ice coffee off the menu, I was brought a giant cup with approximately 2 inches of coffee in the bottom of the cup. WTF.
I went back to the counter and asked why my cup was a 16th full and pointed to the receipt saying large black etc etc. The guy said oh this kind only comes in one size. I again pointed out my receipt and got a dumb look. I did not have the language skills to argue and went back with my undrinkably strong coffee. Meanwhile my wife sits down with a huge, perfect cup of black coffee. She ordered an americano and got exactly what I wanted. Man… this day just started on the wrong foot. I was able to pour a bunch of hot water in mine and salvage it but I was in a crappy mood. I went down to the market that morning and bought my own pour-over kit and a bag of good Viet coffee. No more dealing with misunderstandings for coffee!
Little did I know, the day was going to get a lot worse! (See Part III!) We finished up our morning, checked out of our hotel, and hired a van to get us to Da Nang and our next airbnb. Onward!
Final take on Hoi An… it’s a really neat and friendly little town. The vibe is super cool but it’s a little chilly in the wet season. This place is becoming the ‘IT’ spot for custom suits, bags and hand tailoring, and I was reading somewhere that several custom clothes makers in the town are getting legit rich for their talents making custom clothing for tourists. The food is unique in this area… so unique that my southern Vietnamese relatives weren’t thrilled with their food… ? but… they have their own traditions and I hear that cooking classes for tourists are really popular there. If you’re a photo buff, this would be a ‘can’t miss’ type place to visit.
If you have questions about traveling in Vietnam or Hoi An, feel free to ask in the comments and I will do my best to respond!