Hoi An is a beautiful quaint town, beautifully lit at night and decorated with smiles during the day. Unlike Danang the place was swarming with westerners and locals keen to sell all kinds of knick knacks. Hoi An actually feels like a place that we want to spend time in.
I was a little reluctant when I heard Jason had booked us into a homestay for what seemed to be so cheap. The common phrase “you get what you pay for” kept running through my head. But so far we have managed to stay at some very inexpensive places that were decent. I trusted Jason’s judgement on this one.
We had to guide the taxi driver to the road of our homestay. I could tell by the tone of his voice and look on his face as he pointed down our street that he must have been saying “are you sure this is the place?” It was late evening, dark and rainy. Not quite the weather we were expecting nor hoping for.
Minh the homestay guy greeted us warmly and the place was thankfully great value for money. The homestay is a family run business and all are so friendly and helpful. We were also pleased our boys were not the only children, as Minh had a 2 year old daughter, plus there was a Dutch couple with 2 boys slightly older and then another sweedish family with two boys – we were well surrounded!
We very much enjoyed our time in Hoi An. Staying at a homestay felt like we were part of the culture a little more than if we had stayed at an expensive hotel.
The city comes to life at around 4.30pm when it is basically peak hour traffic! Bike chaos everywhere as children get picked up on motorbikes. From then onwards the bustle of the day turns into lights, music and atmosphere.
Interesting things in Hoi An
- Most amusing is observing a group of ladies all sitting on little stools in the old town, trying to sell mango cakes. You notice them on one side as you walk past and minutes later they quickly relocate and you walk past them again. I think they must not be allowed to sell and are probably trying to avoid the security guards from catching them.
- You will be constantly asked/nagged by kids and adults trying to sell you all sorts of gadgets etc.. we got sucked into buying a flapping bird and flying rocket that lights up at night. Whilst these are meant to be for children, they don’t last the night as our kids seem to destroy everything they touch. A nice gesture for the kids, but if they’re anything like ours, be prepared to pay money for something that will probably last a day.
- To celebrate the moon festival, you can catch a boat ride down the river and float a lantern, enjoying all the lit candles down the river. They wanted to charge us $50,000 Dong for one lantern and then wanted to charge a lot more for the boat but we negotiated the price right down. I’m sure being a foreigner they will take any opportunity to over charge, so always bargain down their initial price.
- The old town itself is so quaint and full of little allies and cute streets full of shops. The architecture is a mixture of Chinese, French and Japanese – it’s quite fascinating. I know I’ve said this already, but everywhere you go you see colourfull lanterns that brighten up the town. I loved them so much I had to buy some to take home!
- The Japanese covered Bridge – apparently this bridge was built in the 1590s and it is quite busy walking across it. Taking pictures sometimes can also be busy as everyone wants to take that happy snap in front of the bridge.
- when entering the old ancient town or the bridge you will often be stopped and asked for a ticket. There is some confusion about whether you need a ticket to enter the town or not. Basically we were told that you need a ticket to walk through the ancient town. The ticket itself allows you entrance to 5 different sight-seeing places within the town and you only need to pay once so long as you keep your ticket with you. We came across a few unhappy tourists who kept insisting with the guards that they were just walking through and with no intention of visiting the pagodas or temples.
My understanding is that this new fee was introduced to help maintain the town and it is also difficult for each place to charge tourists per entry, therefore a total fee to visit this UNESCO site, as you would expect to pay at any UNESCO site, would suffice.
- An Bang beach seems to be the only popular beach as Cua Dai beach has suffered severe coastal erosion and there are huge sand bags all along the coast. Although An Bang was pleasant and most speak very highly and are proud of this beach, it was difficult to have an unbiased opinion. Australia has some of the best beaches in the world 😆 enough said.
- Shopping – Hoi An is renowned for its custom tailoring and shoe making shops. You can find them anywhere! Have a read of some advice on tailoring in travelfish. You may/may not think it’s worth it. But I couldn’t believe how quickly these people work! I ordered a pair of boots. Measured and sized in the morning, ready by the early evening and I was happy with my result.
- If you’re into temples and pagodas then Vietnam certainly has many. Personally, once I’ve seen one I’m not really keen on seeing anymore. It just becomes another temple/pagoda. But again, this may be something you like.
- The food markets – the people are eager for your business and one thing we noticed was that most of the stalls are pretty much the same same. They differ slightly, but most will interchange menu items if they need certain dishes. Separate people go around offering drinks as as a side business, although they too are pretty much all part of the stalls business (Not sure this makes sense). Food is good and fairly cheap.
- And finally if you love photography then you have come to the perfect place, as ‘Hoi An is photogenic’.