Photos by @DantonNuwen
After a day in Ho Chi Minh City eating snake and spending time in Cai Be visiting family near the Mekong Delta and also seeing their jackfruit and durian farm, we spent a few days in Hoi An. It was nice to have some time together, just Danton and I, away from the commotion of the city. For days 4,5, and 6 of the trip, we got to relax and get away from it all.
I loved being in Hoi An despite it being very touristy. The people were very friendly, the buildings were beautiful, and it was much calmer than Ho Chi Minh when it came to traffic. I’d love to come back again some day.
Getting There From Ho Chi Minh City
Getting there was super easy! We booked flights with Vietnam Airlines (http://www.vietnam-airlines.flyvietnam.com/domestic-flights) to Da Nang for about $60 round trip each. The flight included 1 free checked bag and 1 carry-on, which was awesome because originally we were going to fly with Jetstar and they charge additional for luggage. We were really happy with our flight and we would fly with them again for sure!
If you’re staying in the city, getting to the airport is a breeze and the check-in and bag check were very quick for us. I would really recommend taking an Uber to the airport. We ended up taking a cab and the driver tried to get more money out of us by letting the meter run while he helped with our bags. It was such a small amount of money, but it is kinda frustrating.
The flight was short, less than 2 hours, and we had a driver arranged through our villa to pick us up and drive us to our place for $17 USD. The drive to Hoi An was about 40 minutes and we were able to see the bright lights of Da Nang’s city. Kind of wished we had time to go back and check out the ferris wheel and the dragon bridge. Next time!
When we were browsing Airbnb for a place to stay in Hoi An, our requirements were that the place to be close to old town, have wifi, and be fairly clean. That yielded a lot of results! Banana Garden Villa caught our eye because of the above prerequisites, nice and clean photos of the place, and some reviews about their free bicycle rental!
This villa exceeded any expectations I had. We arrived and were greeted right away. We sat down in the lounge with lemon juice as the host went over a map of the spots to go to, tips for bargaining with merchants, and her favorite restaurants. We were then brought to our room to get settled and- wow- the scent of lemongrass and the cool A/C was just amazing. It was a great first impression they gave us.
Banana Garden offers free breakfast every morning which you can enjoy next to the pool. The menu varies from more Western dishes to some of the local food. The ice-coffee was awesome! It was always great to have a plate of fresh fruits to start the day too.
They have various services, just like a hotel does, but what I found the most useful were the free bicycles! It was a great way to get around quickly (and get some exercise) and see more things. If you’re feeling bold and daring, you can ask them to rent you a scooter! We were able to get one for about $7 USD/day and we had a wonderful time driving through the rice paddies and getting to An Bang beach.
What I loved about this place was that it felt like they were always being completely honest with us when recommending places to see or even where to get our clothing tailored! I definitely recommend staying here when you visit Hoi An.
Getting Tailored Clothing
The very first thing we did after putting away our bags was hop on a bike and go to Bebe Tailor (Trip Advisor Reviews). One of the things we decided on before coming to Vietnam was that we would each get ourselves something nicely tailored. Danton was looking to get a suit made and I wanted a dress.
Our host had recommended that we go here because the quality was one of the best in Hoi An. They told us that it wasn’t very expensive, but that it wasn’t cheap. We could have had way more things tailored somewhere else with our budget, but we were very happy with the results and I think it was worth it!
It was such a neat experience to go through the whole process of having something tailored for me. I showed them a dress I had seen on the Ted Baker website and a quick sketch was drawn on paper. I chose the fabric and lining I wanted, then had my measurements taken. Not even 30 minutes went by and I was going to have a dress made for me that evening for a fitting at 2 pm the next day!
We arrived the next day to try on our garments and they tweaked a few things here and there until we were happy with the results. Every time there was an alteration, the item was sent to the back room and 10-15 minutes later it was back to be tried on again. I wish I could have perfectly fitted clothing made for me back in Vancouver every few months… but I don’t think my budget in Canada would agree with me very much.
I can’t wait until Spring comes so I can prance around in my new flowy dress. Thank you, Sarah, for helping me make it!
Hoi An, The Old Town
Hoi An is full of tourists, souvenir shops, and old buildings. It is a well preserved UNESCO heritage site and was once a small-scale trading port between the 15th and 19th century. You’ll notice Japanese and Chinese influence in structures as you wander around the town like the Japanese Bridge and pagoda as well as some small temples.
I enjoyed the town a lot. I loved the open market that the local people shop at every morning, the small old buildings, the bicycles, and how peaceful everything felt even with many people walking about.
Just for a heads up, the Old Town is a walk and bicycle only area except for the occasional local driving down the narrow streets on their motorcycle. Even though bicycles are allowed, I recommend locking up your bike somewhere so you can enjoy walking around and taking in all the sights! With all the tourists walking around, it can be difficult and frustrating to ride through the crowd.
My only qualm with Hoi An would be the constant pestering from vendors to buy knick knacks and cards. It’s not uncommon to be approached while eating at a restaurant, day or night, by a person selling handmade cards. While the cards are beautiful paper crafts, it can become annoying to be approached for the umpteenth time with a bag full of cards with a special price “just for you”. On one occasion, our server at one restaurant set down a bag full of bookmarks and asked me to look through them. You can politely tell them, no, but they will insist. They might even chase you down, haha.
Rice Paddies and An Bang
The best day of the entire trip was on our last day in Hoi An! Makes me wonder why we didn’t rent a motorcycle sooner. The overwhelming excitement of everything else, I guess. The next time we’re in Vietnam, there will be more riding for sure!
Our flight wasn’t until later in the afternoon, 4 pm I believe, so we still had the whole morning and early afternoon to see a few more things. We rode on the narrow paths of the rice paddies with the destination being An Bang Beach. It doesn’t take very long to get the beach, but we took the scenic path through the rice fields and spotted some water buffalo close up. We even witnessed a funeral procession as well (RIP).
Water buffalo hang out in the rice paddies grazing and wallowing in the mud. These white birds are always close by, perhaps to nom on some flies on the buffalos? We managed to get very up close to another group with an older female and some calves. She was very protective so I we maintained some space. It was nostalgic for me because it reminded me of my time spent in Thailand as a young child. My late grandfather would put me on one of his water buffalo and we would walk to the fields to let them graze.
We eventually arrived at An Bang Beach with the goal to walk along the beach and have our last lunch in Hoi An. The beach can only be accessed on foot, no motorcycles or cars can pass a certain marker so you will need to pay to park your transportation at one of the available lots. I think it’s to keep the surrounding clean and prevent polluting the ocean. You will probably be ripped off on the price- no lies. Danton could speak Vietnamese so they charged us very little, but we overheard another group of tourists arguing about the price because they were paying more than another group before them. I’m not if you can really negotiate the price, you could go to a different lot if you wish, but you will need to leave your vehicle somewhere.
The sand was soft and it was nice to put our feet into the water. The waves are pretty strong here and it is constantly rolling to shore. It isn’t suitable for swimming, but we did see a few people braving the waves. The beach was clean, but it wasn’t what I’d call a great beach. Personally, I love to swim in clear and calmer water and explore tidal pools. An Bang has nice sand and if you eat at one of the restaurants around the area, they will let you sit on the beach chairs for free.
We adjourned our beach day by eating grilled scallops, steamed clams, and crab at a restaurant close to the entrance of the beach. We said goodbye to the ocean and took the direct route back to our Villa to collect our things and got a ride to the airport.
With all the snow in Vancouver right now, I sure miss the sunshine in Hoi An and at the beach. Where would you go to escape the cold? =]