Hello, Hoi An!
It was time to escape the hustle and bustle of Hanoi, so we hopped onto a local flight and headed 1/2 way down the country to the lovely town of Hoi An.
We stayed at a lovely, brand new guesthouse called the Phuc Thao Villa. It was an easy walk or bike ride to the ancient town and/or to the beach.
It had a nice pool, which was essential given the heat of the day. We would head out by bike or on foot in the mornings while it was still relatively cool and then return around noon to hit the water to cool off.
Staying at this hotel was what we’d call ‘easy living’. The price was right, breakfast included, and the staff were phenomenal – excellent customer service! And at $1/day for bicycle rentals, we simply could not go wrong. Which is why our original 5 day stay turned into 15!
The ancient town of Hoi An is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. What makes the town so interesting is that it is a very well preserved example of a port/trading town from between the 15th and 19th centuries. The buildings from this time are in good condition, and have been well preserved by the community.
While Hoi An is nice by day, it is stunning by night, lit up by silk lanterns and street vendors. It’s cooler at night, so that’s when everyone comes out and strolls the ancient town.
A well known monument in Hoi An is the Japanese Covered Bridge.
The bridge dates back to the 1590s, when the Japanese community needed a way to get across the canal to the Chinese area on the opposite bank. The bridge was built very solidly due to risk of earthquakes. The southern side of the bridge is open (side the photo is taken from) while the northern side houses a small pagoda.
One other aspect of the town which appeals to UNESCO is that you can see the influences from the different groups who occupied Vietnam over the centuries. In particular, the temples and pagodas show the different religious influences.
The town used to be a thriving fishing village and trading port. Today, fishermen continue to go out to sea nightly to fish using traditional methods, but it is not the primary industry in the town. Now there is a new “catch of the day”…Tourists!
Hoi An has become a “must-do” stop on the tourist trail, whether you are heading North to South (Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City) or vice versa. The town has become renowned for its shopping, particularly if you are looking for custom tailoring and shoes.
We took the plunge and ordered some clothes. In doing our research for this adventure, we have learned a lot about the clothing manufacturing industry here. Quality can vary greatly from shop to shop. In most cases, the sewing of the clothing is ‘outsourced’ to local sewing shops. So, the person who takes your measurements and sells you the clothing is likely not the person who will ultimately sew the clothing. This may lead to some “lost in translation” situations particularly when you are back for alterations and the shop keeper needs to communicate the changes that are needed to the clothes…
We also went for new shoes.
As Katina will attest, I have a hard time finding shoes that fit me properly, so custom made shoes seemed to be the best way to go. Plus, with a wedding coming up, Kat and the girls needed some shoes to match their outfits! The shop we went to was different than the tailoring experience in that it was a family business. The people taking the measurements were also making the shoes, and so completely understood the sizing requirements.
Of course, you cannot visit Vietnam without…
Since we’re not on vacation, we passed on the massage…but the girls did get a pedicure! (My toenails were just fine as they were so I didn’t join in the fun!)
We also had the opportunity to meet another “Family on the Move” while in Hoi An. We have received comments from some in the past that we were crazy for taking a year off and traveling with our kids. Comments about our apparent “career suicide” and the fear of our kids being behind in school were just some of the things we’d heard. Well, if we’re crazy, there are tons of others out there just like us! Katina has found a few forums on Facebook dedicated to families who are doing extensive traveling. Just like our CS experiences, whether in Hanoi, Paris, or Ireland, we have started to meet some FOTM (that’s Families on the Move) families where we have visited.
Here in Hoi An we met with Kristen and her children Avery, Katelyn, and Liam. Over the course of a couple of days, we met and explored the old town together, swapped travel stories, and enjoyed some quality time with people who shared our sense of adventure. Since we were traveling in opposite directions we were also able to share destination advice for upcoming stops.
As with other places we’ve been, we’ve seen some interesting/different things.
Like this “child seat” for scooters…
Seriously, children ride in these small bamboo chairs that are basically zip-tied to the scooter!
There’s the mailman…the milkman…the pig delivery guy?
Low hydro lines! Most people pass right under these with no problems…not me!
And there’s a rice paddy right in town…
The Pacific Ocean beaches were just a short bicycle ride away.
Hoi An is a lovely place to visit, and I suspect that like us it would grow on you too! It’s easy to get around on foot or by bicycle, and the people are very welcoming with warm smiles. With everything Hoi An had to offer, it only made sense that we extend our stay from 5 days to 15! Between the beaches and pool, I was reminded of our stay in Goa, India…which had the same outcome of an extended stay from 5 to 11 days!