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.

HoiAn Flight

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.

IMG_9638 IMG_9641 IMG_9630 IMG_9624 IMG_9623 Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 12.53.42 PM


A well known monument in Hoi An is the Japanese Covered Bridge.

Japanese Covered Bridge - a UNESCO site

Japanese Covered Bridge – a UNESCO site

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!

Cycle-rickshaw drivers take a tour group through the ancient town.

Cycle-rickshaw drivers take a tour group through the ancient town.

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.

Shoe shopping!

Shoe shopping!

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.

Some ice cream with another family on the move!

As with other places we’ve been, we’ve seen some interesting/different things.

Like this “child seat” for scooters…

Vietnamese equivalent of a child car seat!

Vietnamese equivalent of a child car seat!

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?


Modern blacksmith

Modern blacksmith

Low hydro lines!  Most people pass right under these with no problems…not me!

It's a short man's world!

Watch the power lines…it’s a short man’s world!

And there’s a rice paddy right in town…

Rice paddy in town.

Rice paddy 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!

9 thoughts on “Hello, Hoi An!”

  1. Doreen says:

    Sounds and looks like a beautiful spot to spend 15 days Oliver. It is great to connect with other families with the same ideas as you and your family. I think most people who voice their concerns are just jealous!!! I know I admire what you are doing and am enjoying all your new experiences alongside you as I read your daily blogs. Continue to have fun and travel safely! Love to all, Doreen

    1. Oliver says:

      Hi Doreen,

      We love meeting other families on the road as well…it gives all of us someone else to talk to! We’ve been on the road now for almost 9 months, 7×24…and we honestly are all still getting along very well. However…it’s still nice to have interactions with other people!

      Glad you’re enjoying the blogs…we’re enjoying sharing with everyone!

  2. Herta Park says:

    WOW! This is NOT the Viet Nam that we have in our heads from the old Mash re runs. What an amazing place…the colour and the variety of transport! How did the clothes/shoes turn out? Did you ship them back? As you are going along, are you replacing worn out things with new?
    Again, your pictures are wonderful and portray a most inviting view of the places that you are visiting. Had to laugh at your ‘height dilemma’!
    Re folks offering negative comments about this adventure of yours…my dad used to say that God gave us two ears for a reason, so that things that we don’t like can go in one and out the other….there is NO WAY that this will ever be a negative for any of you.Especially the girls! ‘Keep on keepin’ on!”

    1. Oliver says:

      Hi Herta,

      Vietnam certainly is not the same as the old MASH re-runs! The clothes and shoes turned out great…we have shipped some home and have kept some along with us. As for replacing our existing clothes…we “should”, but so far have not! 🙂

      Last time Katina and I were in Thailand back in 2000, I kept on saying that it was a “short man’s world” because all of the trees and street signs seemed to be just at the right height to smack me in the face! The power line height was an all-new ‘low’ for me! 🙂

  3. Laura says:

    I loved Hoi An when I was there several years ago. I had a great coat made that I still wear today 🙂 I took a cooking class at one of the restaurants by the side of the river, near the big tree with all the lanterns for sale. It was $10 per person and I learned how to make some delicious dishes. If you’re still there I would highly recommend it! There is also a WONDERFUL French bakery on the street behind….yum!

    1. Oliver says:

      Hi Laura, thanks for sharing. There were some great tailors in town for sure. As for the food, we LOVED the food in Vietnam…I don’t think you can go wrong.

      I think I had pho 13/15 days we were in Hoi An!

  4. Baba says:

    Hi Ollie,
    Truly Beautiful! Love the commentary and the photography. Thanks for sharing. How do they harvest the rice? Love, Mom P.

    1. Oliver says:

      Hi Baba,

      Hoi An is a very picturesque town, and it was a lot of fun to photograph! Growing rice is very labour intensive, and from what I saw it’s pretty much all done by hand. I saw farmers walking in the fields applying pesticides with hand-held spray canisters, and they pick all the rice by hand. Back breaking work almost up to your knees in water…

  5. Oma says:

    Hi, Oliver, I always enjoy your city tours because with your commentary and photos you present a kaleidoscope of everyday life, the whimsical, not to forget the historic buildings and green spaces, and especially an overall picture of the traffic, be it on foot , cycling or by boat. This time I enjoyed especially the light reflections on the water at night. Everything is so colourful. Regarding yours not being the only family that travels like that: It seems that all of a sudden I read and hear more and more about couch surfing, house sitting, etc. This morning I was listening to the cbc and they interviewed a lady who is housesitting all over the world. She sold or stored all her “stuff”. At the moment she is in Niagara-on–the Lake and will be next in a chateau in France. What a great life. She is originally from Australia and it was totally amazing to hear her story as well. Love the picture of you all smiling and celebrating by eating ice crème with your fellow world travelers. Lots of Hugs

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