Saturday, October 21, 2017 – Thursday, October 26 2017
Hoi An is just a short drive from Da Nang, the nearest major airport (and also host to the recent APEC conference, though signs for the gathering were plastered across Hoi An and Hue, further north, too), and it is really well known for its UNESCO-awarded old town. The charming yellow motif covers hundreds of building and dozens of blocks either side of the Thu Bon River. There were countless shops, restaurants and bars to explore, along with multiple temples and historic buildings.
Streets were also festively decorated with lanterns and lights, which only made the night-life all the more exciting! What were calm markets during the day crowded with swarms of people at night, making the old town super vibrant and – at times – slightly overwhelming. If anything Hoi An is really more of a nighttime experience; not only are the streets busier, but so is the river, with numerous boats taking passengers out to drop in water lanterns that worked to brighten up the delta.
Thankfully we were not staying right in the thick of things, but rather a 10 minute bike-ride outside of Hoi An at a lovely little homestay. They had a nice free breakfast and free bikes for us to use, which we took into Hoi An every day. One day we visited we were swarmed by schoolchildren who needed to practise their English with us, which was hilarious and a lot of fun. All that biking, exploring and tutoring was hard work though – so rewarded ourselves with THE BEST Banh Mi Vietnam had to offer (and, if you recall, was recommended to us in Hanoi). For about $1.25 CAD, we enjoyed Madame Khahn’s unrivalled sandwiches (and, truth be told, we went an embarrassing number of times thereafter over the course of our stay).
Deciding to take a crack at Vietnamese cuisine ourselves, we organized a cooking class with Mr. Son and his wife, which, though just a small food stand with seating for 10, was one of TripAdvisor’s top rated restaurants in Hoi An. We spent several hours hands on with Mrs. Son deep frying spring rolls, making ‘crack noodles’, and cooking the local specialty, Cao Lau. It was a lot of fun (and A LOT of food), and we even left with a small gift of a grater and some spices from the couple… to help us make our next spring rolls and Cao Lau.
While we enjoyed cooking with Mr. Son, we also wanted to visit My Son (no relation!) – the nearby temple complex, and Vietnam’s equivalent to Angkor. Certainly the site is much smaller, but the purpose and architecture is much the same. In fact there were upwards of 70 temples until the Vietnam/American War, when the site was carpet bombed by the US as it was being used by Viet Cong as a staging area. The remaining temples are still very impressive, and Vietnam continues to rehabilitate and reconstruct the site. Following our visit to My Son, we enjoyed a boat cruise back to Hoi An, which, though slow, gave us a look into the booming sand business in the delta.
After a really fun couple of days in Hoi An we were off again – next stop: Hue!