Hoi An: Tourists, Tailors and Beaches

Hoi An Travel Blog

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ANDREI - Our Footprint guidebook describes Hoi An having a "tranquil riverside setting" with "much of historical interest in the town", and having "friendly people".  Mostly true, I'd say.

We rolled off the soft sleeper, Tourist Bus in the late morning outside Hoa Binh Hotel on Hai Ba Trung Road, keen to check out this description.  However, the uninterrupted, hot sunshine encouraged us to check in to the place at hand, arguing the lady down from $14 to $12 for a nice double room with A/C and TV.  She didn't seem too happy with us after that - she seemed to be the most miserable person in Vietnam.  It was truly remarkable!

Our stomachs led us on a short walk into the historic old part of town, where the traffic-free, cobbled streets revealed French colonial houses filled with mainly souvenir shops, tailors and tourist-orientated restaurants.  Nice and peaceful in the low season but the package tourists were more obvious here than in Hue.  I guess there's set to be more in the near future since we saw big Crowne Plaza and Hyatt resorts being built (amongst other development) further up the coast at Danang as we passed on the bus.  Come to Vietnam before it becomes more like Thailand!

We wandered around and just looked at the sights from the outside, as our sightseeing in Hanoi and Hue had tired us!  We saw the Japanese Covered Bridge (Cau Nhat Ban), the French Quarter, and the Chinese Assembly Halls (Hoi Quan).  They seemed fine but the old town was quiet but seemed a bit sterile - something for the package tourist since a guide would make it come alive a bit more.

We then looked at a silk-making place on Le Loi Street called "Le Loi", saw the silkworms being bred, harvested and the fibres woven.  Since Hoi An is famous for its tailors (some rather unreliable) and we were tired and only had 2 days here, we decided against shopping around and ordered some clothes from here.  Kerry ordered a nice silk kimono ($25) and I got 2 made-to-measure cotton shirts ($25 and $40).  Not as cheap as we'd have liked (we tried unsuccessfully to bargain with them) but they seem to be good quality.

Much more interesting was the night market.  Plenty of tourist items (T-shirts, etc) but also normal items for the locals such as fruit, vegetables, and the like.  Next to this, on a small square on the corner of a road were some street food stalls - we ate and drank nicley for 60,000 dong ($4) each.  There were even some pricier normal restaurants nearby selling glassess of beer for 4,000 dong each!  Heaven!  This is where we met a couple of British architecture students - Matt and Rhys.

A number of beers were shared with them there, then some British girls (Emily, Lizzie and Sarah) we'd met at the beach persuaded us to join them on a free "shuttle bus" back to the beach 4km away for a "party".  This turned out to be a hotel bar on the beach with alcohol prices twice that of in town!  The shuttle bus driver seemed to disappear at the designated hourly meet time, so Kerry and I had to pay for a motorbike back.  Admittedly, all of this wasn't THAT expensive when you do the maths and we were in no danger, but it was just the principle of it all.  Something you have to be careful about when you're away travelling and drinking.  Kerry was far less pleased than I!

Despite this, perhaps the best thing about Hoi An was that beach - called Cua Dai Beach.  A pleasant 20 minute bike ride on the quiet Nguyen Duy Hieu Street route (Tran Hung Dao Street is more direct but slightly busier) brought us there, keen to cool off in the South China Sea!  A 50 metre wide, light gold beach greated us, with plenty of local restaurants and low key hotels lining it.  We settled under a free wood and bamboo parasols - the only "cost" was being accosted by a clutch of female tinket sellers (pretty annoying when they keep returning!).  The great thing about this beach was that there was very little litter.  On other Vietnamese beaches, the rubbish that the fisherman throw out always washes up.  So this place certainly gets a recommendation!
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Hoi An