Hoi An: A Perfect Combination of Quaint Old Town and Beautiful Beach
Out of the three places in Vietnam where we visited (Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, and Hoi An), we would definitely go back to Hoi An. Hanoi was too busy for us, and Ha Long Bay was a ONCE-in-a-lifetime place, but after just two and a half days in Hoi An, we already put it on our list of places we’d like to revisit!
Hoi An is located about 45-minutes from Da Nang, a larger city where the airport is (about an hour flight from Hanoi). Along our way to Hoi An from Da Nang, we passed many large beach resorts as well as a couple links golf courses- one of which was designed by Greg Norman (so now you know why Alex wants to go back…). Our boutique hotel, Muca, was located down a VERY bumpy, potholed road. The hotel itself had immaculately-kept grounds (complete with cacao trees outside our window). We immediately borrowed bicycles (equipped with handy baskets in the front) and rode to a restaurant for lunch. The food was amazing, as were our tropical fruit smoothies. But, it was so hot in Hoi An that the heat sort of suppressed my appetite! 😦
We took the hotel’s shuttle into town, and immediately went to Bebe, one of the largest custom tailor shops (Hoi An is full of indistinguishable tailor shops). The reviews on Tripadvisor were favorable, and our hotel also recommended it. We went in looking for one suit for Alex and maybe a pair of work pants and a couple work shirts. We came out with two suits and two pairs of pants, and four shirts (our saleswoman Hoa was good!). I really enjoyed picking the material and the color, especially for the lining of the suits (I’m all about the bold colors!). We walked around the old town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Hoi An used to be a very important trading port, with settlers coming from Japan, the Netherlands, and China.
Saturday morning, we woke up early and biked to the beach (takes about 10 minutes and you ride by rice fields and cows grazing along the side of the road). Along the way, there was a guy who began blowing his whistle as soon as he saw us. He was trying very hard to flag us down! Only later did I realize it was a scam for us to pull over and pay the guy to “inspect” our bikes and park them in his lot. Alex and I followed our hotel’s instructions and pulled up to a designated restaurant and parked our bikes. We were led down to our hotel’s “private” section of the beach, complete with umbrellas and lounge chairs. The water was very clear, calm, and warm. Perfect! Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay at the beach all day, because we had to bike into town for Alex’s first fitting. It’s amazing how fast the tailors can turn around clothing!
We ate lunch at Banh Mi Phuong, a tiny restaurant that serves Vietnamese sandwiches on delicious French bread. It was recommended to us by several friends, and apparently it was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations.” At the front of the restaurant, you can watch five ladies churn out the sandwiches in an assembly line. There’s a large barrel of fresh French rolls, and bins of sliced cucumber, scallions, greens, and vats of meat pate, sausage, BBQ pork, and other meats. Alex and I shared two sandwiches (20,000 VND each, roughly $1 USD). They were AMAZING. Flavorful and the bread was so fresh. I wondered what the locals paid for sandwiches (there was a line of people on scooters, waiting for takeout). We came back again for dinner (after going to the beach and to Bebe’s for Alex’s second fitting), and again for takeout dinner on Sunday night (I befriended an Australian Vietnamese man who ordered for me AND I got the local rate of 10,000 VND for each sandwich! That’s only 50 cents!).
On Sunday morning, we rode our bikes to the beach one last time, before checking out of our hotel. We then rode bikes into town, stopping by Namaste, a really good Indian restaurant, along the way. The food was so authentic and cheap! Alex and I stuffed ourselves, before going for his last fitting. We then rode to a massage place, where we each had an 80 minute full body massage… We immediately regretted eating so much right before the massage. Our full bellies made the first past of the massage (where they were pressing down on our lower backs) quite unpleasant! But, we enjoyed the rest of the massage. That afternoon, we walked around the Old Town and walked across the famous Japanese covered bridge. Alex had a 4,000 VND draft beer (20 cents) while we admired the view. We then enjoyed mango fruit shakes (mangos are SO expensive in Korea) before taking the Banh Mi Phuong sandwiches back to our hotel. We were given a new room (even though we had already checked out!) so that we could use the shower before heading to the airport.
We really want to go back to Hoi An. It has both old town charm and a beautiful beach. Maybe next time I’ll get some suits made too!