Getting to Hoi An
We flew Vietjet, a budget airline, from Hanoi to Da Nang airport. We were pretty skeptical of flying cheap in Asia ($49 each), but we ended up with an exit row and had a pretty comfortable flight. We went to the arrivals section to meet our private driver that our hostel in Hanoi had arranged for us. Things turned south when our driver was nowhere to be found. We waited for a few minutes but it was now 10:15 at night. We were frantically connecting to WIFI and trying to Skype call our hostel. Between their broken English and the fact that we did not have a cell phone they could call us back on, we were getting pretty frustrated. We spent over an hour trying to find out what happened to our car. We even bought a SIM card for our phones so we could be called back. To know avail, at around 11:30 we gave up and got a taxi to our hostel. We were stressed, but we've learned to live with the bumps in the road after six weeks of traveling. Our groggy hostel worker let us into our room when we got into Hoi An. It was a large, modern room and we had a pool, all for about $18 a night.
Day 1: Clothes shopping
Hoi An is most known for their tailor shops, so our first day walking the city we jumped right into clothes shopping. There were so many shops as we walked the streets. If you want to buy clothes, it would be worth it to plan well for your time here. The shops here can make anything. Male and female clothes, shoes, purses, and bags. They shop owners seem pushy but it’s important to make a trip through town to get a feel for prices. We decided to go to Peace Tailors based on another blog we read, and they did a lot of research around town. At Peace I casually walked in to look for a suit, but we left after buying a suit, winter coat, and shirt, along with two winter coats and a dress for Taylor. They let us flip through catalogs and pull up images from our favorite clothing brands back home to help pick our designs. We chose fabrics and colors, were measured, and asked to return for a fitting the following day. Yes you read right: They can turn a roll of fabric into your clothing overnight. We didn’t haggle much on the pricing but as we added to our order they offered some bulk discounts.
We then had lunch in the very busy central market. It was filled with food stalls and people selling fruits and vegetables outside. We walked the old town in the afternoon and evening. Hoi An is a stunning town. There is a river filled with small boats and a few bridges. At sunset, the lanterns hanging across the streets were all lit up. We had a few drinks overlooking the river and watching the sidewalks fill with visitors. People were buying small paper boxes with a candle to place in the water and make a wish. It made for a pretty scene, but Taylor and I could only think of the thousands of boxes creating trash in the river.
Day 2: An Bang Beach
The following day we grabbed some Vietnamese coffee near our hotel. The specialty coffee in Vietnam is called Weasel coffee, which is eaten by weasels first and, well, you get the picture. It’s very strong and bitter, so if black coffee is your thing, you will be right at home. I really enjoyed it but Taylor found it a little too bitter, even with sugar. Our hostel had free bikes so we borrowed some for a five km ride to nearby An Bang beach. Always alert of approaching cars, buses, and motorbikes, we left Hoi An and passed through some rice paddies before arriving into the beach town. We felt like we were on vacation when we got to the ocean. Those at home might think that's a crazy concept, but weeks of traveling have a different feel than the typical American vacation. There were beach chairs packed with Western tourists so we walked down to a quieter spot to enjoy the view.
Later we raced back to town in to make it for our tailor fitting, then we went back to the central market for some food. We've gotten comfortable here because the food is very good and much cheaper than the restaurants. After eating and reflecting on how good our clothes had looked, we went back to the shop and bought more! This time chinos and a Clemson colored dress for Taylor. The total for everything was $490 + $50 shipping. The prices and quality are so amazing...but we needed to leave before too much more damage was done! As evening hit the old city was absolutely packed. This night coincided with the full moon, which sparks many festivals in towns across Asia. We struggled to think of what might compare to how crowded Hoi An was. Maybe New Orleans at Mardi Gras or NYC at New Years. Apparently, there is some connection with South Korea, as 90% of the people were from there. They were partaking in some weird looking traditions (we need to do some research to figure it out) and talking millions of selfies of course.
Day 3: Relaxation
On our final day in town, we opted for a stress-free day without tours or plans. We went to a spa where I proudly had my very first pedicure. The total price for back massages and pedicures for both of us was about $30. We had lunch and dinner at the market again (officially addicted to fried spring rolls) and spent the afternoon lounging by our hotel's pool.
Hoi An was our favorite place in Vietnam. It's just a beautiful little town, and the many western tourists can't even ruin its charm. Book a hotel with free bike rides so you can ride through the streets, stopping to shop or have a drink. There is so much shopping to do here, planning near the end of a trip would encourage more souvenir buying. Practice those haggling skills! And finally remember to do your eating in the market instead of the tourist restaurants. The food is authentic, delicious, and super cheap!
Chris & Taylor
Read our travel blog as we visit three continents in 2017.