Hoi an is one of my favourite places in the world. Why? Because when you wander through this town’s small meandering streets, it seems as if you’ve gone back in time. A time where artistic beauty is in every tiny detail, where door frame’s are masterpieces and the artisan atmosphere rubs off onto any passer-by, inspiring creativity in all. Each shop, each store, looks like its been there for years, selling basic household items or selling tourist knick knacks to take home with you. This place is some where you enjoy getting lost in, and each step of the path you take is as delightful as the destination. You end up in a café with blossom hanging over the ceiling drinking a mango milkshake, or the home made beer (and the cheapest in Asia believe me- I checked everywhere).
I’d recommend before visiting, having a quick look on line for a design of a dress or style, or even a suit, as there are plenty of tailors here that can create a cheaper version in a flash. Seriously fast. Tailors fight over customers when you walk the streets ranging from luxury silk to a shop behind a market stall – I went with the latter. They can even tailor make shoes for you, which I did and believe me it is worth it when you see the wide range of crazy patterns and exquisite designs they have on offer. If this beautiful town, cheap shopping and cheap beer still doesn’t interest you then you should be tempted by the beach. We hired mopeds and drove to the beach-although many cycle, and the beach was perfectly empty, with very little tourists in sight and with an area where lofty palm trees danced in the breeze.
Still not for you? We hired a car and drove to the nearby town of Danang to visit the Marble Mountains, a real must see! The caves here are the most beautiful I have ever seen. Climbing a bazillion steps- that’s what it feels like and I’m most sure it was- you are greeted by a beautiful view of Danang and its surroundings. Filled with blossom trees and secluded caves hidden with marble Buddha statues and intricate carvings, this place is a cool, tranquil and peaceful place. Making your way through the mountain to the exit point, you are greeted with a quaint Buddhist monastery, filled with monks ringing a large bell, calling all to come and pray at the temple as the metal clanging sound bounces off the walls and the rolling mountains. If you do get a chance to see this- don’t invade their meditation with your loud clicks from your camera, but give time for yourself to reflect. On the same day trip we arranged, we also went to My Son, some beautiful ruins that although are in pieces, still have ornate carvings of figures and patterns. I would recommend seeing these ruins if you have the time, although it does no justice to Angkor Wat.
Having an avid interest in Vietnam’s history and culture but not so inclined to stay in the middle of nowhere for three days, we visited Hue on day trip. Which although on a tight schedule, is doable and also meant we spent our time on the best bits, rather exploring every last temple and ruin. Although you can happily spend hours in the main area where the Citadel is because of its remarkable beauty, its history that seeps out of the building, and its pleasant atmosphere. There are a number of separate tombs throughout the city, all built for various figures and for various reasons, however we only ventured to one (by this stage we were pretty tombed out) the “Tombs of the Nguyen Dynasty.” Although not an immensely attractive building it was interesting to learn about its history and it was surrounded by a beautiful bridge and lake that was a perfect photo opportunity. So with all honesty, Id recommend Hue as a day trip, as after a while things begin to look similar as your feet become more and more tired, and your mood becomes even more drained.
Hoi An continues its artistic mellow attitude of day time, over through to night. There are many bars that are perfect to drink by the river side watching the moon shimmer in the rivers reflection, where you can ponder the poetic scene you are now a part of or wander down some hidden lanes to find somewhere small and unique where bartenders happily tell you their life story. There is one club situated on the beach where many party animals head to from No Name Bar if you fancy a wild night.
One of my favourite moments of Hoi An is THE FULL MOON PARTY. Now I’m not talking Koh Phagnan’s UV splashed “drink till you pass out” atmosphere, no. This is a traditional festival on the fourteenth of every month where every electrical light in the town is switched off and replaced with candles. Candles light every side of the street, blinking in the darkness on every street corner and lanterns are crazily hanging above your head and in trees. The whole town is flooded with people, tourists and locals, as they come together to enjoy sweet traditional music and light flower candles in harmony, to release, along with their burdens, onto the river to float along the winding path of the water.
My travelling tip is: If you are in Vietnam, Hoi an is a must. Arrange your travel so you can be there for the full moon party and organize what you want tailored in advance. Oh and try the White Rose. So tasty.