Sad to leave Hanoi but excited for our next adventure. We are taking the overnight sleeper train to Da Nang and then on to Hoi An for a week or so. Travel time is 17 hours – cost $aus165 (for two) so not the cheapest or fastest way to go. The last time we took the overnight train we were travelling with friends and had a ball – this time? Not so much…. maybe should have flown this time.
We arrived at the station, found our carriage and …. these are four berth carriages and we booked the lower berths. We were wondering who our travelling companions would be – would they be travellers? Would they be fun to spend a few hours with, swapping stories and having a few laughs? None of the above. They turned out to be a mid twenties local couple, who were already in their bunks, asleep, with the lights out!! Oh well.. as it is 9.30 pm (!!) we may as well go to bed too. They left the train sometime during the night so by morning we were on our own and ready to enjoy the day.
Again great scenery.. as the train chugs on down south and nears the coast the track is closer and closer to the edge…
Then lunch. Should have just ordered one.
And this lovely lady decided to pay us a visit. She just came in, sat down, smiled enigmatically for 10 minutes – and then left!
Da Nang. On our last visit we drove straight through the town on to Hoi An as there was nothing there but a big, busy, dusty city. This time we thought we’d see what changes have been made – and there are plenty. The flat, fairly featureless beach is ringed with one line of palm trees – and high-rises as far as the eye can see. Huge luxury resorts abound and so many more being built at a great rate. You would not know you were even in Vietnam and you could be on the Gold Coast in Australia or some where similar. Not our style at all. One night here is more than enough. We caught a taxi to Hoi An – around $20 but could be had cheaper on the streets with a bit of judicious bargaining.
Hoi An – what a difference. The wide streets are lined with shady trees, the locals are so friendly, the food – the BEST we’ve had so far! And the Ancient Town has been preserved beautifully.
Lots of interesting alley ways leading all over the town. This one has a well in the middle. You can see the French influence in the shutters and paving.
Buy a pass into the Ancient Town for about $6. It’s good for every day you are there. There are no walls or barriers around the town but occasionally you might be asked for your ticket. It also gives you five tickets into things like the old houses, museums the Japanese Bridge etc. – We were in the town 4 or 5 times every day and night for six days. It’s stunning.
While people do bike around the town it is just as easy to walk. Hoi An Ancient Town is a very well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. Its buildings and its street plan reflect the influences that have combined to produce this unique UNESCO heritage site.
The original street plan, which developed as the town became a port, remains. It comprises a grid of streets with one axis parallel to the river and the other axis of streets and alleys set at right angles to it.
Our fabulous hotel. It is about 1klm out of the Ancient Town- an easy walk once we discovered the short cuts. There is so much to see and do on the walk – chatting to the very friendly locals, checking out the many, many beautiful shops – shoes, clothes, art works, markets …and the food! Hoi An has some dishes which are unique to the area – and I reckon we ate every one of them.
Bijou swimming pool…… we paid $39 a night for this hotel and it was gorgeous. Beautiful rooms, beautiful bathrooms, great breakfast, beautiful staff – The Golden Bell Boutique Hotel.
An then there is the beach – An Bang only a $4 taxi ride away. The water is beautiful and the scenery lovely, the beer is cold and the people are gorgeous. You can ride a bike from the town if you want but it’s pretty hot. A much nicer and more interesting beach than Da Nang in my humble opinion.
Nothing like lunch on the beach after a morning of swimming and sun bathing.
The Japanese Bridge. This beautiful little bridge is emblematic of Hoi An. A bridge was first constructed here in the 1590s by the Japanese community to link them with the Chinese quarters. The structure is very solidly constructed because of the threat of earthquakes. The entrances to the bridge are guarded by a pair of monkeys on one side, a pair of dogs on the other. According to one story, many of Japan’s emperors were born in the years of the dog and monkey. Another tale says that construction of the bridge started in the year of the monkey and was finished in the year of the dog. While access to the Japanese Bridge is free, you have to give a ticket to see a small, unimpressive temple built into the bridge’s northern side. We didn’t.
The Flower Market – part of the large Day Market which is under cover
City view from the Museum.
So many restaurants – and all have great food at great prices. And Da Lat wine and
The food here is really delicious – whole fish deep fried with rice – $7
Banh bao vac – named by the French as White Roses, is a prawn dumpling made from translucent white dough bunched up then steamed and it looks like a delicate white rose. Many people like these little delish mouths full of flavour not only because they are so tasty but also because they look beautiful. And rice paper discs which you dunk in a bowl of cold water, then fill with a selection of yummy things. Then you dip them in sauce and eat them! Spring Rolls.
The usual boat trips and dinner cruises are on offer but with so many wonderful land based restaurants around we declined. Next time for sure!
The other side opposite the Ancient Town is also lovely – and cheaper so if you are looking for budget food and drinks occasionally this is the spot. Not that the town is particularly expensive.
The beers are arriving!
And of course Temples and Assembly Halls
I like the circular incense hanging from the ceiling – the ash drops in your hair…. These places are so ornate and so steeped in history. Take the time to visit – cool and mysterious inside.
They can make anything at all you want here. Beautiful dresses, suits for both sexes, amazing shoes, leather goods – jackets, shoes, dresses, skirts – and if you want to stand out from the crowd now is your chance.
Shoppng! The frustration for us is that we can’t buy anything because we cant carry it around with us – but next year!!
Quirky coffee shops abound – and Vietnamese coffee is really good – different to the coffee we drink in Australia but excellent none the less. This is iced coffee. It’s also really good with sweetened condensed milk in it. In fact, it’s fabulous!
Just calling home…
There is a lot to do in Hoi An, from cooking classes, to The water Puppet Show and Traditional and Cultural activities -not to mention shopping, eating, the beach etc etc . We had six days here and it wasn’t nearly enough – next year.
Hoi An is a beautiful place and we can’t wait to come back here – with several empty suitcases. And on we go…