We headed off to Hoi An for a little getaway before Christmas – just Ivan and me.
Our trip started early with our driver fetching us at 5am – the joys of booking cheap flights – it was only $90 for both us return!
We had also pre-booked our taxi from Da Nang airport to Hoi An – another saving of 100 000 VND, proving, once again the value of research.
We arrived at our homestay (Binh Yen aka Peace Homestay) and were welcomed like long lost family – they remembered us from our previous stay earlier in the year and it was fantastic to get such a great welcome – and even though check in is only theoretically at 2pm (and we arrived at 9am) we were give a lovely fruit platter and juice and coffee to keep us going.
We dropped out goods and headed straight to the beach. As with most beaches in South East Asia there are dedicated areas with restaurants and recliners – you normally pay per recliner and umbrella etc, but our homestay has family who own one of these concessions, so we are able to have free use – and the young lady who runs it also remembered us – we really felt most welcome. It was sad to see the devastation caused to the beaches by the storms over the past months.
The homestay we go to is on the main beach road to out of the hustle and bustle of the Old Town and is definitely much quieter area. In the past we used taxi services to get into the Old Town and borrowed bicycles for getting around the beachfront area – but this time we hired motorbikes, and this gave us the freedom to travel further afield at a fraction of the cost.
We even ventured into the Da Nang – well at least to the Da Nang beachfront and to the Big Lady Buddha at the Linh Ung Pagoda and further down the Son Tra Pagoda a truly beautiful and peaceful setting and fortunately, as we were there in the off season, not too crowded either.
Views around Da Nang
We were approached en route to Da Nang by a young lady asking where we were from and where we were going to that day – we naively thought she was being friendly but soon realised she was trying to get us to visit Marble Mountain ( a popular tourist attraction) fortunately I had said we were meeting friends and she left us alone, but as we were riding past Marble Mountain we were harassed by other ladies on bikes riding up next to us to get us to visit the attraction – it is a pity as we had not seen this kind of behaviour here before and it left a sour taste in the mouth – and we then had no desire to visit the Mountain.
The weather took a turn for the worst and we were lucky that we had gone to the beach and done the Da Nang trip early in the trip as the remaining 8 days it seldom stopped raining!
We ventured into the Old Town numerous times during the day as we had experienced the hustle and bustle of the night trade and night markets on a previous visit. We got to explore in relative leisure. One of the restaurants we went into had markings on the wall indicating the water levels during two previous floods – although they were affected it was as a result of the water level of the river rising after they had to open the gates on an upriver dam as a result of the immense amount of rain.
Picture showing the 2 flood lines
Hoi An Ancient City
We also had the obligatory clothes made in Hoi An – there are literally hundreds of tailors in Hoi An and you would do yourself a huge favour shopping around as the prices vary considerably (e.g. mens’ suits can cost between $70 – $170) but they are still incredibly cheap for a made to measure suit. Considering that virtually every shop has the exact same sample clothing on display it is fairly evident that they are all made in the same “factory” – but this is just my opinion. I had a fantastic coat made and we also had Christmas shirts made for our 4 Vietnamese family members – these will be revealed in the post about Christmas.
We also made some really good finds in the food department. We have established that although the beer is definitely cheaper and consistently priced in Hoi An the food varies considerable in price and quality. One of the specialities of the area (and a favourite of mine) is Bánh xèo, a savoury pancake that looks like and omelette because of the turmeric used in the pancake batter – it also has pork ,shrimps and spring onions in the batter and is served with greens that you put inside the pancake and then wrap the whole thing in a moistened rice paper wrapper! On a side note our homestay did the best!
We wandered up and down Lac Long Quan and ate at a couple of little family restaurants one in particular – Broccoli deserves a mention for the great duck I had there (they also have a whole page of broccoli dishes!).
We were also pleasantly surprised that the amazing meals we had at Paddy’s Hostel and Pub – we ventured in there after doing and online search for and Irish Pub (– and were very pleased we had in fairness we ended up going there quite a few times after the first visit) – the food was amazing – special mention must be made of the pork belly stuffed chicken and the burgers. We will definitely be back on our next visit.
Paddy’s Hostel and Bar
Of course on visit to Hoi An would be complete without a banh mi m(sandwich/roll) from Phuong’s Banh Mi shop.
On our last day in Hoi An our hosts at the homestay invited us to join in the wedding celebrations of their. The festivities on the day started at the home with the bride being brought to the house by her family – the welcoming of the groom into the bride’s family had happed previously. Our host at the beach bar was also our guide for the wedding and explained the processes.
The wedding itself is not like a western religious wedding but rather a series of events with no actually “marriage ceremony” per se. We then moved to the reception area down the road – there were about 500 people at this lunch – we discovered that this event was for the friends of the parents of the bride and groom – the party for the couple’s friends was taking place later that day. We had a feast – a 7 course meal and I feel that the food for our table alone could have fed at least another 4 tables. When we arrived there were some snacks on the table, a few cold drinks and a case of beer – for each table. Once the speeches and formalities were over the eating and drinking started and some karaoke singing took place. This all happened quite quickly and we learned that it is considered bad luck for the brides family who have brought her to the groom to leave after 12. What a privilege it was to be included in this event – we are truly grateful.
And so our time in Hoi An had come to an end – for now – we will return in a few months!