Vietnam - Hoi An Village
After spending a month in Vietnam, there are a few places that topped our list in terms of our visit. Hoi An is one such place. Picture a vibrant, bustling town full of colours, lights, music, cobblestones and ancient buildings. Hoi An was at various periods of time occupied by the French, Japanese, Chinese and Dutch, so the food is amazing!
We flew into Da Nang Airport, and took a 30 minute taxi ride to Hoi An for about $15 USD. Along the highway to Hoi An is a string of 4* beach resorts and golf courses. You will see all of these various resorts listed on trip advisor. Personally, after spending some time in Phu Quoc on the beach (see our Phu Quoc post with tips here), we opted to stay right in the historic city centre and enjoy the city life.
Where to Stay- when we were in Hoi An we met a lovely couple who had just opened the most beautiful guest house - La Tonelle. Their passion for Hoi was evident, through the beautiful decorations in the home, to the food (an infusion of French and Vietnamese), and their personable nature to connect with guests and share in stories of travel and the city. We kept going back to eat and relax, and would highly recommend them. It's the kind of place where you sit back in the garden, take in the sunshine, hear the birds chirping, drink a cold beer, and talk about how bright the future will be. We certainly did, as only the next day did our lives change - I heard back from DFID that I got an interview for my dream job, and well, the rest is history!
What to do - EAT! So anyone in Vietnam knows that the food is incredible. No need for a food blog to tell you that. But Hoi An really has it all. To this day, we still talk about the amazing Ms. Vy, and her chain of restaurants and cooking schools.
"Taste Vietnam", the Cookbook that changed Rwanda - I remember deciding whether or not to buy Ms. Vy's cookbook, as it was quite heavy and I didn't want to lug it around. I decided not to. A couple of weeks later, on my last day in Saigon (other side of the country), I still regretted it. My husband called the restaurant, and they had copies in Saigon, with one delivered to me by a moto driver on my way to the airport. It is my most used cookbook.
Ms. Vy, if you are reading this, let me tell you that your cookbook has inspired so many Rwandese women to start their own businesses. They read your story, how you started small, working your way up to be one of the most influential chefs in Vietnam today. (readers, Ms. Vy's most famous restaurant being the Morning Glory). These women came out of a genocide that left a country in need to rebuild. Many of them did not have any formal education, and only had a passion for food. They do not own fridges, kitchens, or any other materials, but have a heart, and a passion for food. Your book is easy to understand and so well put together, that they have taught themselves to specialise in Vietnamese cuisine, in Kigali! This is a tangible impact that you have had on the world. They asked me to thank you from the bottom of their hearts for being living proof that women can really change the world. Please remember their love, all the way from the heart of Africa.
For everyone else, you really, really, need to go to Hoi An just for this visit alone!
Tailoring - Hoi An is also famous for it's tailors. Vietnam is in general, but Hoi An is lined with various tailors who can literally make you anything. Ethics are an issue, so if this concerns you, do your homework, and you can read about scams here, or tips on getting a good deal here. Just remember that you get what you pay for, and also ask yourself whether you can be sure that people aren't working for nothing at the expense of the "tailor" who makes the profit. This is really something that tourists don't think about, but you should consider this when looking for the best option. At the time, this wasn't on our radar, but it should have been. We went with Adong Silk, and had three beautiful winter coats made. The prices were reasonable, and they lasted years. But I didn't visit the workshop, so can't comment on ethics.
Walk around and enjoy the city - the city is so small that it's most like a quaint village. Spend your days walking around, trying different restaurants, seeing the night lights, buying trinkets in the shops, visiting the market. The Japanese Covered Bridge is beautiful, there are yoga retreats, silk shops, gem museums and temples. You'll never get bored spending time just wandering around, and if so, there are lots of day trips to nearby beaches and museums. Just remember when trying street food, as my husband with a "stomach of steel from growing up in Malaysia" was sicker than I've ever seen him after some street meat. To this day, probably due to pride, he's convinced that it was the water used to wash the veggies, not the meat. To be fair, it probably was, so be careful!
All in all, we've visited a lot of places in our time, and Hoi An is one we will definitely be going back to. A sleepy village with amazing food and a mixture of slow/fast pace of life provides such a wide variety of things to do, and well, the food is still on our minds to this day!