After a couple of days in the very pleasant Hue, we moved on to Hoi An just a few hours down the coast. Aside from the bus stopping at a shopping centre full of pearl jewellery, which we stayed outside of in protest and fear, the journey was fine and we got to Hoi An at 11.30. We hadn’t booked, but had an idea of where we wanted to stay – Law was convinced that we’d get a better deal by haggling! Fortunately the town is quite small and the weather wasn’t too hot, so we made it to the hotel and ended up with a room a couple of dollars cheaper than online.
Hoi An is great – a tourist town for sure, but very different from the similarly sized Yangshuo in China. We haven’t been hassled or harassed by shops and restaurants, and it is so much quieter. The centre is called ’old town’, a collection of houses, shops and restaurants along the riverfront and in the narrow, winding alleys and roads off them. It feels like it could be very touristy, but the prices have been okay and the weather has been great. It is famous for its tailors, who will custom make anything for in a ridiculously quick timeframe, and which seem to be in every other building. However, we have avoided these – the bags are full enough as it is!
There are a number of cultural sites and sights in and around the town, and we’ve been here for 4 days, so… we have seen very few of them! Instead, we’ve hired bikes for a dollar and cycled out 4 or 5 km to the coast each day and chilled on the beach.
There are 2 main beaches, each a cycle ride away, with various restaurants and bars right on the sand. They aren’t too busy, but there are of course the loungers for hire and handful of locals trying to sell you everything from sunglasses to newspapers, nuts to ’jewellery’. Between the two beaches it’s all sandy coast, and on our first full day we found a great little spot to relax.
Following a track off the main road, we cycled down towards the sand dunes. Law’s chain came off, and as we got covered in oil trying to fix it, and very friendly local lady came out and tried to help. She then let us wash our hands in her cafe / house, before we used her sun loungers to be the only people on that stretch of beach. We had a good cheap lunch here as well, Vietnamese baguettes with beef, salad and herbs – so naturally we came back here for the next couple of days.
It has felt a bit like being on holiday from travelling (which must sound rich), beaching it by day and wandering around the old narrow streets for food and insanely cheap beer by night (a glass is around 9 pence). We’re moving on to Ho Chi Minh City today though, beginning our last week in Vietnam. We also had a Skype meeting with our volunteer organiser at UBELONG, who gave us a lot more information on our placements in Phnom Penh. We’re now looking forward even more to these, to contributing something other than tourism to a place. Also, the thought of not having to pack and unpack the bags for more than 3 days is very comforting!
We just have the small matter of Saigon and the Mekong Delta to tackle first…