It is fair to say that the World Heritage Site that is the town of Hoi An is simply stunning.
We arrived yesterday under a cloudy sky somewhat downbeat, as Hoi An is set on the South China Sea and we were looking forward to some time on the beach in the sunshine. But the same weather that harassed us in Hue seemed to be following us down the coast. So our first evening here was spent wearing more clothes than we wished and strolling through the streets of the old town.
As you can see Hoi An is most definitely picturesque. It has a long history as a trading town and many different Chinese traders settled here, giving the place a very Chinese feel some 400 years later. During our stroll we visited one of the oldest Chinese homes which is now open for viewings. Within they had marked the height of the various floods which had befallen the home over the years. Some were over 6ft above floor level yet the house remains in impressive condition.
Hoi An has definitely worked hard to retain its charm despite the tourism that it now attracts. Most shops have Chinese lanterns hanging outside and the river is impressively decorated with Chinese dragons. They also very wisely restrict motorbike use to only some roads. It was almost surreal not hearing the constant buzzing and tooting of mopeds as we have everywhere else we have been.
After a little research (Trip Advisor is our new friend!) we decided to visit one of the best restaurants in town, the Lighthouse on Cam Nam island…just across the river from Hoi An. After getting lost and wandering down some rather dark side streets we eventually found it and it’s only other table of guests. The menu was impressive as most are here but we went with the advice of our waitress and ordered the “cook it yourself” Seafood Hotpot. We had a demonstration from our host as to how to cook the food and were then left to boil and serve the rest. It was delicious.
For our second day we had booked a tour to My Son (pronounced Mi Sun) and when we awoke to our surprise the sun had made a rare appearance. We were picked up by the coach and proceeded to tour every hotel in Hoi An picking up mostly Germans.
My Son is a complex of abandoned and partially ruined Hindu temples (American bombs again) which are very similar to the temples we will be visiting in Cambodia. We were lucky enough to spend 90 minutes wandering through the various buildings. The temples are impressive. The photos do the talking…
The brickwork on show is incredible. The builders didn’t use any form of mortar so the bricks had to be an exact fit. Truly impressive and a perfect taster before we get to Siem Reap in Cambodia in a few days.
After returning from the tour the weather was still good so we hired some (rubbish) bikes from the hotel and cycled the 2km to the beach. The waves were fairly big but we braved the sea. Great fun.
In the evening we took a flyer and strolled around looking for a good restaurant. Generally web reviews are quite reliable but its nice to live life on the edge sometimes!
We found a lovely Vietnamese resturant on the river and sat on the first floor near the balcony. The food was incredible and an absolute bargain. I was so overcome with the food and the price I took a picture of the menu.
This lot was all pretty large dishes and came to the princely sum of £2.50. And I washed it down with local beer at 40p per glass! All of it was delicious and I ate every bit. Claire had a pizza which also cost £2.50. I reckon somewhere in Italy there is a Vietnamese person eating roast beef and Yorkshire puddings!
We had to be up early to catch a train so went for a quick drink in a stupidly expensive bar. It was so expensive that the drink serving chap immediately apologised for the high cost before we had even seen the drinks menu. We ordered a couple of drinks from the “Happy Hour” list (6pm – 10:30pm in case you were wondering) and then went back to pack and get an early night.
Our next stop is Nha Trang – where American Soldiers holidayed during the Vietnam war.