Travelling Vietnam – Hoi An

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The MacInnes family – apart from Campbell – take on Cambodia and Vietnam for a family holiday that will sure to bring a lot of laughs, a lot of arguments and a lot of drinking. This Vietnam trip was with tour group Intrepid.

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Another day another early morning start for a four hour bus ride to Hoi An, not as bad as it sounds though even with a hangover. Along the way, we made a few stops to beautiful locations.

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First stop, coffee, chips and an ice cream (the perfect hangover cure) as well as the view of the Lang Co Lagoon. For $1USD you can sit on one of the local’s pontoons to get a picture, we didn’t realise this until after we sat down on it.

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Continuing on we hugged the beautiful coastline up the mountain, we even saw where they filmed the Top Gear Vietnam Special. Next stop an amazing lookout overlooking the Chan May Bay.

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We headed through Da Nang, one of the popular tourist destinations and a beach city. Da Nang was a town Vietnamese people would try to escape the country from, a lot of refugees would leave from that bay and it is one of the top three bays of Vietnam. Lunchtime in Da Nang, I recommend Ba Hung Bakery, delicious Banh Mi and steamed buns! My first proper Banh Mi – excluding the airport ones – and it was amazing!

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Or if you are looking for somewhere in Hoi An itself, go to Phi Banh Mi, seriously so so good with more filling too.

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Then it was onto Hoi An, wow wow wow. The end, no more content needed, just go there!

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No just kidding. Fun fact for you, Hoi An means a peaceful gathering and they weren’t wrong!

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We stayed in the Ancient Town for the two nights we had, Hotel Thuy Duong 3 to be exact. The boutique hotel was gorgeous, the rooms were so cute, lanterns and all. Oh and don’t forget the pool!

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Once we had stopped admiring the rooms we went on a group tour of the city. As you walk around you can see the history in the buildings. Hoi An buildings are designed from different cultures who had settled in the town throughout history.

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You will see the two story buildings are very European style and were built when the French, Dutch and Portuguese were there in the 15-16th century or the Vietnamese buildings which are only single storey.

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With the lanterns hanging from building to building you will be in awe at the beauty, my favourite street was Le Loi.

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Wander the streets and check out all the ancient houses, beautiful temples, boutique cafes and shops, plus the Japanese bridge, built in the 18th century. It is claimed to be built by the Japanese, then living in Hoi An, as a way to reach the Chinese quarter across the water.

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You can get a ticket for all these experiences, ours was included in our tour and as I discovered after walking too far one day, you need a ticket to actually explore the ancient town, lucky I was staying there.

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Want to try some local dishes in Hoi An, they are very much known for their Quang Noodles and Chicken Rice.

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Or join a cooking class and cook the local cuisine yourself. We took part in the Green Mango cooking class, which was a great experience. Usually, they take you to the market to get your ingredients but I think due to being time poor we didn’t do this.

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Our Chef Mi was very helpful and caught as a lot about the spices and herbs used in the cooking and tested us along the way, I was hopeless.

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Hoi An as a city is known for using loads of herbs and even have an organic herb garden so a lot of the locals incorporate a lot of herbs in their dishes, plus they are super fresh.

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For our cooking class, we made (but you have an option on what menu you want) smoked duck spring rolls, BBQ fish in a banana leaf, mango sticky rice, Green mango salad with shrimps and chicken Pho, which we got a copy of all the recipes to take home.

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After we cooked as a team, we headed upstairs to the restaurant to enjoy our food with the rest of the group. Wow, it definitely tastes better when you know you made it yourself! Other cooking classes I have been recommended include Morning Glory and Traveling Spoon.

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After you’re satisfied with your meal, walk the streets and have a little shop before they close around 9pm. The lanterns are cheap to own for yourself to really remember your amazing time in Hoi An or get a Northface jacket just in case you’re travelling the wet season. The North Face is made in Vietnam and if they are fakes they are definitely made in the same factory.

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The streets of Hoi An get very busy, full of tourists around 4pm so try and go earlier in the day and then later at night to enjoy those gorgeous small streets.

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Or get up at 6am and go for a walk through town, on sunrise the lake is beautiful and the market is opening up for the locals to buy their fresh ingredients.

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Stop at Raw Coco Cofee for a coffee, they were the only opened early that I could see. I did try the egg coffee here too as well as at Hoi An Roastery but nothing can beat Hanoi. Try it anyway, it is still delish! To keep Hoi An beautiful the town even has rubbish boats going along the river picking up any rubbish that lands in the water.

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As Vietnam is one of the largest plastic consumers you can understand why there is so much rubbish lying around.

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Hoi An is also known for bicycles. You will see many riding around, mostly by a lot of tourists and especially later when the Ancient Town roads are shut to motorbikes and cars. As part of our tour, we had the option to do a bike tour on Cam Kim island for the day. Our guide Tom, what a character, took us and our bikes on the boat and over to the island to see the countryside, the rice fields and mingle with the locals.

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We went to Mr Dao’s house to see him in action making the delicious rice wine! We did a cheers to that and sampled his alcohol, which he sells to fisherman, farmers and markets.

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Mr Dao lost his leg as a soldier in Cambodia when he stood on a landmine, after the war he became a barber and now he makes rice wine and sings to the tourists who come to visit. We even joined in with the song “Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh Vietnam”, listen to Mum, Dad and I sing it here.

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Next stop on our journey was to watch a couple make sleeping mats. I even attempted at helping but one mat would take me days, rather than the four hours like the locals. Our tour guide Tom was singing “row row row your boat” many times during the tour and loved a joke “everyone, this is called a ummmm tree” and “does anyone know what this tree is called” – excepting us to guess – “yeah me either.” Such a classic, what a jokester.

Now the one thing you must know about Vietnam is rain means rain and lots of it whether in a short amount of time or a long period of time, either way, loads of rain. Well just before getting back on the bikes, a very heavy amount came down. We hid in Mr Dao’s house until we got ponchos and decided it was now or never.

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Well the rain eased until the longest bit of road with no shelter and then the absolute downpour came, the ponchos at this point were deemed useless.

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Finally, we arrived at our next destination, lunch. We had lunch at a house, a family who make rice noodles. One thing you notice about Vietnamese houses is they are very open, usually no real rooms to separate sleeping and the toilet usually had a wet floor because it is the shower as well.

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The TV is the biggest and most modern item in the house and it is usually on majority of the time, they cook outside on coal or have a gas portable stove to cook. Lots of things are either done outside or in the open.

So we attempted to make our own rice pancakes, which are then made into noodles with what looks just like a pasta machine. I actually did okay with the lifting of the rice mixture off the hotplate, the trick is to do it fast. Lunch was delicious, pork Quang noodles and a perfect dish after being soaked from the rain, although it still wasn’t that cold.

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Once lunch was over it was a short ride back to the boat, passing through all the homes and countryside. The tour finished around 1pm, which was a perfect time to continue exploring. I did really enjoy this tour and recommend it! However, if you want to see more of Hoi An, a bike tour of Ancient City might be worth it!

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Now you probably already know but Hoi An is best known for their tailor-made clothing, shoes and handbags. Tailors occupy majority of the shops and are filled with people measuring up for their signature piece or suit. Now how do you know the best places?

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Well, Yaly is the best known tailor in Hoi An and where I went to get my gorgeous leather loathers made, within 24 hours! The service is fast and they speak very good English, you don’t pay until you’re 100% happy. Famous celebrities like Australian Jennifer Hawkins have used Yaly when staying in Hoi An. They also have three stores so you will always be served quickly.

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However, if you want to try out someone else I have also been recommended Blue Eye Tailora family owned and operated business, they use good quality materials and like Yaly will provide you with the services you need.

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If you’re wondering what to do a night, Hoi An really comes alive. They have some amazing restaurants including Morning Glory, Lantern Town and many other boutique restaurants!

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Or if you want to do some more shopping, over the bridge is the Night Market with clothes, housewares, souvenirs, lanterns and loads of food.

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As one of the stall owners told us it was “cheaper than Kmart”! We did a little foodie tour, some great and some I wouldn’t eat again. All the fresh seafood was amazing, the potato on a stick is a must try, the screwers were yum but the seafood pancakes, the Vietnamese pizza and the banana crepes were average.

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The night we went to the market it was a full moon, which meant for $50,000VND you could buy a lantern, put it in the river and make a wish.

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Over the bridge, they also have a lot of restaurants and bars to check out. Moe’s Tavern – a Simpson themed bar – definitely caught my eye! But I think if you want to go back over the bridge, Dive Bar is also a great choice.

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The night I went I couldn’t find any of my tour group, well ones my age, so I wondered there on my own and had a few drinks while chatting to the friendly waitress, she even did a caramel vodka shot with me. Also the movie The Quiet American had scenes in this bar.

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Hoi An is an absolute must visit, a beautiful town featuring beautiful buildings, friendly locals, gorgeous streets filled with lanterns and shops you could spend hours in – also featuring a shop from an Australian designer Ayana.

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I fell in love with Hoi An the minute I got there. I never left Ancient Town – except for the few minutes when I crossed the outer bridge and nearly had to pay to get in – but I would have loved to go outside and see the other parts of the city.

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Definitely stay 3-4 nights if you can, however, two nights was a great taste. Everyone on our tour loved this city, the only thing Dad didn’t love, being asked when the baby was due by the student selling items in the street, at this point he was over being called fat, we thought it was funny.

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The same girl also described us by our birth year. Some highly accurate.

1994 (Me): Dog Chinese Zodiac sign. People born in the Year of the Dog are usually independent, sincere, loyal and decisive according to Chinese zodiac analysis. They are not afraid of difficulties in daily life. These shining characteristics make them have harmonious relationships with people around.

1964 (Mum): Dragon (yep got that bit right) Chinese Zodiac sign are usually a group of people who are lively, intellectual and excitable. They can clearly tell right from wrong. They are upright and frank. However, they are also a bit arrogant and impatient. Female Dragons tend to be overly confident. They hate hypocrisy, gossip and slander. They are not afraid of difficulties but hate to be used or controlled by others.

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1961 (Dad): Chinese zodiac Ox sign holds conservative and traditionalistic personalities. They impress people with an image of endurance, honesty and diligence. They seldom fear for any hardships or difficulties. They are persistent but stubborn, cautious but hesitant, moody and quick-tempered.

She definitely had a lot of character and we knew this as soon as we said we already bought stuff she said “oh well you don’t know unless you try”, bless.

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Easily the most beautiful little village I’ve been to and one of the best places I’ve explored as part of my travelling journey. Do yourself a favour.

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Read more:

Travelling Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh

 

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