Right I’ll be truthful here and admit that before coming to Hoi An (which I am sure is just a misspelling of Hanoi) I went to the beach resort of Nha Trang. Big mistake. Imagine Benidorm only twice as hot and 80% humidity. It was as bad as that. I had booked 3 nights there so I tried to find something interesting and found just one old temple. Its supposed to be a party place but even the kids sharing the dorm who’s conversation evolved around who had taken what drugs and how much struggled to find something to like about Nha Trang.
Anyway the 3rd night was up, and off on bus again I traveled. To Hoi An. I had an open mind about what to expect and truthfully after Nha Trang (just typing the words makes me want to spit) a tent in a freshly flooded paddy field would of been better.
The bus did the usual trick of dropping you off kilometers away from where anyone was staying with the usual gaggle of motor bike drivers and taxi drivers touting for your business. But being the greedy bugger Yorkshire man that I am I waded my way through and despite unbearable heat and humidity I saved my 130000 dong (about £4) and walked the 2km to my digs. I had splashed out this time after the disappointment of the last town and booked a double room in a homestay at a whopping £9 a night with satellite Tv, aircon and a balcony just across the hallway from my room. The family spoke very little English but I am still sure this little Yorkshireman was a big hit with the as after every thing I said they laughed. I said “Hello”, they laughed, I said “Good morning” they laughed, I said “I ran over your dogs while stealing your daughter to sell in the slave trade” they laughed. I was tempted to open up my own comedy club just for the locals. Would of made a fortune.
Any way. How best to describe Hoi An. The center is quaint as could be. Small traditional dwellings and traditional living going on and working very well with the tourist trade. Japanese and Portuguese influences can be seen in many of the buildings and its just the sort of place where you feel you can take a deep breathe and just relax. In Hoi An I sat in a little cafe by the river front that was nearly empty. I had a coffee and then a couple of beers and just chilled and watched Hoi An life pass by. You had the usual tourists and travelers, venders coming past trying to sell the usual touristy things, venders coming past with fruit and various other food hanging from baskets that they carried on a wooden pole across their backs wearing the traditional coolie hats and plenty of people passing by on push bikes, it felt just so peaceful and relaxing. Had I tried to sit in such a cafe in Nha Trang I would just of felt bored and restless yet here everything felt just right.
Of course not everything is perfect. A couple of kilometers away is the sea and I booked a snorkeling trip with a chance to see traditional life on a small island only a few kilometers across. Sounding good so far yes. In reality it did not live up to expectations. The tradition village on the small island was kind of spoilt by the fact they probably had more mopeds per population then anywhere. Its a small island for god sake, does nobody walk. And of course the answer is no. As in a lot of Asia the new generation has discovered mopeds are a lot easier then walking. Don’t get me wrong, in this heat its understandable for long journeys or transporting goods (and no body transports thing better on mopeds then the Asians, trust me) but even for a few hundred meters its out with the moped and down the road in a cloud of dust and fumes. The Snorkeling did not leave a lot to be desired either. The coral was dying off and the fish although colourful were not in any vast numbers. I was glad to get back to Hoi An.
The one good thing about the trip was meeting and making some new friends. A handsome and very modern Indian couple and a Colombian guy who was actually a film editor. It was his birthday so we decided to meet up and have a meal together. We ended up meeting at this bar by the beach. We ordered food from the restaurant next door including these really tasty crabs and just chilled the evening away with good food, good company and good wine. It was such a good time we did the same thing the next night at a restaurant in the main town.
My stay ended here with me packing my rucksack at the homestay and preparing to check out. But the homestay was not ready for me to leave. There was an old gentleman there who I only really saw when I returned from my nights out rather late after having my meals with my new friends. I would get rather annoyed as they insisted on locking the gates at 11pm and I would often roll up at 1am locked out but all my bad mood would just wither away when this old gentleman who I had just woken up at what must seem a horrible time for him opened the gates with a big grin and a smile talking to me in Vietnamese then just laughing no matter what I replied.
Anyway he knocks on my door as I am packing indicating with sign language for me to come downstairs. Crap I thought. They are kicking me out early. I proceed downstairs and there is the full family sat around the table with a full spread of food and me the guest of honor. The household seemed to of expanded from the original 4 to about 8. Only two of whom spoke any English and all looking at me with big beaming grins. It was traditional food served with a traditional family and I was made to feel just like one of the family as we all ate using nothing but chopsticks. My nightmare eating utensil. I’m Lucky I never put anyone’s eye out.
The perfect end to a near perfect visit to a town I would really recommend you visit. Hoi An.