After enjoying our beach time in Nha Trang my Vietnam adventure continued up the coast north to Hoi An. Hoi An is historically and architecturally praiseworthy because of its history as a busy port town. The port brought residents from all over the world, especially Japan, China, France and Italy. These original buildings and bridges are relatively well persevered creating an adorable town filled with a mix of many different styles and eras. Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also a popular tourist destination.
The town is a string of a few small islands only accessible by smaller cars, mopeds and bikes. Besides being architecturally unique Hoi An is also known for its many tailors who make tailored clothing, shoes and leather goods with a turnaround time of less than 48 hours. Hoi An had hands down the best shopping of all my Vietnam destinations.
We stayed at Vanloi Hotel, a place I’d strongly recommend. The hotel was a continuation of our indoor/outdoor living and had great views on its panoramic fifth story breakfast lounge.
This hotel was also one of the few places we stayed with a pool, right in the center of the courtyard. As I stated previously, spa services in Vietnam are considerably cheaper than in the US. I had an amazing facial at the hotel spa here that really helped relax me after all the busy days of traveling.
We stayed in Ho Ain for two days. The first day I made sure to get in lots of shopping and had two pairs of beautiful leather loafers commissioned. Each pair of handmade, handsewn shoes cost $50 each, such a steal! I also had several clothes made by a tailor there. I had a blazer, a dress shirt and several dresses made. The price was more steep than I was anticipating but the quality was fantastic! I had to go back two different times for alterations but I am really pleased with all of my pieces.
You can essentially have anything made there. You can show them pictures on your phone of pieces you’d like made or you can pick from the stacks of books they have with designs. After you’ve created a design you can select your material from thousands of choices of fabrics, prints and colors.
I was really impressed by the entire experience! There are a lot of different tailors out there ranging in price and we went with highly rated (and more expensive) Yaly Couture. I was really pleased with the experience and would recommend them.
It was hot, especially since we rented bikes as our transportation around the city, and we stopped several times for ice creams, water and tea. We stopped at one traditional tea house and enjoyed a tea service with biscuits. Great way to cool off!
For lunch in Hoi An we stopped for some Banh Mi at Banh Mi Phuong. Banh Mi are traditional Vietnamese sandwiches consisting of meat and vegetables on French loaves. Each Banh Mi is different depending on the vendor but traditionally you’ll find them with pork liver pate, pork floss, handmade mayonnaise, grilled pork, head cheese, pork patty, pickled papaya, long sliced cucumber, sliced tomato and cilantro, spring onion, and mint.
You can find a variety of different types all over the south and center of Vietnam. Hoi Ain has a vendor who was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unkown television show so of course we had to sample their sandwiches. They were delicious and we ended up going back the next day to try another meat combination.
About an hour drive outside of Hoi An is another UNESCO World Heritage site, the Myson Temple. Myson means Kingdom of Charm and is a beautiful Hindu temple consisting of several different buildings partially in ruin in the middle of the jungle. The temple was built during different times of habitation between the 4th and 14th centuries. It was lost and forgotten until 1889 when French soldiers stumbled across it while lost in the jungle.
Unfortunately much of the architecture was destroyed during the Vietnam war from carpet bombings done by the American military to draw out the gorilla soldiers living amongst the ruins. What’s left is beautiful though and provides a great picture into the advanced building capabilities of ancient Southeast Asian peoples.
The jungle was hot and humid and we were all sticky by the time we made it back to Hoi An. This is when it was great to have a pool to cool off in! That night we went to a Vietnamese cooking class which was a lot of fun and made a fried egg omelet, spring rolls and a Vietnamese salad.
The most special part of our Hoi An adventure was the full moon ceremony. According to our local guide, to show appreciation to the moon for its light, on full moons the village releases lanterns into the river to give light back to the moon. The ceremony is beautiful as hundreds of candles are lit and released making the river light up and sparkle. They also adorn all the streets with hanging lanterns that make the city feel magical.
Hoi An was one of my favorite cities in Vietnam and is a must for anyone traveling in that region.