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We flew to Hoi An, our first stop in Vietnam, via Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). Due to time and money limitations, we decided to skip Ho Chi Minh City as we’d heard it is very busy and there is more to see in Hanoi.
We wouldn’t have considered Hoi An if we hadn’t seen the iconic Top Gear Vietnam special, where they are in Hoi An for the full moon party (or more correctly the Hoi An Legendary Night). It turned out that a full moon was due when we would be in Vietnam, so we thought it would be well worth a trip.
Hoi An is a UNESCO world heritage site with many historic buildings which escaped the war. Previous a strategic trading port, the architecture is influenced the Cham, Chinese and more recently the French occupants. It is also known for the tailoring, more for the amount of tailors than anything else, and I thought it would be good to get a few shirts for the return to work (shudder).
Our first day in Hoi An, was also the full moon date and it rained. Not light rain, but heavy never stopping torrential rain. Stair rods as Northern older folks (yes you dad) refer to them. As we only had two days in Hoi An, we ventured out with the hotel’s giant umbrellas and literally waded through the streets. Fortunately it was warm rain but it didn’t stop. Soon the streets were a few inches deep in water so the only thing to do was sit in a bar, drink beer and watch the rain but only after I had been to Mr. Xe’s tailoring shop to order a shirt. It’s hard to know where to start in Hoi An as there are so many tailors. I’d looked up tips on trip advisor’s website and Mr. Xe was getting good feedback, however his shop didn’t look to inviting. We tried a shop that looked like a more professional operation only to find that they charged more than I would pay at home for a shirt. I braved it and went in the Mr. Xe’s shop. We had to wait with the shop girls for Mr. Xe to arrive on his moped. A few minutes later a tiny, very camp Vietnamese man arrived and I had to remove my shirt for measuring in the middle of the shop. I’m just glad I wasn’t ordering trousers! I decided to get one shirt initially to see what it was like and was told it would be ready in the morning. We visited the same place for lunch and dinner as it was really cheap and excellent food, with a nice owner. It was a bit quieter than some of the other places too and at gave us our first impression of how great Vietnamese food is.
The next day was hot, beautiful sunshine and barely a cloud in the sky, a complete contrast to the previous day. The first stop in early afternoon was Mr. Xe’s shop to try on my shirt. It was a good shirt but needed a few alterations. I order another couple (totaling US$45 for 3) and was told they would be ready that evening. We spent the rest of the day looking round Hoi An. We saw the market with was too low for me to walk through easily due to the tarpaulin ceiling. We enjoyed dinner at the ‘Market Restaurant’, which aimed to give the true Vietnamese ‘street food’ cuisine experience in a formal dining setting. We were not disappointed and had an amazing meal (check out the video of how to eat spring roles among the photos). A fantastic meal, with several courses, in one of the most expensive places in Hoi An cost us less than £15.
Our two days in Hoi An was not long enough. Although it is a small place, it was a nice, gentle introduction to Vietnam. We didn’t even get time to visit the beach, and driving back to Danang and the airport along the coast we could see the level of development that is going on here that visiting sooner rather than later is certainly a must.
As always you can see the pictures here.