Hoi An is a charming old-fashioned town with their obvious French-influenced faded yellow buildings, cute brick roof tiles and there are even good old bikes (the manual cycling ones, not the motor ones) for rent in most hotels for you to breeze through the town along the cobblestone roads. Despite being a modern day tourist hot spot, Hoi An managed to stay true to it’s old fashioned roots. We flew from Nha Trang airport to Da Nang airport, and from there, we drove to Hoi An (temperatures were just bordering upon chilly here). My mum nearly forgot about putting it on our tour itinerary and I had to remind her I was not leaving Vietnam until we went to Hoi An. (By the way, our tour was personalised so we basically travelled on our own but with our flights and hotels planned/paid for in a package. My mum was our tour guide =P).
Hoi An is famous for it’s silk tailors and travellers journey here for a new wardrobe of clothes to be personally tailored to your measurements and your choice of colour and material. They can easily replicate any design you show them and whip it up in 3 or so hours. However, we were short on time and so I only managed to get 3 items of clothing made for me. We visited the numerous tailor shops and browsed around for inspiration before deciding. Make sure you bargain your heart out to get your desired price! If things don’t work out, you can easily walk away and move onto the next shop. Then the next one, and so on. I had two dresses tailored for me, they were about $30 NZD each.
My sister showed the tailor a photo of a coat off Pinterest and after a hefty debate over colour/material and costs, we scored for $40 NZD. It was so warm and stylish, I asked for one to be made for me too using the measurements they took for my dress, and they were generous enough to deliver it to our hotel for us when it was finished.
Once we had our measurements confirmed and designs sent, we were off to explore the main part of the the town which was slowly awakening as people started emerging for the evening.
We had a quick stop for dinner in some secluded-ish alley. I was very apprehensive about eating here, as this particular street vendor was isolated from the busy streets and had no customers (which makes you question the turnover rate of food and thus the safety of eating it), but my mum assured us this one was safe, so against all inhibitions, we tucked into a bowl of Cao lầu- Hoi An’s regional dish which is only found in Hoi An. From what I gather, it’s made with special water from a well in the town.
Oh my lord, this dish was amazing and so different to anything I’ve had before.. The noodles were perfectly cooked with a bit of bite, the sauce was dark, flavoursome (soy sauce/ hoisin sauce in there somewhere?) and coated every bit of the dish’s components. STREET FOOD FOR THE WIN. Speaking of which, we joined a tour group for dinner at a restaurant where they gave us the same dish, but it was practically bland and tasteless compared to the one from the streets. Lesson learnt- avoid tour groups and their restaurant food. When we left that alleyway, the lady’s vendor was starting to pick up business and people were flocking there for dinner. Seems like we were her first customers for that night.
The lights are absolutely beautiful as there are no electrical street lights whatsoever, so the lanterns shine all the brighter. I love how this is how the town is lit up every night, it feels like every day is a festival!
There are so many trinkets and souvenirs and food to buy from here, it’s hard to resist buying a lot. As this was still only our first week in Vietnam, I regretfully had to refrain from buying everything in sight, including a limited edition looking book with all the children classics such as Black Beauty and a few Disney ones included. It was heavy, but beautifully bound, with gold engravings and would have been worth $70+ in NZ, but was only $10 NZD there!! My mum and sister had to tear me away.. Oh well, the sight of all lanterns at night was a marvellous treasure by itself.
Hoi An is definitely a place for all ages, and will remain the same for all the years to come. Visit with an empty suitcase and a booklet of photos of all your fashion needs, and walk out with a brand new wardrobe and very light wallets.