After Luang Prabang, Hoi An would be the second UNESCO World Heritage site we would visit in our travels, and it is also one of my favourite places we visited on this trip.
Hoi An is a compact little town making the whole place very accessible by foot (which is handy, as for much of the day,the streets are closed to vehicle traffic).
Historically a trading port with Chinese and Japanese influence, it’s quiet streets are full of the most beautiful old buildings an amazing waterfront on the river Thu Bon.
With 3 days here and the town being so afforded us time do something we don’t tend to do so often on our holidays abroad. Time to relax!
We were able to languidly stroll gorgeous cobbled alleyways, indulge in Bia Hoi right on the waterfront (Hoi An also had some of the cheapest at 3000 dong a glass) and eat some of the most delicious food we would find in Vietnam.
At night, the area by the river really came to light, beautifully lit by lanterns and with local musical performances as well as games of Bai Choi played predominantly by the locals (this closely resembles bingo and in which I had a win on our last night).
Aside from the beauty and history attached to this town which was remarkably untouched by the Vietnam War, Hoi An is also famed for its tailors. Tourists aplenty will come and get measured up to by suits, coats or any item of clothing one can think of, made to measure and order. In the end, we bought nothing for myself, but for Sarah we had a gorgeous cobalt coat made. Given her pen-chance for the colour blue, it remains a favourite to this day.
Half a day was spent at the Morning Glory cooking school, run by the effervescent Ms Vy. Similar to our last cooking school back in Chiang Mai, this too started with a trip to the market to walk us through and show off the fresh produce we’d be using (the actual food we’d be cooking with had been bought many hours ago before the sun had even risen).
All of the dishes we were tutored to cook proved delicious. Some were common (such as Banh Mi & Rice Paper Rolls whilst others such as a prawn and cabbage soup were both flavoursome and easy.
I can not complement the teaching style and knowledge of Ms Vy highly enough, although my understanding is that only 50% of all classes are taken by her, with an assistant taking the others. We felt very lucky indeed to have the master herself.
Feel free to check out more on this link: http://www.restaurant-hoian.com/index.php/en/morning-glory-cooking-class-hoian-vietnam.html
We rose very early on our last day in Hoi An as we’d arranged a dawn visit to the ancient Cham ruins of My Son. These ancient Hindu temples are another of Vietnam’s world heritage sights and it really was lovely to be there so early in the morning before the heat of the day took its toll (sadly access isn’t allowed early enough to watch the sunrise).
Sadly, much of the complex was damaged during the Vietnam War, so one can only imagine how spectacular this place could have been.
Seeing this place made it easy to understand the awe in which people must hold the ruins of Angkor Wat, and certainly placed it higher on my own must see list (Sarah having already been there back in 2006).
Our last hours in Hoi An involved some final exploration, which saw us stumble upon a small building known as ‘Smile House’. Tucked away at the back of some seemingly empty temple grounds, this place was a venue where disabled people (many maimed by unexploded wartime ordinance or suffering birth defects from their parents exposure to Agent Orange) could work to make handicrafts for sale.
The sad thing with this situation, was how difficult it would be for anybody to actually find this place and be given the opportunity to support these folk. For all their troubles, they certainly held very friendly smiles, so the place was at least aptly named.
Our time spent in Hoi An with its lovely streets will not be forgotten any time soon, and no images can truly do this picturesque location true justice!
As we whiled away hour last night with some more Bia Hoi and actually participated in a game of Bai Choi (this was the night I actually won), we once again had the opportunity to capture these shots which illustrate both the incredible balance and resourcefulness of the Vietnamese people. Where people back home would use trucks and vans, the local options are almost always certain to be on 2 wheels…