Destination: Hoi Ann, Vietnam
Number of Days there: 5 days
One thing unexpected: We knew Hoi An was a shoppers paradise but we never thought it would be so addictive.
Times we took the: Boat: 2 Bus/Minivan: 1 Train/Subway: 0Taxi/Car: 0 Motorbike: 0 Bike: 2
Where we stayed: Dai Long Hotel - $10/night including free wireless Internet (excellent hotel)!
Favorite Restaurant: Miss Ly's Cafeteria served the best Cau Lau in Hoi An (25,000 dong/about $1.50 US). Mr. Thai's served up amazing grilled clams for 40,000 dong (less than $3)!
Best of: Tailor made clothing, hand made silver & friendly kids
Worst of: Tracy's rain jacket was stolen
Special Moments: We were like movie stars traveling through the islands with bicycles, everyone was constantly yelling "hello" at us and coming out to see the foreigners. The kids at the elementary school nearly ran down Jason when he offered a bag of candy.
We caught a bus from Hue to Hoi An ($3) for the quick trip to town (4 hours). We settled on Dai Long Hotel which was a steal at $10 a night (centrally located, spotless & free wifi) and did a bit of wandering through town that night inspecting the damage done by the flooding. We soon found out after arriving that it was the monsoon season and it was evident by the flooding in the first two blocks of town. Local people in boats called out to tourists giving boat rides through the flooded area. We didn't take them up a boat ride but we did get some rather priceless photos!
We spent our first two days in town just wandering around and doing a bit of shopping. We visited several tailor shops and finally decided on B'Lan which was recommended by our friends, Wren & Robert (thanks guys). We started by just ordering a few items but after seeing their work it quickly proved addictive! Over the course of the next few days we would order a little something new each day and looked forward to trying our news clothes each day.
On our third day we decided to rent bicycles ($1) and explore the area surrounding Hoi An. Upon a recommendation of Sleepy Gecko owner Steve, we ended up riding all the way to the beach where we stopped at his friend, Mr. Thai's, for lunch. We spent hours at the beach despite the rain just watching the ocean from our private perch above the sand while eating grilled clams and drinking LaRue beers! As sunset rolled in we met several expats and enjoyed talking with them about their time in Hoi An & Vietnam.
The next morning we set out early for a cooking class. We took a market tour, were shown how to do fruit carvings, took a boat to the cooking academy and started cooking! We were able to make fresh rice paper, spring rolls, ban xeo (Vietnamese pancake) and a hot pot with eggplant. All of the dishes were excellent and in addition to the those dishes we were also given instructions on how to make a cucumber fan and a tomato flower...the results were less than spectacular :-)
After the cooking class we browsed around town a bit more and came across a silversmith that took custom orders...that was all Tracy had to hear...an order was immediately placed for a monogrammed silver bangle as well as a few other items too numerous to mention!
The next morning came early again as we trudged through the rain and across the bridge to the Sleepy Gecko for an all day bike tour of the surrounding islands. The morning rain continued throughout the day and we had a great time riding through puddles, with some being knee deep! While we were riding through the islands we saw wood carvers, mat makers, ship builders, water buffalo ranchers as well as local people just doing their thing. We were even stopped by a group of men that offered us rice wine to fortify our journey :) We were tipped off that a visit to the elementary school was included in the itinerary so we came prepared. The kids nearly chased Jason down when he held out the bag of candy we brought for them! The bike tour was $35 per person and included an all day guided trip, all ferries, lunch including beer and a barbecue dinner. Well worth it! For more information contact Steve at the Sleepy Gecko - www.thesleepygecko.com.
The last day we raced around town from tailor shop to silver store back to tailor shop, etc while we tried on clothes and requested last minute changes to the jewelry we purchased. It wasn't exactly how we pictured our last day in Hoi An but it was reminiscent of Christmas Eve with frantic shopping the whole day! Backpacks fuller than ever we caught our flight to Saigon for our last stop in Vietnam!