Our trusty Frommers guide came through for us again finding us a beautiful hotel right close to the Old Town for $20 a night. The rooms were large, clean, air conditioned, had TV, a balcony and the rate included free internet in the lobby and even breakfast in the morning. I love banana pancakes. I've had them everyday.
Hoi An was the perfect change in pace we were looking for. After a week of shuffling from one spot to another never staying more than just one night anywhere we went, and for the most part spending more time than we wanted to in busy, noisy, crowded, exhausting Hanoi, Hoi An was the quiet retreat we needed.
The first day we got swept up in the shopping. Hoi An is one shop of tailor made clothing after another. Custom suits, dress shirts, lovely jackets in corduroy or tweed, everything lined in silk. There were linen pants, silk dresses and summer skirts and of course its all made to measure and fits you just right. We spent almost the entire day wandering from one shop to another looking and doing some buying, but mostly looking. By early afternoon we wondered why we were so worn out and we chalked it up to consumer senses overload. We needed to get away from the shopping.
We did end up buying a few custom pieces. A couple of pari of shoes, a pair of linen trousers for me and some leather sandals for Anthony. We went back to the hotel to take some bikes out on town until the pieces were ready for their fitting. It ended up pouring rain so we "rain checked" the bike riding for the next day.
The next day we decided to avoid the Old Town and market altogether and take the bikes we rented (2 for $1 for the day) out to the beach which was a lovely 4km ride away. It was quiet, limited traffic and because its off season, very few tourist. The beach itself was impressive, but the weather was cloudy and it took away from the experience. Nonetheless, it was easy to see what a huge attraction it would be during the high season. We had past a very cute restaurant on the river on our way out and decided to stop there for lunch on our way back into town. You could see the modern design influence with the white furniture and decorative pillows. That plus the tapas style lunch made for a very fashionable meal. This was by far the best food we had so far. Fresh spring rolls and lotus salad was an amazing Vietnamese treat. It wasn't just the food that made this spot memorable. The restaurant was literally on the river, hoisted 6ft above the river on stilts. The water was brown, but it didn't take away from the view. Shortly after stopping here the rain came. Its wet season in Vietnam so we have come to expect it now. When the rain comes, it comes in droves. We considered ourselves lucky to have stopped for a bite in good time and just sat back and enjoyed the downpour from our comfortable bench table while snacking and sampling some of their specialty fruit smoothies. Somehow we've managed to make good with the weather gods because when we were done eating the clouds dried up and we peddled our way back to the hotel with nothing more than wet feet (in flipflops).
We were having such a great time here we planned to stay a day longer than planned. We still wanted to rent motorbikes and drive out to My Son (mee-sun) to see what was supposed to be a must-see. So that's what we did the next day. In the end, it wasn't the temples that made this trip memorable. It was the hour and a half both ways on a motorbike through small towns, countryside and smaller villages that made the trip worth while. So much fun.
We had to catch our overnight bus to Nha Trang that night so we only spent a half day touring on the bikes. When we got back to the hotel, a shower and freshening up, then out for a late lunch and a final fitting for some clothes before we said goodbye to Hoi An. With the exception of an unfortunate incident with a fraud shoe maker, our experience here matched all of what we've come to know of Vietnam. The people were friendly, we felt welcomed to explore their cities and towns, they were happy to share their culture and eager to make your experience a wonderful one. Two thumbs up for Hoi An.
More pictures of Hoi An here: