Hoi An, the midway check point when traveling through Vietnam. This place is more talked about than any other place in my travels throughout the country. It is only natural to check it out for yourself, it doesn’t take long to see why it is so popular. Known as a tailor capital, Hoi An has so much more to offer than just custom made suits and dresses.
After catching yet another 8-hour night/morning bus from Phong Nha, which from my point of view, was extremely comfortable, I arrived at about midday. Again, like most old cities around the world there is an old town section in which the heart and culture are located. Then the more modernized parts of the city tend to spread out around it.
You can find accommodation both in the old town or plenty around the outskirts of it as well. The closer you get old town the more expensive it tends to be. I got a hostel called Relaxed Garden which was about 10 mins push bike ride from the central bridge of old town.
The old town is the hub of everything that happens in Hoi an. It’s where all the food, bars and local markets are located as well as an extremely beautiful vibe. During the day, you can be expected to be hustled for suits and dresses where ever you walk. By night you are getting hustled for places to eat and have a drink.
Heading into the heart of old town at night is a must do. The vibe is extremely awesome, minus the hundreds of Chinese tourists walking extremely slowly and forever getting in your way. Lanterns and lights illuminate the river side, restaurants and bridge.
If you are planning on getting something made from a tailor I would highly recommend that you do some research beforehand. Because of the tourist influx and perception that Hoi An is the place for tailor made items. People who cannot even tailor have set up stores just to take advantage of the never-ending gold rush.
Some people have had items made only to have them disintegrate after a couple weeks or the first wash. As opposed to someone who paid the same price and got something of absolute quality. Do your research.
Getting out of Hoi An
Nearby are many beaches that you can also visit. I hired a scooter and drove only 15 mins out of the old town. There I found a beach all to myself which spreads along the coast as far as the eye can see. Although I would not rate it as one of the worlds best beaches, it is most defiantly worth spending an afternoon there. In the heat of the day you can work on your tan, go for a dip and have a couple casual drinks at one of the bars.
About 40 minutes north of Hoi An is the famous Marble Mountain, a spiritual location full of caves and temples. This is a good place to go to kill a few hours or half a day. The drive is nice as you hug the coast heading north. Once you get there you walk up some stairs to see multiple attractions.
The mountain used to be mined for marble but this was discontinued as it was being abused. Although there are literally tonnes of marble souvenirs big and small. I’m not sure what benefits that would have to tourists as they are huge and heavy but it’s interesting to see never the less.
Although again you need to battle the Chinese tourists. Not that it should stop you from going, it’s just worth noting.
My Son – World Heritage Site
My Son Sanctuary is an ancient city full of temples and is also a World Heritage Site. It’s one of those places that truly puts life into perspective. The history and structural architecture of this place is mind-blowing.
You can get here one of two ways. Organise a tour and get a bus, minivan or taxi which would give you comfort. However this would also be expensive and not a well-rounded experience. In my opinion, the better and cheaper way would be to rent a scooter and drive from Hoi An. The drive takes about an hour and a half winding through the beautiful countryside.
Again it’s sometimes the journey that is better than the destination. It’s beautiful as you pass through villages and farms. I find myself in pure bliss whenever I drive a scooter around Asia. So much fun. Most defiantly up there with the tops things to do.
Once you arrive there a multiple golf cart like vehicles that escort you to the ancient city. Here you can take your time and walk around the structures. Although these are unfortunately getting a little past there used by date, it is still extremely rewarding to see the history and visualize what life must have been like during that time.
One thing that stood out to me was the fact that during the war, the Americans tried to bomb these temples which I think is terrible. Destroying history like that, what harm were they doing and why would want to destroy such a beautiful place. Although talking to some other people at the site the intention behind the bombings was to get the Vietnamese morale down.
You can still see the bomb craters today. Standing inside them as they litter the ground around the surrounding areas is eye opening. If you are into history and like temples, My Son will most defiantly be for you.
After spending 5 days here both exploring and relaxing it lived up to all the hype. But as it always is with most places you must move on at some stage. It was time to keep heading South and to the final two destinations of my 30 days in Vietnam.