Hoi An is perfect. It is the Asian New Orleans/Charleston. The Vietnamese Ubud. It’s my place. More than once my friends and I commented that we felt like we’re at a theme park. It’s so ideal, so authentic, it nearly seems fake.
Locals and tourists stroll about on bicycles, but the locals are normally wearing triangle hats (yes, they actually wear them) or doubled up with friends/family. Tailors touting custom-made suits, dresses, coats and everything in between line the streets. In the old town, all of the buildings are washed various shades of yellow and lovely music is piped through speakers into the streets. Most buildings in the old town are two stories, and from the balcony of the top floor spill magenta flowers and bushy green potted plants. Dogs lie nonchalantly on the sidewalks or sometimes in the very center of the street, lazily sunning themselves and watching the world go by around them.
You have your choice of mouth-watering street food (banh mi sandwiches, pho soup, and sugary iced coffees sweetened with condensed milk), hangouts geared towards traveling hipsters with a variety of vegan/vegetarian dishes, or high-end restaurants with multi-course meals that would impress even the snobbiest of foodies.
Cross the Chinese bridge in the old part of the city (which can be a bit of a challenge at night as women peddle floating lanterns for you to send off into the river with a wish) – here you’ll come to the tiny island of An Hoi. Clever, right? At night this area is alight with the soft, colorful glow of paper lanterns and people’s “wishes” dot the river.
Selma and I arrived in Hoi An early in the morning around 6am after our 13 hour bus ride. We alighted sleepy eyed and dazed. Keen to take a taxi to our hostel but not finding any we reluctantly climbed onto the back of two motorbikes who sped us through the empty streets to our hotel. We weren’t able to check in just yet, so we rid ourselves of our packs and set off on bicycles towards town for breakfast and some shopping. It didn’t take long for a woman to spot us and quickly usher us into her shop. Despite our cries of “just looking” we were stripped down to our underwear before long, being measured here and there for tops, skirts and dresses. We selected our styles, our fabrics, negotiated a price and were told to come back that evening for a final fitting. I was in love.
Selma’s BFF was in town, traveling with his girlfriend, so she strolled around with them (happy to see an old friend and to speak in Dutch), and I met up with Swiss Melanie (who was about to become my next travel buddy!). We wandered around the streets, looked through markets and had lunch at a food stall that became our staple and the reason I’m now obsessed with morning glory (which is water spinach that they sauté with garlic to make it taste like heaven).
That evening, dressed to kill in our new clothes, we went out for dinner and a few drinks… which turned into beers at Tiger Bar… which turned into a pack of travelers stumbling to Why Not bar for dancing, drinking and debauchery… which resulted in me doing the dumbest thing so far on my trip…