When in Vietnam, visit Hoi An
Hoi An, a small yet charming town in Central Vietnam. I set foot into this town 7 years for the first time and instantly fell in love with it. The creative vibe, the delicious food, colourful houses and narrow alleys are all traits of this beautiful place.
7 years later, I found myself at Heathrow airport on the way to Hoi An to visit my friend who has recently moved there. I travel regularly; however, it has been awhile since I last went on a long-distance journey across the globe. After checking in, I waited at the Gate for my flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, full of excitement and a yearning for adventure. The flight was long, 13 hours in a middle seat, the worse possible seat, but the joy of travelling again was so great, nothing could ruin it. A lot of people think I’m weird for liking plane food, but the vegetarian meals were amazing. I was particularly happy about the salted caramel ganache for dessert, yes, food does make me happy!
2 movies, few rounds of “Who wants to be a Millionaire” and an uncomfortable sleep later, I landed in Kuala Lumpur. I was greeted by the warm heat on my skin, something that I have missed for so long. I wished I was able to spend a day here in Malaysia, but instead, I had 2 hours until my next flight to Saigon, Vietnam. As I strolled through the airport shops I chuckled to myself with the sight of all sorts of durian products. Durian chocolate, durian biscuits, dried durian. Durian is a fruit that is very popular in Asia. It has a distinct taste and a rather unpleasant smell. You either love it or hate it. I hate it, but it reminds me of my childhood and how relatives always bring out durian treats on special occasions as they are not as easy to find in Germany.
I was finally on my way to Vietnam and a few hours later, landed in Saigon. To get to the domestic terminal, you had to walk outside for a bit and the moment I stepped out, this heatwave and the smell of delicious Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup) from a stand nearby, hits my face. Yes, I am definitely in Vietnam now and I love it!
One last flight and I finally arrived in Da Nang. I walked out to find my driver already there, holding a sign with my name on it. As my friend booked the driver for me, I was surprised she did not tell him to put something like “Ling Ling, I got your Bling Bling” on the sign.
It took us half an hour to Hoi An and for the weekend, we have booked a bungalow near An Bang Beach, called Cashew Tree Homestay. The place was incredible with its white and blue bungalow rooms and tropical plants by the patio and in (!) the bathroom.
Beach weekend and a nerve-wracking cycling experience
I woke up with the sounds of birds singing and pancakes, fruit smoothie and of course, Vietnamese coffee. After breakfast, we decided to rent some bikes to cycle to the beach then to the Ancient Town. When my friend said that we would cycle through the vegetable village, we expected a peaceful cycle through the countryside. Oh how wrong we were!
We cycled through the village, with rice paddies and buffalos on both sides. As I took in the scenery and the peacefulness, we reached the main road. Thinking that we have reached the town, we crossed the road just to find ourselves in midst of the crazy, Asian traffic. Motorbikes and cars were squeezing pass us, with no clear lanes and rules. Beep beep beep – the constant honking to indicate that they are about to overtake you made my heart race. A few mini heart attacks later, we finally made it to town, still alive and in one piece.
We strolled through the colourful town, sneaking through narrow alleys to avoid paying a fee that apparently not everyone has to pay.
We went on a boat tour along the river, enjoying the view and scenery. In the background, the sound of heartbroken Vietnamese Karaoke songs coming out of a nearby restaurant.
We explored several art studios and photography exhibitions before dinner. We went to a small, local place called “Com Linh” with specialities from Hoi An, such as Mi Quang, a noodle bowl with shrimp, egg, lettuce, peanuts and pieces of toasted sesame cracker. A main meal for just over 1 pound.
The Ancient town is particularly charming once the sun goes town and the lights of beautiful, colourful lanterns illuminate the streets. You hear the chatter of tourists and the calls of street vendors from every corner. I have to say, they are far more tourists than what I experienced 7 years ago. The increased amount of tourists and expats in town led to the opening of a lot of shops, restaurants and cafes, some owned by foreigners who have settled here. The little shops are selling custom-made clothes and fabrics, art and souvenirs. Everywhere, you can find unique, little cafes with big, open windows facing the road and people squatting on the ground to enjoy the street foods and fruits. I was amused by cyclo riders verbally making the beep beep sound to indicate their presence.
To be continued…