A Travellerspoint blog

Vietnam: Hội An

View Advensha on advensha's travel map.

The morning of our departure from Huế was a little frazzling. I realised late in the evening that I'd left my camera repair receipt at the shop and without one I'd have no chance of claiming through my insurance. So after hurriedly getting ready and packing my bag, I ran down to head to the shop. In my wisdom I'd saved a paragraph I'd written through Google translate explaining that I needed a copy of my receipt to hopefully make things easy to the shop attendants. I happened to show this paragraph to Toan (the guesthouse guy) who then dashed all my hopes and dreams and said it was total gibberish and made no sense at all. Compassionate to my plight he very kindly escorted me to the shop, which was closed. He rang the number on the sign and explained to the owner what I needed and he said that someone would be there in 10 minutes. 20 minutes later the girl from the day before arrived with a smile and opened up. The message hadn't been passed on but after flailing my hands and arms around in a crazy game of charades she understood what I needed and wrote me a receipt. Success!

At this point I had no idea whether Lauren had already been collected by the bus and was on her merry way to Hội An. Luckily, she was still in our room. We clambered down the stairs with our ever-growing backpacks and Toan asked us to pay for our stay. We were a little confused as we thought for a second we'd already paid but we handed over the 490,000 dong anyway and waited for our lift. Then, when checking our emails for our accommodation in Hội An we realised we HAD in fact paid for Sunny Fine guesthouse. We showed Toan the email confirmation and he apologised profusely and explained that he thought we'd booked through booking.com (where you don't pay upfront) but we'd actually booked with Agoda (where you do pay upfront). He felt really bad but I made a joke out of telling him I was going to call him a thief on my TripAdvisor review and we all had a good laugh about it.

We chatted to a nice solo-traveller called Mike from St. Albans for a bit then got collected by crappy old van with two poor long-legged Europeans squashed in what used to be the boot. We got on the coach and did a double-take at the format; 3 rows of mauve double-decker leather dentist chairs. The bottom level is on the floor of the coach - you have to get on your hands and knees in the aisle and shuffle into the seat/bed. To get up to the top deck there is a little ladder - you have to climb it and contort yourself into the seat/bed without knocking someone out with your arse/legs or in our case, tits. Once in place, you slide your legs into a shallow 'slot' and you can then decide whether you want to sit upright or lay down almost flat. We also had a our very own brown puffy duvet decorated with paw prints that I thought probably had more skin on it than Leatherface - so I didn't use mine.

We then spent an hour parked at the Petrolimex; people were loading box after box and bag after bag onto the coach. Eventually we left and after a couple of hours we stopped at a truck stop for toilets and food. This stop was an undeniable tourist-trap, ran by a very assertive lady who shouted at all of the Caucasians on the bus to buy food and snacks. She then went round asking everyone for foreign coins and notes as she collects them. We were pretty hungry and ill-prepared so we gave in and bought some Pringles for £2 which brought tears to my eyes. We did enjoy the delicious MSG though.

As always, I managed to fit in a few naps while on the coach; if I'm in a moving vehicle for over 10 minutes I simply cannot fight the urge to snooze. Lauren was near to the toilet and became increasingly frustrated at the male users of the coach toilet who seemed unable to shut the door after their visit; which meant a lovely smell wafted to our noses. I feel this is becoming a bit of a theme.

Four hours on the coach and we arrived in Hội An where we were immediately touted by motorbike-taxis (xe ôm) who told us that there aren't any taxis in Hội An and so we must use them. Unconvinced, we walked for less than 2 minutes and flagged a fully-licensed taxi (on the meter) that took us the 4km to Luna Villa Homestay. Nice try suckers. We received a very warm welcome by Peanut (really) and her staff and we were blown away by our massive modern room fully equipped with kettle, flat-screen telly AND a fridge! We also had a peek at the infinity swimming pool, flanked either side by huge palm and banana trees and two lakes. We knew we were going to be very comfortable.

Peanut was eager for us to book tours with her and repeatedly recommended a particular tailor shop in town (Hội An is renowned for it's bespoke tailoring trade), but we politely resisted; keen to try and do things ourselves without forking out.
We chilled out in our room for a few hours; I even got electrocuted by a lamp and almost voided my bowels. Lauren thought it was the finniest moment of her life.

That evening we attempted to visit a nearby restaurant (apparently 400m from our homestay). We got the route up on Google Maps and started following it but as we were in a really rural area (Cam Thanh village) it was pitch black. We cautiously walked up a very dark lane and heard the sounds of various creatures and different unknown things we stepped on. We used Lauren's torch app on her phone but we quickly became very anxious. Then, just as we thought we were approaching the restaurant a group of dogs came out of a yard and started aggressively barking at us. Naturally we gave up and practically ran back to the homestay; where the lovely staff made us some noodles so we didn't starve. What are we like eh!? As if we weren't spooked enough we then made the wise decision to watch Final Destination 3 on TV.

We tossed and turned a bit through the night and realised the cups of tea at 11pm were probably a mistake - we got a little excited by the presence of a kettle. Despite this we were up early and after our breakfast we had a little swim then cycled into the town centre 6km away.
As we were nearing the town a lady on the back of a motorbike siddled up to me, while I was cycling on the road, and started asking me when I'd arrived in Hội An and where I was from. Immediately aware I was being scouted for business I asked her why she needed to know and she then asked whether I needed any tailored clothes. After a firm NO she signalled her driver to speed on. I give her kudos for her unique approach.

Smoothly following our interesting introductory sales-pitch, after we'd parked up, we were promptly punched in the face by many more pestering ladies offering tailoring, massages, nail art, sandwiches and even eyebrow plucking - which one woman was keen to sell to Lauren. We ducked and blocked as best we could, upping our pace so to not inadvertently stop in front of a shop. The town itself is very pretty; lots of leftover colonial features line the very symmetrical and colourful streets and many lanterns float above your head.

The relentless bothering was a little disheartening but we were even more disillusioned when we approached the ticket booth for visiting the 'ancient town' sights and were told it cost 120,000 dong (£4) per person for a book of 5 tickets to visit 5 of the 25 sights. We had read that we'd have to pay something for the ancient sights but we didn't think it's be so much and we also didn't think we'd be limited to 5. We didn't dwell however and used our first ticket on visiting an old Chinese Assembly Hall; Phuc Kien. We then moved onto Tan Ky House; a 200 year old traditional Vietnamese trading house which among other things, contains some beautiful ornate panelling and furniture with mother of pearl Chinese lettering.

Feeling deprived of raw nutrients, we found a local grocery market where I excitedly bought apples and carrots. We then had a look at the ancient Japanese bridge deciding not to use a ticket to walk on it *cough swizz cough*. After a bit more wandering we finally had enough of the accosting and moved on to our most beloved activity; eating.

We'd spotted vegan café Annen on the ride into Hội An town and were glad to find it open when we arrived. We were also glad to find that it was locally owned by an husband and wife as a lot of the veggie/vegan places we've found thus far have been Western-owned, overpriced and with a 'hipster' vibe. We did have to Google a few of the dishes and we also had to wait an hour for them to be served (only the wife was cooking and the place was full) but boy was it worth it. Lauren chose a dish that is specific to Hội An; Mi Quang soup made of flat yellow noodles, mushrooms, carrots and tofu.

After a brisk cycle back before it got dark we had another swim before bed and felt like jammy little bastards.

We went back to the town the next day not wanting to waste our tickets. After bumping into Sandy and Peter; the Australian couple we'd met in Vientiane, we visited the Sa Huynh cultural museum which was small but had some interesting artefacts relating to the area from history, Independence from the French and the Vietnam war.

The weather was cloudy and a bit chilly and feeling hungry and fed up with Hội An's ancient town we went back to Annen café where we got chatting to a lovely young Vietnamese woman called Linh. After some initial small talk we discovered we were all part of the same club; the lezzies. It was so great to chat with a local person from our generation who was gay and hear about her experiences. Linh was thrilled to hear from us too and we spent the next hour sharing stories and asking questions. We swapped details and encouraged Linh to visit the UK and come stay with us if she did.

That evening, after a lovely long catch up with Mum until midnight neither of us could sleep and so our last day in Hội An was a very lazy one as we were knackered. We swam, ate, read and lay around.

We would have liked to use our remaining two tickets but we left them for the next guests instead. Hội An was a beautiful town with a very diverse and rich history. The constant product and service peddling did dampen things a bit, but if you look beyond this there's plenty to see. We also didn't manage to see the town at night but apparently it's a wonderful sight to behold; multicoloured lanterns are lit all over and a night market opens.

We think we hit a bit of lull in Hội An and so used the time to veg out. But thanks to the swish surroundings our batteries were well and truly recharged ready for our last stop in Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh city.

Posted by advensha 06:11 Archived in Vietnam Tagged vietnam cycling travelling backpackers hoi_an scared vegetarian ancient_town infinity_pool eco_village annen luna_homestay cam_thanh_village

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.