Hoi An – Old Town, Biking, and Dodging Tourists

Hoi An is a lovely little town on the central Vietnamese coast, just south of Da Nang.  It was an important trading port of hundreds of years and has a well-preserved old town right on the Thu Bon River which runs into the South China Sea.

That being said, it is a very touristy town these days and I saw more Westerners in my first hour in Hoi An than I did in my day and a half in Hanoi.  There seemed to be lots of Germans in town and apparently the Vietnam Tourism Board has been actively promoting to the Germans, presumably because they are the only Europeans who have any money left.

Add in the backpacker crowd, Japanese, and a handful of Brits and it certainly doesn’t feel as “foreign” as the town itself probably warrants.

There are not lots of “attractions” per se other than wandering around the old town, buying cheap souvenirs, eating and drinking, or going to one of the nearby beaches.

I did not tour any of the historic houses in the old town.  My experience has been that there simply isn’t that much to be gained on these types of tours, especially after you wander around the first couple thinking to yourself, “Wow, this is really old.”  It is not too different that why I haven’t visited the Ann Franke house in Amsterdam.  There is nothing that standing in line and looking at a small attic for five minutes is going to do to add to the story of her and her family.

But, I digress.  The point is that it is the overall effect of Hoi An that is pleasing, not necessarily the old house where they used to make ceramics.

My hotel, the Vaia Boutique Hotel on Cua Dai Road, was very good and the location could not have been any better.  If one has any tolerance for walking at all, you can easily reach all parts of the old town and on over to An Hoi, a newer strip of restaurants and bars across the river, within a twenty minute walk.

All amenities of the hotel were as promised and reviewed on TripAdvisor with a clean room, breakfast each morning, decent wireless internet, and a strong air conditioner in the room.  In addition, they provide bicycles to guests free of charge if you want to get out and about.

Once again, I tried some local food on the street and had mixed experiences.  The first night I had some skewers of chicken with a bunch of locals.  I’m now on some little Vietnamese girl’s iPhone as they were snickering at the site of me perched on my little stool.  The chicken had quite a few hard bits in it and also some rather sketchy parts.  Let’s just say that I think they use the whole chicken –  no wasted parts.

On my second day, I had some delicious beef skewers at another street stall with a spicy sauce and vegetables and had to go back for second helpings it was so good (or I was so hungry).

After spending the first night in the old town, I got out on a bike the next morning and spent about three hours touring the countryside and a few of the local beaches.  It only takes about five minutes of pedaling before one reaches rice fields with farmers and oxen and conical hats.

 

I was also able to find a “gym” right across the road from the hotel and paid an old guy there 50,000 dong to use it.

A non-Globo gym

A non-Globo gym

It was an interesting mishmash of equipment and plates but I was able to get a good workout in.

All in all, I’m definitely glad to have stopped here for a couple of days and it was a nice change of pace from Hanoi and Saigon.  If I were ever to happen back through these parts again, I think I would opt for a visit to Hue to see how it compares.

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