Pages

Chilling In Hoi An | Vietnam

We arrived in Hoi An quite simply drenched to our bones after our six hour drive from Hue. When we finally found the guest house we had booked, we checked in and made our way to our room. But we were still waiting on our bags to arrive from Hue, so we just kind of sat in our wet clothes for a bit before deciding to go downstairs and have a beer because, well, we earned it I think.

When our bags eventually arrived, we jumped for joy and hit the showers to in preparation of grabbing some food in the old town for dinner. Our cheeks were still bright red from being hit and stung by rain all day, but it wasn't dampening our spirits - because we'd finally hit Hoi An, the place everyone raved about. And it didn't disappoint. A very touristy destination, but still one with lots of charm and romance. As we wondered the streets our first night there, it's safe to say we fell in love. The rickety old colonial looking buildings with a strong chinese influence, with all the hustle and bustle as well as one street with music softly being played through speakers. It wasn't a shop, it was just general music for the enjoyment of everyone. That's the kind of place Hoi An is. Little floating lanterns lighting up the water and soft yellow lighting on the streets. Beautiful and charming.

The next day we woke up bright and early in search of a tailor to get some clothes made. Hoi An isn't short of them, but we wanted to make sure we were paying for good quality - as always the expertise can be hit and miss, but after doing some research Shay set his mind on a place called A Dong Silk, a more commercial (and so slightly more expensive) tailor shop but we felt completely at ease once inside and talking to the staff. As a home sewer, being in a place like Hoi An is like being a child in a toy shop, although most places won't let you just buy fabric for yourself, they often think you'll take the fabric elsewhere to be made into clothing. Either way, it was a lot of fun running amock amongst the fabric.

I don't have any photos but Shay had a three piece cashmere suit made, and I had a winter coat and a pair of trousers made. All of which was measured, cut, sewn and completed within a day. Unbelievable! The next day we went back for fittings, where they add the final touches. Most tailors keep your measurements on file so that when you get back home, you can order more clothes from them and they will send to you from Vietnam.

Something else we just had to do whilst in Hoi An was a cookery class - so we signed up with Gioan Cookery School for a morning session. I couldn't recommend this cookery school more - again, I know there's about a bazillion in Hoi An but the ladies at this school are just so much fun. We chose to cook Pho Bo (beef), Banh Xeo (Crispy Pancakes), Vietnamese Chicken Curry and Sticky Claypot Pork, all within about 2 and a half hours. We had a trip to the market down the road where we saw and bought all the fresh produce we'd need with our teacher before heading back to get stuck in. It was basically a private lesson because they do so many slots throughout the day and it was nice it being just me and Shay on one of these things for once. We obviously got to eat all of our creations, so afterwards we headed back to our room and went into food comas for the afternoon - because nobody needs to be trapsing around in the heat with a more than full belly.

Other culinary delights we enjoyed whilst in Hoi An were prawn wontons, deep fried and topped with a beautiful tomato relish type sauce. Next up, 'white rose', a similar concept to wontons but instead of being deep fried these little dumplings of beauty are steamed and best of all, the fresh rice paper (I think that's what it is) is shaped like a little rose. And another popular dish from Hoi An is Cao Lau, thick noodles with pork and crispy squares of deep fried goodness. I think I maybe just didn't have the right one because everyone raves about this dish, and I found it just a bit... meh, which is a shame but you can't have it all I suppose.

As well as all the street food type eateries, we also found ourselves in an amazing little upmarket wine bar for a night where we treated ourselves to a couple of Cab Savs because, well... when in Vietnam eh?

One more amazing thing that happened whilst we were in Hoi An, is that we had a second meetup with our friend Sean, who we'd previously met up with in Ao Nang in Thailand, all those many moons ago. It was so nice to catch up and find out what he'd been up to - although we met in Hoi An, we were going in different directions through the country so it was good to get a few pointers for when we'd finally get down to Ho Chi Minh City as well. After our few days of wandering around this beautiful little town, eating, drinking coffee, sight seeing and a wee bit of shopping (I bought some fabric from a wholesaler and we bought some fabulous chopsticks from a market stall for to send home) we eventually decided to move on and booked an overnight bus to Nha Trang to continue our journey south.