Once the memories settle, it’s time to start writing.
Such a feeling of relaxed peace upon our arrival in a homestay close to the Old Quarter. Had a Vietnamese coconut coffee (sweet and creamy with condensed milk) and took a minute on the terrace to breathe in the surroundings. The homestay provided free bicycles to explore the neighborhood but we chose to walk as I have the compulsory habit to stop and check out almost every shop, read every menu and take pictures of charming doorways and buildings.
We watched the light and the atmosphere change as the multicolored hanging lanterns were coming on- there are speakers at every corner of the street playing classical music which enhances the dreamy movie-like setting.
Our first meal in Hoi An was a terrific Bahn Mi on the Mai Fish terrace – upgraded from the street cart version with prawn tempura and a fried egg instead of the BBQ pork or cold cuts- the warm and crispy-crust baguette nicely filled with crunchy vegetables – similar to coleslaw- all with a generous dousing of fish sauce and sweet chili.
Here we discovered the coolest beer in Vietnam : the Heart of Darkness brewery from Saigon (literature lovers will surely remember Joseph Conrad’s eponymous book!) launched a smooth, cleverly-labeled craft beer with pine and citrusy notes…and the names, the names…so powerfully evoking of Marlon Brando’s “Apocalypse Now” and his character’s spiraling madness .
Ordering a beer called “Kurtz’s Insane” or “I Dream Alone” will surely make for a great conversation starter. And get you to eat more than one Bahn Mi sandwich fresh from the toaster press. Bread belly anyone?!
Reluctantly we moved on towards the Japanese Bridge- stopping along to buy quirky Socialist Propaganda souvenirs, check out the paintings in the art galleries (there are some beautiful rural-rice paddies with Vietnamese farmers renditions out there, a great memory to have on your wall back home!) and half-thinking to get a custom-made Ao Dai – the traditional silk tunic- from the many skilled tailors Hoi An is really famous for.
Once you cross the Ancient Bridge- the Japanese built it in the 16th century, and it smells lovely of incense because there is a small Buddhist shrine inside- you get to fully marvel and appreciate the beauty of Hoi An heritage town. Come right before the sunset and before getting in the frenzy of taking good pictures take a few moments to simply enjoy the sights : the sparkling river, the pleasure stroll boats, the lantern-decorated bridges and houses, the Vietnamese ladies wearing colorful Ao Dai tunics with cherry blossom embroidery.
We couldn’t say no to the sweet-smiling ladies offering boat rides along the Thu Bon river- was already lit with lanterns- and releasing our own downstream after making a wish- yeah it’s one of those touristy cheesy things but it will give you a simple satisfaction and a fun picture opportunity, so why not ?
After all the walking around cross the Hoi An bridge towards the Night Market- have a banana pancake or a crispy fried frog with plump swimmer legs if you’re feeling peckish (not joking, the Kermit snack is quite popular and I was really challenging my non-vegetarian friend to try it, was not-so-politely declined!) …and go for a foot massage at one of the many spas peppered in-between the Happy Hour ‘Round the Clock bars ! The giggling spa ladies will work your tired feet to desired pressure and this caught me dozing off to a blissful nap almost every time! So I wake up restored enough to do the walk back to our homestay and hit that mattress rock-hard like a three-day old Dim Sum dumpling.
You can also check out my Dining Hoi An post and Hoi An Day Trips to round up all the fun things to do while in the area! It’s truly a magical place that will grant you memories for years to come, and who knows, the yearning to come back !