Hoi An Ancient Town Is Hot! Hot! Hot!

Trip Start Jun 05, 2011
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Trip End Feb 28, 2013


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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

 
April 2nd - Da Nang to Hoi An City
Local Bus #1 (30km)
 
It was only 10AM when we handed in our passports for the visa extensions and we decided to head down to Hoi An, 30km down the coast, until they were ready. We cooled down in the comforts of the airco of our room and packed. We called and booked a room at the popular Hoang Trinh Hotel and were happy that they could pick us up at the bus station. Just call them again when we arrive, they said.

After 9 AM this time of year in Da Nang, the scorching sun is draining. And even in the shade we are drenched.


We caught the local bus and less than an hour later, by 2 pm, we were enjoying a welcome tea with coconut cake (much like a coconut macaroon) at the lovely and super welcoming Hoang Trinh Hotel. Our room #103 had been the last available room and as a result, the least desirable. They did tell us when we booked it that the window didn't look out over anything but failed to tell us that there hung an awful stench especially in the room. The bathroom and room smelled musty. Also the aircon just went through the motions and gave of no coolness what so ever. Someone did come in and briefly fiddled with it and called it fixed. They acknowledge our room was not their best and said they would change us to a better room tomorrow.

 
We showered and decided to try out our little hotel restaurant on the 3rd floor. Neither one of us had much energy to brave the heat and explore. Even Dave who usually is biting at the bit to go out and explore a new town, was ready to sit down and be served. We had the local Hoi An specialty of Cao Lầu, a dish of thick rice noodles, meat and veggies. It is served with less broth than pho and a bit closer in texture to pasta than the pho noodles.  The secret is the water used to make it and authentic "cao lầu" uses only water from a special well in the city. The noodles are topped with slices of roast pork, dough fritters, and this being Vietnam, lots of fresh herbs and veggies. And at 35000 dong ($1.68) per serving, it keeps on blowing us away how well you can eat for so little.

Not until the sun went down did we venture beyond the Confucius Temple grounds adjacent to our hotel. And boy, were we in for a treat as we walked to the lovely, yes, touristy old town and river front with lively and colorful shop-till-you-drop scene. Silks, scarfs, paintings, ceramics, woodwork, colorful lantern workshops and gift shops all beckon us to part with our dong.
 
 
 
T'was 7 pm by now and we were drenched in no time.  So humid and so hot still. Nestled in the old part of Hoi An are fabulous restored historic buildings and museums. I understand why people return here time and time again.

5/03 Having Favorite Clothes Copied in Hoi An                                                                  
Getting Ms. Hoa, the seamstress, busy on revamping my now shabby wardrobe was #1 on our agenda. My nightshirt was literally hanging in threads. My favorite 'paw-pants' have been mended so many times they started looking like an old quilt.  It has been impossible finding our sizes in Asian countries and we had been holding out till Hoi An. This is "the" place in Vietnam to get things copied and sewn we kept hearing.

 
All went smooth at the seamstress. She impressed us, and judging by the many glowing reviews we read, we trusted her to do a good job. I asked her if it would be possible to embroider the 6 paw prints on the new pants to make them identical to my old favorites. Sure anything I like but she can also make them in a print. I agreed and will find out tomorrow. She'll make a lovely shirt from the silk I bought at silk factory outside Dalat. Dave is having some pants and shorts made as well. He likes the extra zippered pocket we can order. So we'll be set for a while. I was on a "high" of sorts from spending money on anything besides food, transport, charity or accommodation. In fact I was on a roll now and saw a nice little day pack that I could use. Mr sensible talked me out of it and said my old one wasn't falling apart yet. He means "it is not in tatters and threads yet".

5/04 Hoi An to Da Nang and Back on Motorcycle 
 
We got an e-mail from Danatours telling us our visa extension that would take 4 or 5 days was ready in a day and a half. We decided to rent a motorcycle and explore our way the 30km to Da Nang to get it.

   
We went directly to Cua Dai, Hoi An’s beach, turned left and followed the coast road. Wide white sand beaches run the whole way and are beautiful. The road is setback from the beach and many condo developments, one abandoned and deteriorating, are along the beach front. Greg Norman’s face appears on a big billboard advertising one of the new ones with a golf course. In no time, the beach front will be totally cluttered with developments.That’s too bad.   


Passing the Marble Mountains along the way, we arrived at Da Nang’s eastern peninsula and the area known as China Beach. China Beach was the name given by the Americans to this stretch. Non Nuoc and My Khe are the real names of these beaches. The ocean was wavy and beautiful as was the wide sand beaches. Nobody was on them! We found many 'thúng chai', the round woven boats, here. They are used both for fishing as well as a dingy to get back and forth to the bigger boats moored off shore. Cleverly, the roundness allows these small boats to be rolled to the water on their edge. We also saw a larger more oval version of a bamboo boat that can be outfitted with a motor.

 
We had to wait for the lunch break to end at 2 PM before we could pick up our passports. We were happy to have them. We decided to cross back over the water way on the gargantuan suspension bridge on the north end of the peninsula and explore the coast below Monkey Mountain where we had spotted a giant white Buddha statues of Chùa Linh Ứng Pagoda low on the hillside. Wind on the 80 meter high 1,850 meters long Thuân Phuác bridge whipped strongly at times. We made it and pulled over to the harbor area where hundreds of boats are moored. We got to the Buddha, took a quick look and started back toward Hoi An as storm clouds started to build. Riding past China Beach again, we noticed it was now loaded with people. Locals here are not fools. They waited for cloud coverage before coming to the beach instead of searing in the direct sun of earlier in the day.

 
Back in Hoi An, we drove on our motorcycle directly to see the seamstress for a fitting. It was full moon festival time in Hoi An and they had a small sector roped off from traffic and had electric lights turned off. It creates a nice aura in the historical center. We ate by candlelight and could barely see what we were eating. It was late by the time we got back to our hotel and the motorcycle owner was there waiting. He was worried about us.
 

5/05 Hot Hot Hoi An
 
Today was for final fittings and exploring Hoi An's cute little alleys and streets between cooling off in front of fans, and replacing fluids pouring out of us. What helped a lot was the jumbo size umbrella I borrowed from the hotel for shade.

 
After a few more nips and tucks, we walked away totally pleased with our tailored items. However, the type of silk I had purchased was a bad choice for the type short sleeved tailored blouse I had made. It will be ok but it is not practical for our traveling lifestyle. My night shirt is perfect and I'm thrilled with my paw-pants. Those were a real challenge. And in the end, Dave was happy I had talked him into having a pair of long sport slacks made of the same quick-dry fabric I chose for my paw-pants. I tossed my threadbare clothes with a little emotional hesitation. Except for the cold months, I wore that night shirt every night since we started our cycle trip almost two years ago. Now we can start fresh and are set for a few years.

I feel like I'm coming down with something, low energy, aches and headaches. Aw shucks. We are ready to move on though.
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