After the manic atmosphere of Ho Chi Minh, Hoi An was a welcome change of scenery. This Unesco World Heritage listed city on the central coast of Vietnam is beautiful albeit overly touristy.
The Old Town is full of interesting colourful buildings covered in bougainvillea and streets lined with silk lanterns. While surrounding the town are peaceful and picturesque rice paddies.
In typical form we stayed on the outskirts, halfway between Old Town and An Bang beach. Like much of the accommodation in Hoi An our hotel offered free use of their bicycles. This made our trip.
First up we booked ourselves onto a bike tour, which proved a good way to get our bearings and get comfortable riding in traffic. It didn’t take long to escape the traffic with most of the tour winding through the countryside.
After swinging by a temple dedicated to Confucius, the great Chinese educator, politian and philosopher, we visited a Buddhist pagoda. Here it was reinforced just what terrible monks we would make. Have you ever lied? Ya ha. Have you ever killed an animal? Mosquitoes count, so yep. Do you ever think about sex? You don’t need to answer that one joked our guide.
We then arrived at a veggie and herb farm where we meet this dude. He’s 92 or 93 and still working. We can only hope we’re this healthy and happy at his age!
Throughout Asia we’ve seen people, usually little old ladies, chewing betel nut and spitting splatters of red saliva onto the pavement. This however, was our first opportunity to give it a try. Chewing a stimulant nut that is covered in lime (not the fruit variety) and wrapped in a leaf, does not sound all that appealing to me. So I left this one to Niall. From the look on his face I made the right decision. When I asked what it tasted like his reply was ‘like chewing wood and leaves’. Niall too made a red splatter on the floor and apparently the aftertaste was a bit more sweet and palpable.
We also stopped in at An Bang beach where we were greeted by ladies wanting us to park our bikes in their area and even more ladies trying to rent us deckchairs. Unless you rarely see the beach I wouldn’t go out of your way to visit, except if you have some time to kill. The baskets in the photo below are traditional fishing boats. From what we saw they don’t seem all that practical.
Our tour finished with a very generous sized lunch at a local farmer’s house but I’ll leave the details of that to our food post.
Speaking of food, while in Hoi An we joined a cooking class. Starting at the market we collected our ingredients for the day then caught a boat to see how rice milk is made. I tell ya, these little ladies have some crazy arm strength. All set we moved on to our cooking school where we learnt how to cook four local dishes and devoured each of them.
The rest of our time in Hoi An was spent riding around aimlessly and taking advantage of staying in a hotel with a pool and cable tv. It was also conveniently two doors down from a yoga studio. Niall wasn’t too phased about that last one though.