Travelogue: Hoi An

After finishing my tour of Saigon and the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam, I traveled north to the old city of Hoi An, in the center of Vietnam. And it’s a very beautiful city, but extraordinarily touristy, a prime example of Disneyfication. In the old quarter, the architecture and ambiance is amazing, but every single building and business caters to the tourists who descend upon this city. Clothing stores, souvenir stores, bars, restaurants, tailors, and art galleries. Everywhere.  But quite picturesque.
Hoi An - river at night 3 Hoi An - streets at night 3

Olden-style buildings, and Chinese lanterns. That basically sums up Hoi An.
Hoi An - panorama town

Plus all the restaurants, tailors, souvenir stores, and art galleries, of course.
Hoi An - art gallery 1 Hoi An - art gallery 2

It seemed like everyone was getting some tailoring done in Hoi An – getting a suit, some dress shirts, some leather shoes.  After all, it’s so cheap!  Quality garments at less than the half the price in the West.  It took all my willpower to not go for any tailoring myself.  As I see it, yes, it’s an amazing bargain.  However, if I don’t need (and can’t carry) new tailored clothing, it’s not worth it no matter how cheap it is.  That’s what I keep telling myself.

Not that it’s not picturesque, but that’s about all there is to see here.
Hoi An - streets at night 3 Hoi An - river at night 3

Pretty good views at night though.
Hoi An - river at night 1 Hoi An - river at night 2

The view at sunset is also very nice:
Hoi An - sunset 1 Hoi An - sunset 2

In terms of places to visit, Hoi An claims to have a lot of historical buildings, but it basically boils down to Chinese-style temples.

There’s also a… Japanese bridge? I’m not sure how it’s Japanese, or even that interesting.
Hoi An - Japanese bridge 2

Once night approaches, all these vendors appear and sell lanterns – for 50 cents each, you can make a wish, light a candle, and watch the lanterns float about the river.
Hoi An - lantern merchants Hoi An - lanterns and Japanese bridge

While I wasn’t a big fan of Hoi An itself, I greatly enjoyed renting a bicycle and biking around the outskirts. I’d even venture to say that the outskirts of are its only redeeming feature. You get this really peaceful feeling, slowly biking through the villages and outskirts on the outskirts of Hoi An.
Hoi An - panorama rice fields 2
Hoi An - biking road 1 Hoi An - biking road through rice fields
Hoi An - panorama rice fields 3

The rice fields are especially nice – these photos totally don’t do it justice. In the song ‘America the Beautiful’, there’s this phrase – “amber waves of grain”. I went biking on a particularly windy day (even with a kickstand deployed, the wind kept blowing over my bike), and experienced the “verdant waves of rice”. On a thin bike path, surrounded on three sides by rice fields, I see the wind billowing through the rice fields. There are no words beautiful enough to convey the sense of peace, the sense of wonder, the sense of tranquility.
Hoi An - panorama rice fields 1

Also a biking distance away from Hoi An is a pretty nice beach. Interestingly, the beach seems divided into two sections – a part filled with Vietnamese locals having a picnic on the beach, and a part filled with tourists sunbathing. The two sections don’t mix. It’s curious.

Even away from the rice fields and the beaches, in areas where there’s not much to see, biking around the countryside is an amazing experience – it’s just so peaceful, so tranquil. Randomly biking around, you see the natural beauty of rural Vietnam, even in the bridges, the incomplete buildings, the lagoons, the fishing enclosures.

Also, a pig sty. The first pig sty I’ve ever seen. The pigs were adorable.
biking pig sty

While biking around, I stumbled across a cemetery, which seems to be the Vietnamese equivalent of Arlington National Cemetery (America’s most hallowed ceremony, where veterans and casualties of America’s wars are interred). I think?

Huh. Sand dunes.
Hoi An - sand dunes

Hoi An has its own special foods, which I found to be decent but unremarkable:
– Cau Lau: stir fried noodles
cau lau

– Hoanh Thanh: Vietnamese ‘pizza’ (fried wontons)
Hoanh Thanh

– White rose: glorified shrimp dumplings.
white rose

– Com ga: chicken with rice. Not a specialty, but absolutely delicious.
com ga

Bits and bobs:
– I stayed at a dorm room in Hoi An. Unremarkable, except that this dorm room had an actual bathtub in the bathroom. Holy shit, I think it’s been almost a year since I last saw an actual bathtub!
Hoi An - bathtub

All in all, Hoi An was decent – as long as you stay away from the Disneyficated city center.

Hoi An - portrait

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