Hoi An, Vietnam

Heavenly...

PLACES I'VE BEEN

7/31/20235 min read

I arrived on a domestic flight from Da Lat airport, into Da Nang airport - then only had a short 20 minute taxi-ride to my stay. THIS - is what I expected Vietnam to be like!. This little part of the country is absolutely heavenly (in my opinion) - and I knew as soon as I got to my homestay that I wanted to stay longer than the 4 days I had booked.

That's definitely been one of the best things about this trip so far; that I didn't plan it out too much to start with - so I've had the ability to extend or reduce my stays accordingly. So within an hour of arriving, my darling homestay hostess had me checked in for an extra 3 nights. Once again - I managed to choose another good accommodation option, and in fact, I'm going to put this one down as one of the best so far. Strawberry Garden Homestay, Hoi An – Updated 2023 Prices (booking.com) Now I did actually book this through booking.com, but after discovering they charge the homestay a 15% booking fee, and given the hostess is not getting anywhere NEAR enough for what they are providing, I would recommend contacting them directly. $24.50 NZD per night INCLUDES an 'a la carte' breakfast!. I mean.. πŸ˜Άβ€πŸŒ«οΈ For anyone put off by the idea of a 'homestay' (like I was in the past) - it's not at all like I expected. I thought that may have meant I'd be staying in a room at someones private family home. That may be the case in some places, but not here. This is more like a large boarding house. I think there are about 8 very private rooms on offer in total and each one is large, with high ceilings, a large bathroom, and a balcony. The garden is gorgeous and shady by day, and even more so at night, when all the lanterns hanging in the silk trees and bougainvillia are alight. There's a pool for cooling off, free bicycles to use, an on site restaurant offering a great range of the most delicious food, and the hostess speaks excellent English and was so happy to organise absolutely anything I needed. Without question, I would stay here again.

So what did I get up to?. well while I was enjoying another great Pho Ga on night #1, I flicked through the tour brochures made available to me, and decided on a tour to the Marble Mountains and Monkey Caves one day, Bana Hills another day, a cooking class, and a group cycle tour. I didn't want to formally book anything else, as with bikes available to explore the area, and the fact that 'Old Town' was just over 1km walk, oh and my favourite place (the BEACH) was nearby, I wanted to leave time to fit in my own personal sight-seeing.

Every day here was between 33 and 37 degrees, and very humid, so there was a lot of pool-time and swims at the beach. 2 or 3 days, the afternoons came with the most spectacular thunderstorms, including the day I was booked to see Bana Hills and the famous 'Hands of God' bridge - which is accessible by a 17 minute cable car ride up the hill. After a 1 hour van trip and a 1.5 hour wait at the ticket office hoping that the storm would pass, we were turned around and unfortunately missed out. I've included a couple of pictures I found online below for reference, since I didn't get to take any of my own that day.

I walked into 'Old Town' on the afternoon of Day #2 and there was so much to see, do, eat or buy, that I ventured in for a short while every day that I was here - either by foot or by bike - and just wandered around taking it all in. The old buildings and bougainvillea flowers overhanging all the shops and supporting all the coloured lanterns, are like a dream and made for some great photos. It's laid back at times and bustling at others. The most amazing food market lies between the outermost street in the town and the river that carryies all the little tourist boats and fishing vessels out to sea. Being a seaside village - in contrast to the growing-region of Da Lat whose markets are filled with fruits, vegetables and flowers - the market here offered an abundance of seafood, as well as all the fruits and vegetables.

One of the best things about the town (that I had no idea about previously) is that if you want ANYTHING tailor-made in the way of clothes, shoes, or bags - this is your place! Too many stalls to count, offer fabrics and leather, with colours and patterns to suit everyone. You could literally bring a picture of a designer dress worn at the Oscars, an expensive mens-suit, or a coveted pair of shoes from a magazine, and it can be made to measure and available to you anywhere from a few hours to 2 days, tops. And the quality is undeniable. My $60 vinyl sandals purchased at home just before I left have done some SERIOUS mileage, given I have been wearing them every day, but they have been so comfortable and a much better option that jandals or hot covered-in shoes, so I decided to see if I could get some more made. $22 NZD bought me a pair of almost identical sandals - but in FULL leather - with extra cushioning in the soles! I was so impressed when I returned the day after ordering them, that I got a 2nd pair made, in a different colour. One of the young lads on my tour to the mountains told me he was about to start uni in the UK and would be needing a suit, so he had one made overnight that cost him $60 and looked every bit as good as the $800 suit he had been eyeing up in London.

So for a one-stop shop in Vietnam, I'd say this is the place to come. Beautiful beaches, river boats, vibrant markets, amazing food, a chill atmosphere, surrounded by everything from scenic hills to rice fields. There are plenty of historical sites to visit, and activities to suit a wide range of holiday-wants. The lack of modern malls or high-end city-shopping makes it even more appealing I think. Although if that's your thing - it only a 20 minute drive back to the city of Da Nang (where I flew in) - and judging by the high-rises I passed there, they're bound to have some. I stuck to my little fishing village and 'Old Town' though. I even managed to find a well-equipped gym (thanks to getting 'lost' on my bike)!

One night I biked into town to witness everything lit up - including the little wooden boats floating up and down the river - and it was such a nice evening that I decided to grab a fresh Bahn Mi from a roadside vendor, and eat it riverside in the moonlight. Simple but so gratifying.

Another night I was grateful to witness a special evening with my hosts - honouring their tradition of giving thanks by means of prayer and offerings to their God, as they do under every new moon. After their prayers, they shared a special meal under the twinkling lights in their beautiful garden.

I wasn't thrilled when I was privy to another family tradition.. the one where my hosts' brother checks the neighbouring empty section for poisonous snakes each night, and kills them before they make their way into the homestay! Exhibit A hanging on the chain-link fence and still writhing after having its' head knocked in!.

And I smiled to myself one afternoon as I biked along an almost abandoned road adjoining a rice field, on my one-speed bike complete with bell, basket and metal mudguard - thinking that really was one of my 'Eat, Pray, Love' moments. The only thing that was missing was a handsome man in an old army jeep, driving by and running me off the road..

Hungry anyone?...

At home in Hoi An ...