Vietnam – Hoi An
From Sapa, we caught a night bus down to Ha Noi, spent a couple more hours exploring the Old Quarter and then caught another night bus to Hue.
The Imperial citadel of Hue is a grand collection of carefully restored palaces, pagodas and royal gardens, boasting such delights as the Emperor’s Reading Room and the Nine Dynastic Urns. Unfortunately I can’t tell you about any of that because Abi and I decided to sack it off and ride motorcycles over the Hai Van pass instead.
We made the journey from Hue to Hoi An, crossing the legendary pass on our way, with two lovely drivers and some serious motorbikes – way more high powered than anything we would have been allowed to drive.
They collected us straight off the night bus and took us along the coastal road, stopping at fishing villages and swimming holes on the way, and even to a restaurant right on the shore for an amazing seafood lunch (which I actually liked). We had so much fun passing through all the incredible scenery on the bikes, and got the best view of Hoi An as we descended the pass into the city.
Hoi An is even more charming than its Northern counterparts, and the Old Town, full of little uneven streets, shops and restaurants, is lit up at night by hundreds of colourful lanterns. It’s absolutely gorgeous, and the perfect place for us to relax for a while, explore, do some shopping and eat delicious food in the heart of Vietnam.
There are hundreds and hundreds of tailors shops clustered in the Old Town, and Hoi An definitely has a reputation as the place where a traveller could get a brand new wardrobe made just for them on even the briefest of stopovers. We met a few people who had brought pictures of designer clothing or celebrity’s outfits and had perfect copies made at a fraction of the price, but in the end I decided to go for something a bit more practical and chose a simple pencil skirt (something which I can never find in the right length/size in the UK #stubbylegs) and will hopefully last me for a long time. The fitting process was so fast – we walked in to the shop, had a flick through some catalogues to show the styles we liked (Abi chose a classic suit jacket), then we chose fabrics, got measured, and were on our way, with an appointment to come back the next morning for our first fitting. After two fittings the next day when we made little changes and adjustments to the shape and fit of our clothes, they were ready to go. I was amazed by how perfectly they were made in just two days, and although I found it quite stressful having a stranger poke at and measure my waist and thighs (#stubbylegs) I am so pleased with my skirt. It fits me perfectly and is exactly what I wanted.
On our last day in Hoi An we borrowed bikes from our hotel and cycled to a nearby beach. The bikes, apparently held together by high hopes and paper clips, were a little wobbly to say the least and we were frequently overtaken by pedestrians as we peddled through the trees and rice fields. The beach itself was absolutely perfect and we spent a whole afternoon cooking ourselves (judiciously and with plenty of sun cream of course) in the baking sun and burning our feet in the sand as we ran back and forth into the sea.
We spent three whole days in Hoi An, swimming and shopping and wandering, and filled our evenings with food, local beer and walks along the lantern lit river. It was perfect.
We left Hoi An on another night bus (total nightmare, but that’s a story for another time) for Nha Trang – our last stop before returning home to England! Part of me feels like this trip has gone by so quickly and part of me feels like I’ve been here forever, it’s definitely gonna be weird to get back to reality!