Hoi An


Nobody dislikes Hoi An, so it was with slight trepidation that I got off the bus and booked myself into a three night stay. I’ve not had the best record of going to places which everyone loves.

Hoi An was an international trading port dating back to the seventeenth century. A World Heritage Site, it’s loosely the same as it was hundred and fifty years ago. The old town is awash with colourful quaint buildings, narrow lanes and plenty of atmosphere. A river runs through the heart of the old town, taking boats out to the ocean. It’s a strange place because on the one hand it has admirably staved off touristic development and kept everything, as much as possible, as it once was. That said however, being one of the most popular stops in Vietnam, has meant that every single building in the old town has something to sell to the tourist. From a distance the living museum lives on, close up, you need a bit more of an imagination. For four or so dollars you can get an all inclusive ticket to five attractions. Some of the temples are nice, the museums however looked awful, and the Japanese Covered Bridge is all a bit uninspiring. All in all I had mixed feelings about my investment!

On the second day I took a bicycle out to An Bang beach. The beach itself is picturesque, very under developed. Unfortunately the clouds rolled in, thunder roared and my Asian beach was turned into a Scottish beach in winter. The swimming shorts were put to waste as the waves rolled in and everything was a little bleak. On a nice sunny day I guess it would be great!

I was up at five in the morning on my final day and heading to the World Heritage Site of My Son. Older than the temples of Angkor it dates back to the fourth century. Being there so early meant that other than a few other people on my mini bus there was no one else around the ruins. As for the remains themselves well there were none that made me go wow in amazement but the setting in amongst the trees with mountains as their backdrop was beautiful. Come the evening I bumped into a couple from the tour, Jason and Sally. I mention this firstly because my total cost for a night out in Hoi An was one dollar. I kid you not, beer comes in at 4,000 dong or fifteen pence. I also mention it because one of the things I enjoy most about traveling is meeting people from different nations and occupations. Well Jason had been a professional boxer before encountering an injury! Obviously as a sports fanatic that interested me greatly!

Hoi An was rather nice. It’s the sort of place that people of any age would enjoy. I left it for a short four or so hour trip to Hue. My bus was a sleeper bus, which was strange considering I was traveling during the day. No way was I going to question it though because it meant I could enjoy the stunning views whilst lying horizontal! Not long after we started we pulled into a car park and was told the bus was stopping for a half an hour. Climbing out I realised that we had stopped at the Marble Mountains. Normally I would be one of the many who mull around the bus, a little hesitant to venture further afield in case it leaves. The sight of caves to explore though had me waving goodbye to the bag and sprinting around as much as I could see in the time. I loved every second of it. The caves were huge and contained lots of Buddhist and Hindu statues, either lit up by the tasteful colourful lights or the more dubious fairy lights. No matter it was just superb there and for anyone reading this who will be traveling on a bus to Hue, get on one that stops at the marble mountains it is wonderful. For the rest of the journey I couldn’t help but remember Darren’s words who I had met previously in Laos. A guy from Newcastle he makes a living out of singing cover songs in the voice of Tom Waits. He had described Vietnam to me as ‘outstandingly beautiful.’ he’s not wrong.

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