Five months in Hoi An, Vietnam
It is a famous story we have told about twenty times. “We originally planned to stay in Vietnam only 17 days and we ended up staying five months”.
Hoi An is the main reason for us changing our plans. Those seventeen days were for seeing the South since last time we were in Vietnam in 2011, we saw the North. We said let’s go to Ho Chi Minh for a few days and then make our way from Hue down to Hoi An.
Between me hurting my back and being out for a week and Celeste being sick for a few days, we ended up staying a couple extra weeks before we left for Hue. Hue was nice, we will probably write more about it in the future and include the unforgettable Easy Riders motorcycle ride from Hue to Hoi An.
Arriving in Hoi An
We arrived to Hoi An and booked our first few nights in An Hoi which is a little island you can cross by foot bridge. It was right in the middle of the Old Town and when we looked out of our window we could see the salesman and tourists. We rented bikes and went as far as we could, even though the entire Hoi An is not that big and quite perfect for biking. We found different parts of town that were interesting and knew we wanted to stay in Hoi An after we were supposed to check out of our place.
Moving to Cua Dai
Next we moved to Cua Dai which is one of the two main beaches of Hoi An. We rented bikes again and kept pushing the outskirts. We made it to Cua Dai beach which was considered the more local beach. The day we went was pretty memorable. It was packed with locals with their friends and family either swimming, drinking, playing cards, and picnicking. It was intense because we had never seen this side of Vietnamese people. We have mainly seen them in an urban, work, serious, light. It’s times like this you relate to your unknown fellow humans the most. Seeing them when they are vulnerable and enjoying the same things other humans who they have never met also enjoy in it’s purest form. To top off that day. We witnessed a beautiful sunset while it rained. Something they have seen a 1000 times, but it was the first and still the best raining sunset I have seen.
We were really enjoying Hoi An, exploring, learning, navigating between our wants and available options. We stayed with a wonderful family in Cua Dai which invited us over to dinner a couple times. Always means so much when you are made to feel truly a guest in someone’s guest house.
Finding a House
Our time was coming to check out and we were trying to figure out the next steps, especially since Celeste had a big redesign project she was working on for a client. We felt very comfortable in Hoi An and decided to stay a bit longer. Celeste found a rentals website with furnished houses available for short term and presented me with a few options but had her heart set on a specific one. We met with a local rental agent and took us to see a few places. We ended up getting the place we wanted which was between the old town and An Bang beach. By bike we could get to any part of the city in 15-20 mins. We loved our place. It had a kitchen, washer, patio, and up stairs with a second bedroom and bathroom. We had a kitchen and washer again after four months, we got drinking water delivered to us, and could shop at the market and cook.
We rode bikes as often as we could, and eventually we rented a scooter (or motorbike) and went to the far corners anytime we wanted. Typically the scooter was for going to the market in the mornings and getting eggs, baguettes, and vegetables. When I got home Celeste would make me the best breakfasts and Cafe Sua Da. Other times I would show up with Com Thit Nuong, which is BBQ pork over rice and an egg on top or Banh Mi for the quick fix.
Food in Hoi An
Food is delicious and inexpensive in Hoi An. A few of our favorites were
Cau Lau – Local Hoi An Noodles originally made with water from the historic well
BBQ Pork satay – served with rice paper, vegetables, and sauces.
Banana Flower Salad – Shredded banana flower and vegetables with a lemon dressing.
Bun Bo Hue – Pork Noodle Soup, style originating from Hue but is in most of Vietnam.
Com Ga – Fried Chicken. We found a place and it was so addicting we would go about twice a week despite the lady charging us different prices each time. The chicken was delicious, and freshly made. They would have these jars of pickled shallots and carrots on the table. We would finish ours as well as the table next to ours’.
Bia Hoi – Home made beer. Very cheap. Supposed to be made the day of but most places have it delivered daily. Since it is fresh, it is not very strong and the keg does not last more than a day.
Bahn mi – Some of the best Bahn mi in the world is in Hoi An. Definitely see Bahn Mi Phuong for the tried and true. We found a few gems around the town, but not sure what directions I can offer.
Avocado Shake – Delicious treat any time of the day.
Our friends at the Kebab Shack make a really good Kebab sandwich as well as other British and Western foods. They are definitely addicting.
Hoi An Life
We were happy in Hoi An, with our place, the town, and with life. We watched every Vietnam related movie we could find to learn more about these good people. One of the highlights was taking a trip to Cambodia to celebrate Celeste’s Birthday. It was nice to be able to pack light and have a home to come back to. My long time friend Jack was also travelling the world and was able to stay with us for a few days.
Our last two months we stayed in a more local neighborhood above a the Kebab shack I mentioned earlier. Tim and Ly An were good hosts and friends. Through them, we met a small community of expats who had knowledge on many things in Hoi An and Vietnamese culture. Our mornings mostly consisted of Kebab sandwiches and Full Englishes with some Cafe Sua Da and Cafe Den Da from next door. We were such fiends that we would get two coffees sometimes. Your jaw felt as if it was going to fly out but there was no better way to start the day.
We went on a couple outings with Tim and Ly An including a ceremony to honor her father’s death. It was a beautiful ceremony and we learned about different ways to mourn/celebrate the dead.
We also met Ly An’s cousin, Vu who is also a photographer who we rode to Da Nang with into a forest to take photos of rare monkeys. It was amazing, all around. The park, the monkeys and even an 800 year old tree.
Hoi An will always be that happy place inside of us we can always revisit. The beach, the house, the food, the people, and the life.