Hoi AnA superb end to an amazing adventure
It was exactly what we needed, friendly staff, nice clean rooms, great pool, near to a beach, and a restaurant nearby that delivered delicious food.
We felt a bit nervous about the rooms, as they connected via a balcony which was easily accessible, and we had to leave the doors unlocked so the kids could get to us. Fortunately I found a great baby monitor app that we installed on the old phone we’d brought along for Arch to listen to audiobooks on, and could hear everything going on in their room, which gave us a lot more confidence.
Hoi An old town was about 4km away, so we took the free bicycles provided by the hotel, and rode in on the first day. We had a nice ride through a countryside of rice paddies where water buffalo grazed, and little villages with lots of shops selling Pho and Banh Mi. After parking our bikes on the edge of the city, we entered the Ancient City, a pedestrian only area. We wandered around for a couple of hours, checking out the many tailors, lantern shops, trinket sellers, and food stalls, just taking in the sights and sounds of the city. After a few weeks in Hanoi it seemed so peaceful, and the traffic non existent. We fell in love with the city right away.
Hoi An was supposed to be a quiet, cheap place to relax at the end of our holiday, but it was such an amazingly beautiful area, with so much to do, that we ended up completely blowing our normal daily budget of 1,200,000vnd (au$65). We did some kind of tour or activity almost every day, from round boats through the coconut villages, to climbing Marble Mountains.
I did a cooking class, where I learned to make the delicious Hoi An version of Banh Xeo, rice pancakes with seafood, as well as papaya salad, a pork clay hot pot, and fresh spring rolls Hoi An style (I tried to rectreate some of these meals back at home, but unfortunately it was an abject failure). Kate got a massage, facial, peticure etc, 4 hours for $55 on our last day. We both did some clothes shopping, I got a tailored leather jacket for $200, and Kate got a few lovely items made.
Our host also took us for a bike tour of the vegetable village, where a lot of Hoi An’s fresh produce is grown. It was refreshing to see a garden where the government had mandated that everything be grown organically, with no chemicals whatsoever. Sadly the younger generation of Vietnamese people are not really interested in gardening, so the future of these gardens is uncertain.
Mid week we did a massive day tour. We started at Marble Mountains, where we explored amazing Buddhist Pagodas, temples, and grottos. We climbed hundreds of stairs, all the way to ‘Heaven’, and looked out over magnificent vistas of the Danang coastline. One of the most amazing sights was the magnificent Buddha and Lady Buddha carved directly out of the marble of the mountainside, deep inside a cave. This adventure was pretty hard work with/for the kids, but absolutely worthwhile.
The temples were largely destroyed in the Vietnam War, known to the Vietnamese as the US War. None of the temples remain unscathed, but there is a project underway to rebuild. Interestingly, the buildings are all brick, and were built 900 years ago, without any mortar or cement to hold the bricks. They stood strong until they were destroyed by American bombs. No-one knows quite what was used to hold them together, but the builders are experimenting with using a gum from a local tree, which they believe may have been the glue used. They’ve built a small section, and will now wait for 5 years to see how it works.