Slipping past the swarms of vendors harassing us as we got off of our night bus in Hoi An, we only had to go a few blocks to make it to the Tribee Hostel. Even though we couldn’t check in until 2 PM, we would have left at 8 AM regardless to go watch the Warriors game. Victory! A great start to exploring a new city.
We wandered through the beautiful streets of Hoi An basking in the Game 1 victory by the Warriors. The roads are packed with tiny restaurants, vendors, and hundreds of tailors. As an old shipping port, Hoi An is THE spot in Vietnam to get tailored dresses and suits for cheap. More than once we were tricked by a nice, older woman who struck up harmless conversation only to drag us into her shop and start pushing materials into our hands. Every time somebody says hello and asks where you are from, you really want to believe they are just making harmless conversation, but it never is. Never.
Gardens of pink flowers hang from the second story of the pre-colonial and colonial buildings, overflowing into the street. I was told that Hoi An is the most untouched city in all of Vietnam by modern architecture.
There are many marked “sites” (18) you can pay to see that are sprinkled throughout the town, but none of them were very impressive – bridges, pagodas, etc. It is more worth strolling through the streets and just enjoying the town.
Every time we walked somewhere in the small city we stuck to the shade of the buildings to escape the relentless sun. The common “feels like” temperature was over 110 degrees Fahrenheit according to my all-knowing iPhone. I am already missing the cool mountain air of Da Lat just 3 weeks into the trip.
It was a welcome sight when a thunderstorm came out of nowhere while we biked to the beach and did a loop around the town.
Other Activities in Hoi An
The food in Hoi An was pretty delightful. We had the local specialty of Cao Lau at the central market and tried a few restaurants like Com Ga (Ty) and Banh Mi Phuong. You can see more of the food from the area in my post about the meals in Hoi An, Da Nang, and Hue here.
We also had a free spring roll cooking class at our hostel. The Tribee Hostel was a great experience with awesome staff – highly recommended.
Our roommate for Hoi An was a German megatronics masters student named Eike. How well the Germans we meet on the trip speak English is almost embarrassing for us. We played the Heads Up (similar to Catch Phrase) drinking game with Eike and he was nearly as good as us in his second language.
Night Life in Hoi An
A lot of the travelers we met in Hoi An ended up staying 4, 5, 6, and even 7 nights in the town after only planning for a couple of days. I think a large reason for that was the night life. At night the city is lit up with neon lights and dozens up bars, specifically geared towards Westerners. There is one street that is back to back to back bars offering free shots, beer, and hookah just to come inside. It was a great time, but not a very authentic experience, as it is ALL travelers out at night. Da Nang was a different story for the night life.
Hostels in Hoi An, Vietnam
We stayed at the Tribee hostel in Hoi An for three nights in a triple room. I would highly recommend staying at this hostel! The wi-fi was fast, they have free filtered water, very friendly staff, rooms are cleaned daily, and they offer a free spring roll making class 1-2 times per week. Our room was just over $8/night/person and had a strong A/C unit and comfortable beds.
Just 15 miles to the north of Hoi An is the fifth largest city in Vietnam – Da Nang. We checked-in to the Backpackers Hostel after a short 30 minute ride and immediately started walking around the city. Abandoned lot after abandoned lot and tons of buildings under construction – it is an ugly city (sorry Da Nang). Industrial growth projects fill the skyline and construction noises echo on almost every corner. It is the complete opposite of Hoi An.
Another City at Night
Despite being a desolate, abandoned industrial yard in the sunlight, Da Nang was actually much more lively and beautiful at night. Streets are full of neon lights and lively bars. The university in town draws a large population of young Vietnamese adults.
One bar we went to, Golden Pine, was only full of local Vietnamese people drinking. Besides one night in Saigon, this was the first time on the trip that the night life was not overrun with Westerners.
First Motorbike Ride Ever!
On our only full day in Da Nang, we rented some scooters and rode out to the peninsula. Luckily, my first ride wasn’t in a crazy city like Saigon or Hanoi and the roads in Da Nang, especially in day time, were empty.
Constantly jerking forward from accelerating too quickly and taking turns way too wide, I slowly started to learn how to drive. Riding up into the mountains of a strange country on narrows streets with the wind in your face and no responsibilities, except to enjoy every moment of the journey, is one of the best feelings I have had this trip. To be fair, riding through America on a motorcycle is probably equally as amazing, but I have no experience like that to compare it to.
Winding our way up steep hills, we made it to the giant lady buddha that overlooks Da Nang. I was pleasantly surprised that there was also a huge platform with temples, statues, gardens, and much more that I wasn’t expecting.
We continued our journey up the mountain on narrow streets, no bigger than one car width, with jungle on either side of us. At some points, with Stuart a few zig zags ahead of me, there were 5-10 minute periods where it was just me speeding through windy curves on the edge of a mountain overlooking the ocean and the city. At the very top, we reached a viewing point that had spectacular views.
By the time we were coming down the mountain, a thunderstorm rolled in and we hit traffic hour (5 pm) in the city with the rain and wind whipping down forcefully. An amazing first ride. Open country roads, winding dirt paths, steep hills, temples, thunderstorms, and city traffic.
Still Great Food
Da Nang also had fantastic street food like the rest of the area. Our favorite spot was a street food area at an intersection close by. Once again, you can see the meals here.
Hostels in Da Nang, Vietnam
We stayed in the Da Nang Backpacker’s Hostel for two nights while in the city. We stayed in a 10-bed dorm for $6.50/night/person. I would recommend taking a look at some other hostel in town instead of staying here. The lobby has a giant dog that smells up the entire place, the A/C was weak, and the shared bathrooms are pretty grimy. It has a solid location and wi-fi was good, but it would be worth springing for a private room in a homestay for an extra $1.50/night if you can afford it. The rooftop bar/pool area was great and we met cool people; so, if comfort is not your main priority, this wouldn’t be a bad place to stay.
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