Hoi An, Vietnam, has been called one of the prettiest towns in Asia. It is located on the central coast of Vietnam, across the South China Sea from the Philippine island of Luzon. We visited for a day on a cruise on February 6, 2016. Hoi An is known for its Ancient Town and its crumbling, mustard-yellow buildings. There are French, Chinese, and even Japanese influences in the town.
As you can see in the photos, Hoi An is dominated by the Thu Bon River, and canals can be found throughout the area. Businesses line both sides of the river, and it is decorated and so pretty to walk along the banks. The streets are pedestrian-only zones, free of what seems like millions of scooters and motor bikes that are everywhere in Asia. If you skip to the last photo, you will see what we saw: a family of four (!) on a scooter as we were driving to Hoi An, but that isn’t the craziest thing that we observed. At one point, there was a fully dressed pig tied behind the driver, with its four legs extending out into traffic and its snout resting on the driver’s back. We saw a family of five on a motor bike with about 10 shopping bags; and we saw scooters stacked with bales of hay that looked like they might topple the entire vehicle at any second. It is crazy, and we found that we were not allowed to rent one. As one local said, “you wouldn’t want to!”
The locals drive their scooters everywhere. They think nothing of riding the wrong way down a one-way street, and found them just as likely to ride on the sidewalk as on the street. We walked across one bridge that had a two-lane road and a “dedicated” walking path on either side. Even though the road wasn’t at all crowded with traffic, we kept having to move to the side of the walking path to allow scooters to go by. At one point a man driving a scooter overloaded with bamboo took up so much of the walking path that, although we were as far to the edge as we could get, we were brushed with the plants as he went by.
In one photo, notice that we had a half-million dong bill when we got money from the ATM. We were rich! Well, not quite: it was worth just over $20 (one dong is equal to .000043 US dollar). But Vietnam prices were exceedingly cheap, and a sandwich and drink for lunch cost about $1.50. At one point, after walking for hours, we came upon a salon offering foot massages. We took them up on it: $10 for one heavenly hour!
The woman with a white coat holding a paddle in one of the photos was our silk factory tour guide, and she is pointing to a tray with thousands of silk worms. From there, she continued on to cocoons, even holding one, and then to the processing and spinning of the silk. It was quite fascinating. Hoi An is known for its many tailoring shops, and you can have a garment custom made for under $10.
The two photos before the last are of an accident that happened in front of us. There is a small cemented area next to the river where scooters parked. As we walked toward it, a woman pulled in on her scooter, and instead of parking, she accelerated and drove right into the river! Two people jumped in to rescue her, and in the second of the photos, were working to ascertain that she was unhurt, which she was. She was wet and shook up, but otherwise fine.
Hoi An is about an hour’s drive from Da Nang. We didn’t get to see any of Da Nang, even though it has some marvelous tourist sights. While on this cruise, we also spent time in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Nha Trang. Hanoi was very sophisticated and “westernized,” but Hoi An stole our hearts for its charm and quaintness.