Good morning Vietnam 🇻🇳
Finally, we returned to Vietnam, with it's timeless charm, after 5 years. The last time we were here, we visited Hanoi and Ho Chi Min City. This time around we decided to visit the central areas of Vietnam and the first stop on this leg of the journey was Hôi An which is known for it's ancient city and canals.
There are so many countries to visit and we rarely return to one, however Vietnam was a place that we were really looking forward to return to. The culture, people, food and landscape is what makes Vietnam such a wonderful place to visit. Currently all UK visitors do not require a visa if visiting for 14 days or less but this is only for a trial period until June 2017. Flights to Vietnam may be expensive from the UK but once you get here, you will find everything very affordable including lodgings and food, even with the current deprecating UK pound. We flew into Da Nang which was the closest airport to Hoi An and it takes about 35 minutes to get to Hoi An by car.
The ancient city of Hoi An has been maintained and preserved by the Vietnamese government to demonstrate what an old city of Vietnam should be. Although there is a fee of 120000 VMD to enter the ancient city this converts to roughly £3.73 and the ticket can be used to enter the city multiple times as well as visit five places of historical interest such as temples, museums and period housing. At a glance the ancient city is full of tourist traps however if you wander the different street you start to notice the locals going about their daily life within the city. One good place to experience the culture and traditions is at the local markets where you can sample the local street food. Some may be wary about street food but my advice, if you are unsure whether to try somewhere, is to spot which stall is busy with locals. If they don't speak English, just point to what other people are eating. In Vietnam, we tend to stay away from restaurants and always make it a point to only eat where the locals eat because the food is always better and also more reasonably priced. The most common dishes that people associate with Vietnam is phò (a beef noodle soup dish); bánh mì (a meat filled French baguette) and Vietnamese spring rolls, however each region of Vietnam has their own specialties. Hôi An's signature dish is known as Cao Lau. Cao Lau is a noodle dish served with a dark pork broth and sliced of juicy pork. If you are a coffee drinker like me then Vietnam could be coffee heaven for you and if you are not I would still urge you to give a try. Vietnamese coffee has a very unique taste and some folks may even say that it taste a bit chocolatey. Vietnamese coffee is dripped slowly over condensed milk and can be drunk either hot or cold- but it's not for the faint hearted as the coffee is very strong.
Hôi An architecture has been influenced by many different cultures like the Chinese, French and Japanese. A lot of iconic historical houses have a blend of influence within their architecture. One of the most famous landmarks in Hôi An is the Japanese bridge which has stood the test of time and remained intact despite the natural disasters Hôi An has suffered. There have been a numbered of major floods over the years due to being located on the banks of a river; the last of which occurred in December 2016. The people of Hôi An are very resilient and although they have been affected by the floods numerous times, they are still very proud of how the city and it's buildings have retained many of their original features.
Hôi An is also famous for it's custom tailoring and leather works. The city is teeming with tailors and leather shops but the difficult part is how to weed out the good ones from the bad ones. If you search the internet, you will come across many recommendations but one particular tailor did stand out. Forget me not tailor located at 37 Phan Chu Trinh had a few mixed reviews about their customer service. However after dealing with them, we have found their service to be very good and professional. The turn around time for custom tailoring is 2 days including fittings. The custom tailored clothes are to a high quality and you also have a wide range of materials to choose from. You do need to have ideas on what you want tailored and they do charge you a consultation fee of 100000 VDM but they refund it once you've placed an order. You will be also be able to find shops that are able to custom make shoes, bags and accessories. The items will be made within days but if you decide to get something made do give yourself ample time for measuring, fitting and completion.
We left Hôi An with huge smiles on our faces and we really enjoyed the visit to the city. The next leg of the journey we will take us up north to Huè and we will explore different sights along the way.