24.05.2016 - 26.05.2016
We spent two nights in Hội An in a lovely little boutique hotel and really enjoyed it. It was totally different to the places we had visited thusfar; a small pretty town with plenty of cute little eateries, delightful shops and old buildings on cobbled streets. It's actually a world heritage site too. It was, however, full of tourists. We hadn't heard of it as a famous tourist destination but it obviously was one, though it wasn't too overbearing. We had a mixture of group time and time to ourselves which was quite nice, though we still elected to meet up with others for meals and throughout the daytime.
^A wander down the river.
^The town's Japanese covered bridge from the 16th/17th century which led to the area inhabited by the Japanese at the time.
^One of the many light displays
Hội An is well known for its tailoring and for many people in the group this was the highlight of the visit. We went off to a tailor's shop and were pretty amazed that you really could choose to have anything made, from any fabric, in any style, and it would fit you perfectly. They would make something from whatever you designed - a drawing, a photo, a Google search, or just a description. They also had a vast array of pictures you could browse. It was a shopper's heaven, especially for anyone who struggles to get clothes to fit. We didn't think we'd be that bothered about missing out on this but it turns out we were gutted! Unfortunately for us, we had one suitcase each and both were already totally rammed full. Due to the nature of our travels, we had to bring clothes and footwear for every type of weather imaginable (high humidity south-east Asia, cold winter in NZ, warmer weather in Oz, and the inevitable rain/wind/snow in NZ) and to last us at least six to twelve months. This meant we really had no space for any purchases. We were also money-conscious knowing we'd have to stretch out money for the longer term. Everyone else on the Vietnam trip was on holiday and therefore only had to pack for 10 days worth of (hot) travel. Consequently they all went a bit crazy and had loads of different clothes tailor made. We were insanely envious and promised ourselves we have to return to Vietnam to get a whole wardrobe made. Especially a tailor made suit for Tim, and some kind of fancy dress for me as the ones in the shops never fit! The only thing we were skeptical about was where these clothes were being made and under what conditions - as they were often made within 24 hours and then able to be adjusted again very quickly. Hundreds, if not thousands, of items were being made each day - sometimes pretty complicated suits with silk linings and so on.
It was so hard not to buy anything in Hội An. I gave in and bought two pendants as they were small enough to fit in my pockets! I got them from a lovely community shop which trained locals with disabilities, who wouldn't otherwise be able to find jobs, and employed them to make items for the shop (they were all whittling away in the workshop which formed part of the shop). Elsewhere we also bought two very nice cards with pop-out centres which we posted overseas, but fast forward a few months... and they never arrived which is really disappointing.
Night-time in Hội An was beautiful. They closed down the centre to vehicles after a certain time and lanterns were everywhere. Cafes and restaurants were open late and served a really nice array of cuisine. We visited a lovely cafe to get a fix of non-Vietnamese fare one evening - nothing wrong with Vietnamese food but the vegetarian options can be quite limited and therefore got repetitive for me (usually similar dishes in each place, and lots of tofu which I found quite bland). They served cakes to die for and we treated ourselves to one each.
One of the things we haven't mentioned so far is the coffee. By far my favourite coffee I've ever had is Vietnamese. It's nutty and delicious. They serve it different ways and traditionally with condensed milk. You can see my cup in the photo above with the cake and despite the heat I tried to make the most of it as often as possible (so, in the evenings even though it was still mighty humid!). I'd return to Vietnam for the tailoring and coffee alone!
Still a few more days in left in Vietnam, but on reflection Hội An was a definite highlight for me.