Memories made in Hoi An

It is just the beginning of November and I have found myself being turned off way too many times by Montreal’s super windy, wet and strange weather. Yesterday morning, sitting by a large window in my apartment, I was impatiently waiting for those rays of sunlight from the summer to stream in my room and light up the whole place. Instead, all I got was a damp and unwelcoming weather with outbreaks of rain and drizzle throughout the day. The weather has been making me miss the warm from the tropics so much. Where are all the tan, sunbathing things and those hot sunny days wandering around beautiful cities?

I am missing my summer so very much. Ever since I came back to Montreal, I have always wanted to write something on my summer trips to a few Asian countries where I got to have so many unique and unforgettable experiences.

Indeed, the highlights of my summer 2017 revolve around my time in Vietnam when I traveled from north to south. I took a whole month off for summer vacation of which I spent 3 fabulous weeks in Vietnam and another awesome week in Singapore. And don’t even get me to talk about how much I love my trips because I have endless reasons to give!

So today, in the spirit of my summer leftover memories, I think it would be great to write down a few thoughts regarding one of my favourite cities: Hoi An – a charming small town located on Vietnam’s central coast with a rich and unique heritage.

Photo by Trang Doan
These flowering vines really give Hoi An a peaceful and aesthetic look

To me, Hoi An is literally one-of-a-kind and the way the town carries itself with its antique kind of look stole my heart the moment I and my friends arrived. We came in early August and were welcome with super nice and warm weather (even at early hours). The people there were so chummy, loving and helpful, even though we were strangers to them.

We stayed there for a night and left for Danang the following afternoon. Although we stopped by Hoi An super quick but still, we managed to capture some of the most amazing moments of the town during the day and throughout the night.

Houses in Hoi An are nicely painted in various shades of yellow

As we went sightseeing around, we noticed that yellow made the perfect background for this charming old town along with all those delicate flower vines climbing across the roofs and random bicycles parked in the streets. The town was bathed in glorious sunlight, leaving brilliant shades and textures every corner here and there and of course illuminating the incredible scenery of Hoi An to the next level.

Cyclo ride in Hoi An

Souvenir shops are located all around the town, varying in products, styles and yes, with affordable prices. Nice restaurants and coffee shops can be found along the walking streets with a variety of choices, either Vietnamese cuisine or Western cuisines. Also, this town is home to hundreds, perhaps thousands of lanterns – which is an unmistakable sign making up the town’s uniqueness and beauty. Chinese and Japanese peculiar architectural relics are other factors that add up to the integrity and authenticity of this place.

If you have never tried the cyclo ride before, don’t forget to do the ride while in Hoi An (if you want)! I promise it will be fun and worth it!

But honestly, I love Hoi An’s nightlife more than anything else because only when the daylight started to dim and the sun slowly sank below the horizon could all lanterns finally set out their gleaming light to lit up the extraordinary scenic beauty of the town. Hoi An was very quiet and peaceful during its daytime; but when the night fell, the town’s ambiance was a mix of tranquillity and pure magic.

I feel like it was more lively at night, with all the little lights from hundreds of colourful lanterns, the presence of dozens of people ambling down the streets, stopping here and there for photos and the smell of coffee mingled with the enticing smell of good foods – those images have stuck in my mind ever since I visited the town.

Hoi An by night

The best part of our trip to Hoi An was the remarkable boat ride on the channels at night. It was our twinkle-twinkle time, meaning we got to put those cute floating lanterns with small candles inside down onto the river and watch the superb scenery while the boat paddling down the flow.

Words cannot describe how much I like this town. Not just because Hoi An is a dazzling place for sightseers, peace seekers or aesthetic lovers but simply because the town gives me a peaceful state of mind; it gives me goosebumps to think of how beautiful life is over there; even the thought of the town excites me so much. I personally think its simplicity is what makes it stand out from all other cities in Vietnam.

Rice with steamed chicken at Com Ga Ba Bui

If you are planning to visit Hoi An, don’t forget to try the rice with steamed chicken at Com Ga Ba Buoi at 22 Phan Chau Trinh street. They really serve delicious and flavourful chicken dishes. Though the service was not very good, still, the flavours were unlike any other rice dishes we had before! I would say this dish of rice was like a dance party of complex flavours on my tongue! Price was 45,000 VND (2.5 CAD) each dish.

Vietnamese Banh Mi at Banh Mi Phuong

Another must-try food is the Banh Mi (Vietnamese Baguette) at Banh Mi Phuong at 2B Phan Chau Trinh street. They offer the famous Banh Mis which were once featured by Anthony Bourdain as “the best Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwich in the world”. I have always been a huge fan of Banh Mi ever since I was a kid so this place really satisfied my Banh Mi cravings at the time. We ordered the Mixed Banh Mis which were stuffed with all kinds of Vietnamese hams, BBQ pork, Vietnamese-styled pâté, minced pork with delicious home-made sauce. The taste was superb and did not disappoint us! I remember I was so satisfied and full after I finished my huge Banh Mi! I think the price for each Mixed Banh Mi was 35,000 VND something (around 2 CAD)

Various ingredients to make the herbal tea were displayed in front of store

And the last on my recommended list is the herbal tea at Mot Hoi An at 150 Tran Phu street. The place has a cosy and authentic look which offers both food and refreshing drinks. The line was huge when we came. Price for each drink was 10,000 VND (around 60 cents CAD) and the taste was definitely worth the wait!

After visiting a couple of pagodas and temples, we came to Hoi An night market where dozens of stores were competing with each other by displaying numerous beautiful lanterns with special patterns. Prices for lanterns vary, depending on sizes, patterns and functionalities but mostly around 5 to 15 CAD.

You might try street food at that night market also! A lot of tasty sweet treats are offered at affordable prices but make sure you ask for the price first before sitting at any stalls and always keep an eye on your belongings!

Lanterns are sold everywhere in Hoi An

There are just so many beautiful things about this little town that make me fall in love with it right at first sight.

Really, I would never be tired of visiting this place!

Even though we are 8,300 miles away, you always have my heart, Hoi An.

*All photos by Trang Doan

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