Hoi An, without doubt, has to rate as one of my most favourite places in Asia.
It has everything you need, a quaint and picturesque old town centre just beckoning to be discovered, a relatively unspoilt beach within 10 minutes, and the most delicious cuisine I’ve ever tasted. From the street side stalls to the top end restaurants the food here is nothing short of sensational!
From my first visit, way back in 2000 I have loved Hoi An, so much so that I came back for another visit in 2011 with my Mum in tow, and now I find myself here again with the other ‘6 feets’.
That is the allure of Hoi An – delightful, warm and unforgettable.
We’ve been here for over 2 weeks now, finding our feet, and just taking things slowly. Strolling the incredibly beautiful streets of the old town, in search of the next delectable meal, loitering in the art shops, and soaking in that warm feeling that this town offers. We’ve ventured to the beaches, and stopped for a sunset cocktail and beer while the children played on the sand, (there is no better playground!) We’ve sought out the ‘top ranked eating places’ as well as the street side ‘bahn mi’ (Vietnamese baguette) stalls and been delighted each time. All in all the days have been easy, and relaxing and not too full. That’s the joy of slow travel – there’s no rush, nowhere to be, no deadlines, no planes to catch (yet!) – it really is a lovely way to travel.
With all of that said, my ‘travel guide’ has kicked in and we’ve picked up a gear. We’ve just had a day full of fun that included a boat trip in the local ‘basket boats’, a spot of fishing, local games that resembled the Vietnamese take on the ‘Piñata’, and a cooking lesson – more on that later – and yesterday we went into the old town to discover some of the ancient buildings of Hoi An.
Hoi An is an exceptionally well-preserved port town with a history as colourful as the French influenced buildings that are its heart and soul. As you wander through these magical streets, surrounded in the yellow and turquoise buildings with shingled roofs and wooden shutters, you can almost feel the presence of the multi-cultural characters that would have made this town their home so long, long ago. It’s said that the merchants that traded in the port of Hoi An included Chinese, Japanese, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, Indian, Filipino, Indonesian, Thai, French, British and American … if only these crumbling and decaying walls could speak!
They would speak of warehouses teamed with treasures, rolls of silk as soft and flowing as a river, of blue and white porcelain that would have decorated the royal tables and spices from far off places that seduce epicureans far and wide. That is the allure of Hoi An. Just being here allows the imagination to run wild, and then … I get to play all of this out to my two darlings. Being in a place like Hoi An gives me the most precious gift as a homeschooler. It allows me to give my two little travelers an incredibly tangible history lesson, a lesson that goes well, well beyond text books and paper maps, it allows them to wander these streets, to think about the sailors and merchants that make a port town thrive. I’m able to explain that these men came from all around the globe. We talk about Nationalities and they tell me of all the people that they have met along the way. We discover that we know someone from almost all of the countries, and they connect. I don’t know if this little ‘experiential’ history lesson will remain with them or what they’ll get out of it, but I’m pretty sure it’s a whole lot more fun that searching in an atlas, or flicking through the pages of a history book. And let’s face it, history lesson aside, tales of treasures and sailors and big old ships sailing across the deadly seas is a sure fire way to bring a place to life.
There were many nationalities that graced the shores of Hoi An, but the influence of the Chinese, Japanese but mostly the French is unquestionable. The architecture all through Hoi An is a seamless blend of Asian elegance and timeless French style. The old town is a gorgeous collection of terrace like buildings, all arranged side by side in tight rows along streets only wide enough for a single vehicle to get through. Narrow alleys connect the streets and it’s this closeness that creates an intimacy that is captivating. The perfect backdrop for the hopelessly romantic fool in all of us– even those with 2 junior travelers in tow!
This authentic and beautiful little town stole my heart 15 years ago. It was relatively new to tourism back then and all these years later, with all the ‘development and expansion’ going on throughout Asia, it’s so nice to see that Hoi An hasn’t lost its appeal. What a breath of fresh air it is to experience such a place. A town that has become so desirable to all tourists, but has remained (almost) as original and true to its heritage as it was before it became hot on the tourist trail.
And … That is the allure of Hoi An – delightful, warm and unforgettable.