I was really looking forward to this stop. After crazy busy Hanoi and extremely touristy Cat Ba , I wanted to get out to the countryside and away from the destinations that are easy accessible for tourists. Also, as we were still in low season, it didn’t stop raining the past days and Hoi An promised sun and hot temperatures again.
11 years ago I backpacked my way through Australia. I was generally broke 10 out of the 11 months of backpacking and I often drove long, long hours because a) it was cheaper and b) I also had ALL THE TIME. I slept in 10 to 12 bed dorms, ate cheap food and drank cheap wine.
Now, 11 years later, things have changed a little. I mean, due to living in a country which currency is worth less every month, I am still generally broke but at least I can now more often pretend I actually have a little bit of spare money due to a bit of savings. Also, I unfortunately do not have 11 months of holidays anymore, I only have 2 weeks. As time is pressuring and I am feeling too old to actually sleep in dorms with „kids“, 11 years younger than me, we decided for this trip, we would live a bit of a Luxury life and a) fly from destination to destination and b) sleep in private rooms. Hands down, I am not the party animal I used to be and I cherish a good night sleep.
We therefore flew from Hanoi to Da Nang. It’s a short and relatively cheap flight and the steam room humidity welcomed us as soon as we exited the plane. Why did I curse the rain back in the North?? A shuttle transfer then drove us all the way to Hoi An, which is just about 45min drive away.
We chose our new accommodation well. It had a pool and best of all, we were able to rent bicycles for free. Cycling through Vietnam was on top of my list! After a quick swim we therefore cycled to town to explore the old part of the city, which is an absolute highlight. Again, this wasn’t a real countryside village, this was another tourist downtown. Long queues of tourists made their way through the center and I honestly do not wanna know, what this looks like in high season. My search for an empty and more authentic city therefore continued.
Besides that, unlike Cat Ba, this city at least looked super pretty. Colorful lights everywhere and the houses of the old Town are super pretty and offer everything you never knew you wanted. The city is popular for selling EVERYTHING. Shoes, tailored suits, dresses, typical Asia hippie trousers, coffee and all sorts of STUFF. similar to South Africa, price negotiation is key of you don’t want to leave with an empty bank account, so I tactically shopped my way through town the following two days without having the feeling that I just sold my soul and dignity too.
Stay away from the restaurants in town, if you wanna have a more local experience and again save a few bucks. All meals are way overpriced in the old Town. We enjoyed the typical homemade Cau Lau a little outside of town while watching football with the rest of the town. Vietnam competed in a U23 championships and apparently the whole country was rooting for their youngsters. They became fourth though and the city was dead silent after the match.
Another highlight in this town are cooking classes. Again, it’s not something unique, as basically every second restaurants offers it, you just have to be a little streetsmart and do a little research beforehand to find out about an operator, who is not offering the generic mainstream cooking class but something outside the tourist box.
We found an eco coconut tour which was absolutely perfect for us. Our very motivated guide took us to the local market and explained us the ingredients we required. After that we took a boat and traveled quite far down the river to a local community who showed us, how to fish for river crabs while sitting in a tiny waterproof basket without killing yourself. We proudly fished 3 crabs out of the water, before we boarded our small ship again and went to another part of town where we then cooked a three course meal together with a lady in her tiny bamboo restaurant. I created my own Vietnamese version of a pancake as well as fresh spring rolls and a papaya salad. I was so proud of myself at the end of this day and we even received all those dishes in short version in a pretty cute receipt book created with WORD Art (who still knows the struggle to choose the right word art for your header??)
Pretty stuffed, we jumped into the ocean at the end of our day and into the pool too as both didn’t really satisfy our craving of cold water and goosebumps.
Our next destination would sort us out in that regard though and I was already excited for the next adventure to come. Maybe my search for no tourists and a pure rural village would finally end with our next stop.