How Lucky are We!
We are so lucky to be able to have the opportunity to House/Pet Sit our way around SE Asia.
Our travels are planned around where our next house sitting assignment is. We were elated to be accepted for a house sit in the Hoi An/Da Nang area of Vietnam.
The 14 day assignment meant that we could plan our travels in Vietnam to end up in our favorite region of the country.
We looked after a 12 year old Sheltie called Tenshi. Born in China but now living Vietnam with his well travelled human mum and dad.
We were located approximately 15 kilometres from Hoi An and about the same distance to De Nang. Staying in a gated compound, Ocean Villas is a beautiful complex made up of many villas as well as serviced apartments.
The compound is located right on the beach so our morning and evening walks consisted of the most glorious sea and beach views so we really enjoyed the relaxing time spent here.
Exploring Hoi An
We decided to rent a scooter for the duration of our stay which enabled us to get around independently.
This was our third visit to Hoi An so we had covered off a lot of the tourist destinations. Click on the link if you would like to learn more about what there is to do around Hoi An.
Hoi An Old Town is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. The Old Town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. It’s also why tourists come here in droves.
No matter how many times you visit Hoi An, it is all about soaking up the atmosphere of this wonderful Old Town. From the beaches, to the rivers there is such a lot to discover. If a scooter isn’t your thing, all of the attractions are within an easy cycle ride if you are staying in the central town.
There is certainly a relaxed vibe as you travel the small tracks through the rice paddy fields that are in the surrounding countryside.
Oozing With History
Hoi An’s origins can be traced back to 15th century when it was a commercial port. Traders began to move silk, china and pottery to East Asia, India and as far as Europe. Ships from Spain, Portugal, Holland, France and England anchored for 4-6 months a year to trade.
Chinese and Japanese shops opened and they built streets to keep their customs. By the 17th century there was a Chinese town, a Japanese town and a Dutch trading port. Christianity and Buddhism was established in Vietnam here.
Because of this colourful and diverse history, there are now over 1,000 timber-framed buildings, pagodas and assembly halls. The 200 year old shophouses line the ancient streets.
Soak up the History
This is why a big part of the visitor experience is simply just strolling the laneways. The big bonus is that a large portion of the town is closed to all motorised traffic from 4pm every evening. This means that you can meander along without the risk of being collected by a scooter as you gaze in awe of the lighted laterns, and the shadows cast on the ancient houses lining the streets. Just remember to keep a wary eye out for the many cyclos that still weave their way through the crowded streets.
There are many tourists attractions to visit within the Old Town. There are Ticket Boxes located around the historic site where you can purchase a 120,000VND/$7NZ that gives entrance to any five historic places. This is a great way to help support the restoration and maintenance of the many sites in Hoi An.
It’s not all about the History
No longer a trading port, the ancient town thrives on the tourist industry.
Every other shop offers you tailoring. The opportunity to have custom clothes made, either from a photo of a favorite dress or a flashy sort of suit. Although we didn’t partake this time, we have previously left Hoi An with decidedly heavier suitcases than when we arrived. The number of tailor shops is quite overwhelming so do some research to find the one that’s right for you.
You may need to get new clothes made in order to deal with your expanding waist line. Hoi An is famous for its food.
There are mobile carts, to fancy restaurants, to street markets. A personal favorite of ours is the Central Food Market (close to the famous wet markets by the river). Although the number of food stalls all under one roof is a little overwhelming at first, they all pretty much sell the same sort of food. They are all reasonable priced and offer many of the specialty dishes mentioned below. Most of the dishes are around 20,000VND/$1.20NZ.
We have also noticed an increase in the popularity of Roastery Coffee Shops. These coffee houses roast their own coffee and they are a great place to just stop, relax with a cuppa and do some serious people watching.
Getting back to the subject of food (my favorite subject) Hoi An is a fabulously cheap food-lovers heaven. There are some ‘must try’ options.
A Hoi An speciality noodle dish. Made with the famous local thick noodles, pork broth, slices of pork, some herbs and topped with crispy rice crackers.
A local baguette filled with pork, pate, local herbs, pickled veges and chili paste.
A personal favourite (although most of them are!), Banh Xeo is a savoury rice pancake filled with bean sprouts and shrimp. Served with pork skewers, fried spring rolls and pickled veges. All rolled up in rice paper and dipped in a chili peanut sauce.
A great noodle dish from the Quang Nam region, served with pork, shrimp and local herbs in a hearty broth.
There are also many other options such as white rose dumplings, Hoi An wontons and chicken rice. Cooking classes and food tours are plentiful. Every day seemed like we embarked on our own personal walking food tour as we ticked the must tries off the list.
Hoi An by Night
If you think that the town has a special charm during the day, it takes on a whole new level as night descends.
Hoi An is famous for its hand-made lanterns, which adorn all the main streets in the old town. They come in an array of colours, sizes and designs. They look even better at night when they are all lit up.
Evenings are truly a special time, when the town really comes to life. When we wandered out at 4pm, the inner streets were closed to traffic and everyone seemed to come out once the sun went down and the lanterns are lit. A whole new food world emerged as the small tables and chairs were set up along the riverside. You can sit munching on street food and watch as the tourists buy floating lanterns and set them off down the river for good luck.
Head across the bridge to the night markets and stunning views of the lit up streets of Hoi An from the opposite bank.
If you are thinking of going to Vietnam, make sure to stop off at Hoi An – you definitely won’t regret it!
Click on the link below to see a video of our time spent in Hoi An.