July 28 – August 1, 2015
I have a few complaints about the budget airline, VietJet Air —such as the fact that their flights seem to rarely leave on time— but it’s hard to argue with flying from Hanoi to Đà Nẵng for as low as $33.75 USD.
Danang is Vietnam’s fifth-biggest city and rapidly undergoing a lot of tourist and city improvements, but the advice I received from most travelers was to skip it and get to Hoi An. I emailed NoiBai the day before for a 250,000 VND ($11.21 USD) taxi from the airport straight to Thien Thanh Boutique Hotel in Hoi An to meet up with my friends, Emmé and Rosh. That hotel has the best breakfast!
We had some really lovely, lazy days in Hoi An. Some things to do:
- Hoi An’s got some beautiful architecture and is incredibly walkable. Crossing the river each day and night was a highlight. The Old Town is a mix of Japanese merchant houses, Chinese temples, and ancient tea warehouses converted into restaurants, drinking holes, and shops.
- Travel a few kilometers beyond Old Town by bicycle or motorbike for beaches; Cua Dai and An Bang. Indulge in a seafood restaurant on the beach; we went to Man.
- Get a massage every day! The cheapest place we went to was 150,000 VND an hour and the most expensive place we went to was 315,000 VND an hour. Couldn’t really tell the difference between the two.
- We took a day-tour out to Cham Islands which included a mediocre meal, decent snorkeling around some modest coral reefs, and getting lost by the Hai Tang Pagoda.
- We also booked a tour to see the ruins of Mỹ Sơn (pronounced “Me Son”) at sunrise. The ruins are 55km southwest of Hoi An so you can imagine how early we woke up. We booked this tour only after I pestered my friends on the importance of being there for sunrise and no later. “It’s gonna be crowded. It’s gonna be HOT. We gotta be there at sunrise! Sunrise,” I stressed. We went to bed early the night before, aided by a bottle of wine each, but we did not feel well-rested. Our tour guide made it a point to frequently point out that Americans had bombed the area (fair), ruining the beauty (true), and my friends liked pointing out that I was the only American (“Thanks”). All this led to some grumpy replies from me when the tour guide asked me to touch the stone statues of a penis, breasts, and a “bum hole” (what I heard when he said “bomb hole”). Still fun! And, yes, you should go at sunrise.
- Haggling and shopping is a big part of this area. The Vietnamese will whip you up a wardrobe made to measure in a few days that will fit you perfectly in whatever style you dictate. My favorite thing I bought were a pair of shorts that fit perfectly and looked exactly how I wanted them to. I went to Yaly Couture for no reason other than a friend had recommended them, but I’ve seen some nice men suits come out of A Dong Silk, as well.
When we were making plans to leave Hoi An, we talked about spending some more beach days further south in Nha Trang, which I hear is a great beach town. Instead, we decided to tackle the wildness of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).