So, following what is increasinglying becoming a bad habit, I’m behind with my blog posts again. Since my last post, I’ve continued traveling north through Vietnam, and spent quite a long time in what has definitely been my favourite place so far – Hoi An. I stayed in this ancient city for 6 days, and could have easily stayed longer – there are so many things to do around the area.
The day I arrived and checked into my hostel, I was invited to visit the My Son Sanctuary for sunrise by my roommate who was planning on going the next day. So at 4:30am the next morning, the alarm sounded and we set off to view the old ruins at sunrise. Due to a few wrong turns and general sleepiness we actually arrived at the sanctuary after sunrise, but from the view of it in the scooters mirrors, it looked awesome. Having been to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, these ruins were slightly underwhelming, as they’d all been destroyed by bombs in the war, which made it was really hard to imagine what they could have looked like in their prime. Nevertheless, I’m glad I got to see them.
As we started our day so early, we got back to hostel in time for breakfast! To fill the rest of the day, a group of us set out to explore the Old Town, which is a wonderful eclectic collection of Chinese, Japanese and French architecture, due to the various countries ruling Vietnam over the years. It is a truly beautiful city, built around the river, and filled with art galleries, coffee shops and tailors – so many tailors. Hoi An is known as the place to get tailor made clothes, all within a 24hr turnaround and it’s very hard not to go shopping here. I didn’t get anything bespoke but I did treat myself a bit… and all for less than I would have spent on one item of clothes at home. That’s the advantage of buying the clothes you see in Topshop/Zara in the place they’re made!
At night, the river is lit up by beautiful lanterns and large lotus flower lights – if you could remove the people handing out drink promotions everywhere, it would feel like you’d stepped back in time.
Over the next few days, I rented bikes and cycled all around the city, through rice fields and coconut farms, spent some time at the beach, went on a cooking course and ate a whole lot of food! More importantly however, I met my soul sisters who I got to do all of this with! (Yes, that is a painfully cheesy photo of us, all wearing the same style top, but it sums us up pretty well).
Because I’d booked my travel with Stray before leaving for my trip, I couldn’t leave Hoi An with them as my buses didn’t run at the ‘right times’ (for my personal schedule anyway!), but I’ve spent the last week in Vietnam catching up with them in different places and continuing to laugh our way out of a number of awkward situations.
After Hoi An, I joined a new Stray group and traveled up to Hue, the main city in the DMZ. To get there, we drove over the Hoi Van pass, which you’ll probably have heard of if you’ve watched the Top Gear Vietnam special – the team drove bikes over the pass and the views of the mountains and coastline are amazing. My dodgey photography skills do not do it justice. It turns out it’s also a popular spot for wedding photos, and when we arrived a couple were having their pictures done. I personally think the platform they’re on just makes them look like the figurines you get on wedding cakes, but you can’t argue that the setting is pretty spectacular.
Hue itself was quite a typical city, and the one day I spent there was enough to see the main attraction, the Imperial city. It’s quite an impressive complex, again with a Chinese influence over the architecture style. My advice to anyone visiting would be to make sure you just walk across the river to the main gate – we thought we’d have a casual stroll around Hue rather than heading straight there, and that approach resulted in a 15km detour where were walking around the outside of the city for about an hour without being able to get in. Luckily it was really nice weather.
That pretty much sums up my time in Central Vietnam! As a little teaser for my next post, I can say my last week here has been incredible, and it’s definitely worth reading when I find time to write it!
Until next time,