Hội An was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999. Hội An is a preserved South-East Asian trading port town and when walking the streets you feel like you are walking back in time. Because of this status as a World Heritage site, tourism has exploded, making this quiet little town a busy place. The town was influenced by many cultures during its peak trading, when Dutch, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese and Indians settled here. We had a fun few days relaxing and exploring.
How We Got There & Around
We took the train from Ho Chi Minh City to Da Nang on an overnight train. The sleeper car has four beds. Our train was scheduled to leave at 7:20PM and by the time we boarded the train at 7:10, one of our roommates was already passed out. The train was a bit shaky, and was uncomfortable at times due to the AC going in and out. The next morning, the train stopped and we bought coffee and bread from a vendor – who overcharged Steve. Steve went back to the woman and demanded money back. Mind you – this is at 6AM, with little sleep. I was incoherent as to what was even going on. And through this, our roommate slept through it all. In fact, he woke up at noon, which meant he slept for more than 15 hours! Lucky man.
We arrived in Da Nang just after 12:30PM and made our way to find lunch. There wasn’t a lot open near the train, so we ended up at a Pizza Hut (which was the fanciest Pizza Hut we have been to). We had read about a bus that goes to Hội An, so we waited at the stop. We hadn’t seen the bus at all while eating, and thought that was odd considering it was meant to come every 30 minutes. A taxi driver stopped and told us what the sign said – the service has been suspended. We had to take his word for it. He offered to drive us for what we had read was the going rate. It was nice to have AC on the 45 minute ride to Hội An to our hotel.
Throughout our time in Hội An, we walked and rented bicycles. Bicycles are common by locals and tourists and once you get over the fear of a scooter running into you, it’s really not that bad.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at Hội An Greenfield Villas. The room was lovely and so was the service. One thing that was a bit funny for us was the complimentary cocktail hour. We went on our first night, and the bar was closed. We went on our second night, and asked what the free cocktail was, the bartender didn’t know and looked around for the sign and turned it around – “Grape and Vodka”. Grape juice? Grapefruit juice? Grape soda? We really don’t know and never will – we opted to skip our free drink. Through our pleasant stay, only one thing really ruined the magic – rats. We saw rats in the lobby and outside the hotel. I am starting to think maybe rats are just really common in Vietnam?
Our Favorite Eats
We loved all the food we ate, but Steve made sure to try one of their specials:
Cao lầu – similar to other noodle dishes like Udon noodles, but made with “special water” and different noodles.
The last few nights we spent at Café Havana, which had great food – but even better drink specials. Beer for $0.35 USD. We learned that the bartenders there are backpackers, so each month might be different.
What We Did
I will tell you upfront – we did not go to the beach. I know many will be disappointed, but we decided to skip it for various reasons – it was a 5KM bike ride away, many people told us it was really dirty and we were really addicted to the pool. There – we did not visit a Vietnam beach, but it doesn’t mean we won’t someday. Besides, we ended up making friends with a fabulous French couple, who truly inspires us to never stop traveling! Thank you Henrik & Sandrine for the great advice and good times by the pool. You would be happy to know that we also spent a morning watching the San Jose Sharks game with a bunch of Canadians, it was the game where we won big, so that was sweet. And yes… we did actually go sightseeing in the ancient town:
Japanese Covered Bridge – The town was originally separated and this bridge separated the Japanese settlement. The bridge was built by the Japanese and is the only covered bridge in the world with a Buddhist temple attached. We didn’t cross it, because we needed a ticket, but it was easy to enjoy the bridge from the outside.
Old House Tán Ky – We bought a ticket that allowed us into 5 attractions, and this was one we chose. The home is over two centuries old and demonstrates the blend of Chinese and Japanese architecture. Our tour lasted about 5 minutes long and in the end she was trying to sell us necklaces, which was too bad, because I would’ve liked to enjoy looking at the house more.
Quan Công Temple – This temple was built in 1653 and is a Confucius temple.
Quan Âm Pagoda – The Pagoda is attached to the Quan Công Temple and seems to be in need of renovation work.
Quang Triêu Assembly Hall – Built in 1885 by the Chinese, this place served as a community center for Chinese fishermen and traders. Steve and I loved the beauty of this building and the adjacent gardens.
Minh Huong Communal House – Similar to an assembly hall, this was a place for the Minh Huong community to gather. Built in the mid 1600’s, it has been restored a number of times.
Dinh Cam Pho Communal House – When trying to find some information online, I found conflicting info – temple versus a communal house. Either way, this building, like the ones I have mentioned, served a community purpose for prayer and gathering.
Trung Hoa Assembly Hall – This assembly hall was built in 1745 to serve traders of five different Chinese countries.
Phuoc Kien Assembly Hall – Originally built as a pagoda to Buddha, but renovated in 1759 to use as an assembly hall.