Overly generous with our allocation of “settling-in time”, it took 4-5 weeks before we planned our first trip out of Hanoi. After one too many weekends frequenting our regular cafes and bia hois (carefully coordinated around our cleaning lady’s schedule), we decided to book a trip to the central coast of Vietnam for a few days.
Historically a port city, Hoi An is vibrant and colourful and an Instagrammer’s dream come true; every alley, every building and every wall that reads ‘Hoi An vibes only’ is a backdrop for thousands of tourists everyday with guaranteed likes.
Retaining most of its original street plan, bridges, canals and building facades, Hoi An Ancient Town has been exceptionally well-preserved and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The streets are lined with beautiful wooden-framed buildings that reflect the vibrant trading days and the influences of Chinese, Japanese and European architectural styles. These days they are home to cafes, restaurants, tailors, leather shops and the occasional happy hour cocktail bar.
We found ourselves a budget-glam hotel of good walking distance from Ancient Town and followed the swarm of tourists in on day one. Taking refuge in leather shops when the rain hit hard, we broke our budget when I fell in love with a backpack and Joris had one tailor-made.
Determined to take some photos without the sea of heads, I set my alarm for 6am and gave myself a head start the next morning.
Surrounding the city are lush rice fields and idyllic scenes of farmers putting water buffalos to work. One man capitalises on this photogenic background and hangs out on the road with his buffalo awaiting snaps from tourists for cash (thanks for warning Lay). We rented a couple of bicycles and detoured through the paddies to Cua Dai Beach. Further north is An Bang Beach, apparently the better of the two but we were satisfied with a peaceful morning under a thatched umbrella at Cua Dai.