8. Hoi An – Peace, Pirates and Pancakes

Picked up from the coach in a minibus, squashed with other travellers and their stink, we arrive in front of the hostel in desperate need of food and showers. We scrub ourselves clean before napping in preparation for the stunning site that is Hoi An. Furnished with architecture influenced by the Chinese and French, the port town is beautifully structured, painted golden yellow, with colourful lanterns hanging low.

In the ancient town centre, we ate the best meal of com ga at the Rice Drum – a basic chicken rice dish, but with fresh salad and lemon dressing on top. Delicious. Plus the cold beer that accompanied the meal didn’t hurt.

With the whole town screaming history, it wasn’t hard to fill the time. A favourite of mine was the intricately decorated Chinese assembly room with a dedication to the 107 sailors who were killed by a dodgy military man who pretended they were pirates to win favour with the Emperor.

The evenings saw the town full to the brim with locals and tourists for the Vietnamese holiday celebrating 40 years peace, so we sat back to enjoy the music and laughter. We tried the local beer, Bia Hoi, brewed without preservatives and super cheap, although once again we avoided being photographed – “Oh, come on, smile”, “Um, no?”.

Breakfast was lush, consisting of eggs and more eggs, with fruit and noodles on offer as well (pancakes with dragon fruit was a particular favourite), setting us up for a beach day. Renting a bike for $1, we discovered a beautiful stretch of sand, with clear water. So quiet, until it hit 4pm when the sun was beginning to weaken and the locals swarmed the beach (they cover up head to toe when the sun’s out).

Back in the town, we discovered a gem museum, with smooth jazz playing and sparkling gems decorating the walls – beautiful, although it made us feel like sweaty tramps in our flip-flops and baggy tops.

The next day, we booked a boat to go snorkelling. Swaying in deckchairs, swimming in blue waters to explore lush reefs and spotting flying fish was the order of the day. Lunch was included and was served on Cam Island, consisting of barracuda, shrimp, morning glory, rice and noodles. Following lunch, we read on a gorgeous beach before heading back onto the boat.

After many iced coffee stops, beer tastings and drool worthy dishes, we finally pack up, say goodbye to our room’s resident gecko and head for the airport. Hanoi here we come.


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