What a find this place was! Hoi An is one of those places in Vietnam that celebrates its foreign influences. For centuries it was a successful trade port town, especially for the Japanese and Chinese, and the architecture shows clear oriental influences from those who settled here. Ideally located on a central river, today it still has plenty to sell, including many types of silks and foods.
The first major point to note about Hoi An is the silk industry and roads lined with tailors. Everywhere you look you are offered tailor made suits. This is not to be confused with Thailand’s “cheap suit” attitude towards tourists. These suits are of superior quality, many with thousands of online recommendations, but with a price that reflects the cheap labour (the average wage in Vietnam is roughly $10 per day, and living costs are very low).
Of course, Hannah and I having worn the same (now slightly off colour) clothes for the last two months in the extreme heat could not help but indulge ourselves. I bought a custom designed, tailor made suit that was ready within 48 hours and Hannah designed her own dress and had it fitted within 24 hours. (I also had a pair of shoes custom made!). It was a bizarre experience and the lady who was fitting my suit was about half my height (the Vietnamese are short!).
The second great thing about Hoi An was the relaxed hostels and the beach. Our first hostel was described as a homestay but looked more like a small bamboo village, with a quirky design to the open-air rooms and bathrooms, and the family running the place were lovely – one of the boys joined us in a late night round of cards and won, mostly because we couldn’t explain the rules to him!
Our second hostel was perfectly located next to a private resort, so the beach was wonderfully clean and a great spot to sunbathe. The hostel itself was super chilled, the hostess was the most hard-working hostel owner we had met and made the stay so easy. We even had a BBQ with all 30 guests on our last night. It was great to kick back with a beer and exchange travel stories after a long hard day of shopping…
Apart from the pure excitement that comes from designing your own outfit, our favourite Hoi An moment came on our first night with the Lantern festival, which takes place every lunar month and attracts thousands of tourists and visiting locals. As darkness descends on the river, thousands of lanterns are lit and placed on the river to drift downstream, carrying wishes of luck, love and success for the future. You can stroll along the bank or rent a boat to take you right amongst the action, but being on land means you can also wander through the lantern-lit streets of the old town too!