Vietnam: 15~Exploring old Hoi An
The banner said “Welcome to Hoi An Ancient Town”. We had been dropped off in the old town, a few minutes drive from the beach area where we were staying.
The definition of a city is pretty loose and Hoi An is called both a city and a town. Its population of around 100,000 makes it small by Vietnamese standards in a country with 86 million people. Interestingly, Vietnam is similar in land size to New Zealand, maybe 20% bigger, but has more than 20 times the population.
Hoi An was such a contrast to the mad energy of Saigon – far more quiet and laid back. Very quaint with a nice vibe. There were loads of tourists around, although the high season is apparently September-ish.
The appeal of Hoi An is the original old town, its coastal location, and the tailoring shops. (More on that later!) Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage Site on account of it being “an exceptionally well preserved example of a traditional Asian trading port”. It was active in this regard mainly between 15th and 19th centuries, but the town’s early origins date back to 200BC. So that makes it officially pretty old.
We never made it across to the new Hoi An. Not sure why you’d want to, if limited for time anyway, on account of what there is to see in the old town.
Hoi An has become something of a mecca for tailoring and most of us wanted to take advantage of this. Our guide showed us a ‘highly recommended’ tailoring shop so we descended upon it, with the added lure of a bit of a discount. In hindsight we should maybe have shopped around a little, especially as prices were not as cheap as I had heard, but we didn’t have loads of time. This shop was big but busy and a little rushed.
I remember there was a young American couple, the girl in tears. Later I learned she had apparently ordered several hundred dollars worth of clothes and wasn’t happy with how any of them had been made.
I had got my order sorted reasonably quickly and waited with a couple of others in a nearby bar.
The afternoon was unplanned so we did our own thing, congregating later at the resort for drinks before mooching back into the old town. Most of us had fittings back at the tailors, then we all went to dinner.
The restaurant had been recommended and we sat out on the outside patio area. If you didn’t mind the occasional large cockroach on the wall behind you (unusually for me, I was ok with that), or wee frog transiting across your feet, it was very pleasant.
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This is part of a series recounting my 2009 trip to Vietnam.