Hoi An is universally loved by everyone who goes there it seems. No-one we have met who has been there has a bad word to say about the place. So it was with high hopes that we arrived there looking for some much needed rest and relaxation after the constant journeying of the past week or so and it has to be said that Hoi An did not disappoint.
A small place by Vietnam standards, Hoi An avoided the bombing somehow from the AMericans and as such still has loads of the buildings from the Frech colonial period still standing and whilst they may not know much about anything really the French do know how to throw up a buildong and as such the town is a very pretty place to walk around. This is especially true at night when the whole place is lit of by lanterns in every shop front and along the river. This rwched it's peak on the "Legendary Night" which is a once monthly night to celebrate the full moon when the streets are closed to motorbikes and instead lanterns, games and music reign as the town clebrates like it's Christmas, although no-one gave us any pressies.
In case you don't know Hoi An is located about in the middle of the country, equi-distant to Hanoi and Saigon which means that it is visited by pretty much every tourist that comes to the country and as such it is well set up and very welcoming to us Jonny Foreigners. Perhaps it's main claim to fame is the shopping, or to be more specific, the tailors. There are supposedly around 500 tailor shops in Hoi An and they all promise to be able to make the best clothes in town. You simply go into one(they will hail you constantly from their shop fronts) where they will sit you down and give you some water alongside a bunch of catalogues (Next being very popular) and you pick what you want from the catalogue. They will measure you up and make you an exact copy in 24hrs for a fraction of the price. Be careful to choose the right fabric though, unlike an Aussie bloke we met who just waved distactedly at his chosen fabric and ended up with shorts made of the material the use in tent canvas.
Well you can imagine the shopping lust in Rhiannon's eys and it was all I could do to stop her buying everything she laid eyes on. Actually she wasn't that bad, but even so between us we must have bought seven or eight items without really trying to look for anything. And it really is pathetic how easily we (by which I mean I) fall for a bit of flattery. As I try on a shirt the female tailors coo around me muttering "you look very handsome", Rhiannon arches an eyebrow but I ignore her and yell "I'll take it". The locals then talk and laugh in Vietnamese which I take to mean "it's ashame this chap has a girlfriend or me and you would be fighting for him", but could easily have been "it's amazing how these English will buy anything if you give them a bit of old pony. Look at him the pasty, fat lump. He looks a right plonker in that and no mistaking". You will get the chance to judge yourselves soon on the photos or back in the good old UK.
Actually Rhiannon will buy anything if the vendor tells her she is pretty so I don't know why i'm having a go at myself.
But there is a lot more to Hoi An than shopping; there's the beach for starters. Only 5km from the town it is pure white sand, fringed by clear blue sea. A very easy place to spend a couple of days relaxing on sun loungers and watching the world go by.
Apart from that the food was great as were the bars, with our first drinking night in ages with a Brisbane couple left us all feeling old as we sloped out at about 11pm whilst the young backpackers were still arriving! All in all the town had a very laid back feel about it, even the vendors didn't seem overly bothered about selling you their stuff, by which I mean they didn't come hurtling out of there stores and drag you in, prefering instead to sit in the shade and yell "you buy something from me" at you as we strolled past in the heat. Amazingly this direct selling actually worked a few times on us, it's just too easy to shop when the most expensive things cost less than a fiver.
Not much else happened really except us meeting an English bloke who invited himself to lunch with us. On a break from Oxbridge (he actually said that and didn't tell us which one he went to), he came from Manchester but sounded more like royalty he displayed a breathtaking lack of traveler smarts. I mean we can be naive but this Tim-nice-but-Dim went to Hue and met some locals who convinced him to go alone to a nightclub which surprisingly turned out to be very expensive and obviously he was paying. He did well to get out of there with his wallet and bottom intact by the sounds of it. It was one of a series of tales he brayed to us over an excruciating half an hour. I mention this story because we want to remember it. Again, maybe you had to be there.
So all told Hoi An is great and we enjoyed our time there (at seven days it is the longest we have spent anywhere yet) and were very sad to leave, but leave we did with another nightbus down to Nha Trang.