Finding Hoi An’s Charm … By Bicycle
Our first night in Hoi An ended with Darling Man and I looking up train and bus timetables, trying to work out the fastest way to get out of town.
We were tired and miserable that night and Hoi An had NOT made a good first impression.
The next morning, however, our moods had improved. I was still keen to leave, but I’d booked a food tour of Hoi An on Monday morning and I didn’t want to miss it.
We decided to make the most of Sunday, which meant mounting a mission to eat the two dishes Hoi An is famous for – cao lau and mi Quang, one of my all-time favourite Vietnamese dishes.
But first we needed to sort out transport. Our fabulous guesthouse was a little out of town, too far for Miss M to walk and waaaay too far for us to carry her.
The guesthouse had bikes, free bikes. But no baby seats.
Darling Man decided to see if Miss M, at three-and-a-half, was old enough to ride local-style — perched on the luggage rack (on a folded-up towel).
And we were off!
We rode around the old part of town, where only pedestrians and cyclists are allowed.
We found a couple of great cao lau places.
We found an organic vegetable village.
We found the Anthony Bourdain-endorsed banh mi seller, who makes what the tv host calls “a symphony in a sandwich”.
We went out to An Bang beach, the lesser-known of Hoi An’s beaches. Even though we didn’t have any money with us (or a camera), the locals allowed us to park our bikes on the promise of returning the next day to pay. We rode through the hottest part of the day to arrive at a deserted beach and then watched the beach fill up as locals turned out en mass to enjoy a sunset swim.
We found the best mi Quang place in town (as recommended by Lara of GranTourismo, who’d just spent three months in Hoi An).
We used those free bikes to explore everywhere except for the “ancient town” part at night-time. Past experience told us that there was no charm to be found there then.
On our last day in Hoi An, I got up before the sun and spent a few hours wandering around the ancient town, the area I found hideously overcommercialised on my first night.
In the morning, before the shops opened, as children ate their breakfast and old ladies read newspapers on their front steps, I found the charm and serenity that I remembered from my first visits to Hoi An.
Hoi An’s charm is still there. It just may take a bit of work to find it.
7 years ago