Hoi An: Touristy, Yet Charming Nonetheless
What else can I say about Hoi An other than it’s just so darn cute? I mean, it really is cuter than cute. Perhaps a bit too much so.
The center of Hoi An is made up of a few streets along the river that are all dressed up in their Sunday best for the tourists. Fresh coats of bright paint, lanterns, and shutters adorn each shop. One can find eateries, art galleries, fancy coffee shops, souvenir shops, and of course the ubiquitous tailor shops filling every street. The center of town seems to exist just to serve the tourists–of which there are many.
That is not to say I didn’t like Hoi An, because I did enjoy it, and it certainly has its charms. It just wasn’t my favorite place for an authentic Vietnam experience, if there is truly such a thing when one is just briefly passing through.
One of the things I enjoyed most about Hoi An, though admittedly quite touristy, was the river at night when all the lanterns were lit up, music was playing, and boats paddled up and down the river, with floating candles quietly drifting along as people made their wishes and set them free. The whole scene had the feel of a festival though it appeared this was just the usual nightly occurrence.
The other thing that I really enjoyed was renting a bicycle and peddling out of the tourist center into the countryside. The whole area had the feeling of an island as you got away from the center and into the more rural areas. It was interesting to see how the locals live, and only just a short distance away from the throngs of tourists.
On my last day in Hoi An I met up with my New York friend Ilene and her husband Jorge at their swanky resort on the beach. We hadn’t planned it, but through Twitter realized that we were both in Hoi An at the same time. Such a fun coincidence! We spent a lovely, relaxing day at the beach and in the pool. Then in the evening we walked across the street to a local restaurant for dinner that set us back a whole $12 for three seafood entrées, a veggie dish, some rice, and three beers. A yummy end to a gorgeous day.