We took the one hour inexpensive flight from Hanoi to Hoi An where we had reserved a homestay with a local Vietnamese family. The set-up was nice as you stayed in a private room with bathroom yet you are in their house and can interact with them as much or as little as you want. The family was lovely, made of the couple and their daughter, niece and boyfriend, and 10 year old son. They treated all their guests to a nice homemade dinner one night and we enjoyed learning about their life, sharing stories, and laughing about our cultural differences.Above: homestay guests and some of the family members
Below: parents cookingHoi An was a bustling international trading port,a meeting place of the trading ships of Japan, China and the West during the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, it is very well preserved and most houses are of traditional architecture dating from the 17th to the 19th century, and are along the narrow main streets. We explored the city mainly by bicycle and toured a couple of the old houses, temples, the Japanese bridge (by day and night) as well as watched a free cultural event that showcased dancing, singing, and mostly traditional instruments. Hoi An is also the place in Vietnam famous for custom made clothes and tailoring but we didn’t have the time nor the budget to have something made. Good reason to come back some day! The city was very lively and beautiful at night too with all the candle vendors, the lanterns, and the lights reflecting on the river. Above and below: Japanese bridge at nightWhat was probably the highlight of Hoi An for us was a bicycle tour we took, led by an energetic and funny (if not slightly unprofessional at times) young woman. We started with a boat ride to one of the islands in the delta. We cycled through some beautiful rural areas complete with rice paddies and rickety bamboo bridges. We also stopped along the way to observe how they unhusk rice, make traditional bed mats from dried grass, a boat making facility, inlaid mother-of-pearl artisan shop, and tried our hand at “rowing” a traditional basket boat (they made it look so easy…but wasn’t!). Above: making crispy herbed rice pancakes Above: our biking group taking a break Above: stopped at a local’s house to get a flat fixedAbove: one of 3 rickety bamboo bridges we crossed Above: 88 year old woman & daughter making bed mats We took the local ferry back across to the mainland, luckily going opposite of the main rush hour direction.During our stay in Hoi An, we also signed ourselves up for a cooking class that started with shopping for all our needed ingredients at the local market.Above: “spicy and very spicy” Below: dead and alive chickens at the market – fortunately we didn’t have to pick one up for our mealThen we actually took a boat to the island where the cooking class began. We were to cook 4 dishes and eat our creations. We made salad rolls with peanut sauce, vietnamese pancake, beef noodle soup, and beef vermicelli salad. It all turned out very very good and we took the recipes with us hoping to re-create it at home at some point. Above: on our way, we were all tasked with cooking prepAbove: our rower that brought us to the cooking spot
Below: Our beef vermicelli salad creations On our last day in Hoi An, we finally decided to check out the beach. It was nothing special (except for a few goats crossing) and the water was cold, but we took a dip anyway and had a relaxing time.