The four-hour journey to Hoi An was probably the best yet. It was sunny, scenic and almost quite relaxing with the reclined "beds". We saw the sea, some rice fields and lots of mountains along the way. The journey took us through Da Nang, which I was happy about because it's an incredible city and at least I got to see it.
Our hostel was a bit of a long walk away from where we were dropped off (especially with our heavy bags). Fortunately, it was easy to find and we only really had to walk straight up one, long street. The hostel itself was the nicest we have stayed in, and the owners were always very friendly and happy to help with anything. To get to the old town, we had to walk back the way we came for 10-15 minutes, and the closest beach was a 10-minute bike ride away in the opposite direction.
After settling in and having a well-needed shower, we wanted to explore Hoi An. We were told about the old town and the festival that takes place on every full moon. As if it was meant to be, it was a full moon that night! We had to check it out!
The streets were closed to motor vehicles, streetlights were switched off and incense was burnt in front of almost every shop, house and restaurant. People made wishes as they sent lotus-shaped, paper lanterns with lit candles inside down the Thu Bon River. I didn’t know what to think about all of that rubbish and where it ends up, but it was hard to say no with every other person was hassling you to buy one. Plus, it was so pretty and paper decomposes in the end. We even got to ride down the river in a small sampan boat (powered by nothing other than a Vietnamese guy and his upper body strength). The boat ride was a good way to escape the crowds for a while and it wasn’t expensive at all.
The streets were packed with food venders and souvenir carts. We weren’t afraid to do a bit of negotiating and came away with a good few presents to ourselves. Everywhere I looked, I wanted to take a picture. However, when we left the hostel, I was thinking about what food I wanted and not about my camera. I just hoped that I could go back the next day and there would still be some sort of commotion worth capturing, but it poured down with rain!
Rain or shine, we were waking up early the following day for a bicycle tour. In the morning, the weather wasn’t too bad, so we were happy. The tour was the perfect way to see the sights, and doing it on a bicycle was the perfect way to burn some calories from all of the food we were eating. A taxi picked us up from our hostel at about 8am and we then had to pick two more people. It was harmony and I, and two other couples in total.
At first, I thought we weren’t going to keep up with the guide and we were going to be left behind. This was nearly the case at every intersection and road crossing, but we always caught up. The guide didn’t tell us much about anything but, if we had a question, she was happy to answer it. She was a pretty cool guide all in all. She even bought us breakfast and had ponchos at the ready when it started to rain.
The first place we visited was Chuc Thanh Pagoda – the oldest temple in Hoi An. Harmony and I ate, whilst the others had a look around inside. The pagoda is home to many antiques, gongs and bells, but I was especially interested in the three towers that varied in height. If I had to guess, the tallest tower was probably about 12m high and, somehow, it still could’ve gone unnoticed if we weren't shown it.
A short bicycle ride further and we were taken into an area of farmland. The majority of the fields were probably for rice. We stopped at a group of houses, where they were growing citrus fruits, lemongrass, mint and more. We all got involved and the owners of the land had a small strip of land ready for us. From start to finish, we were showed the traditional methods of farming. It was clear to see throughout the day that the traditional methods of farming are still used today, and they weren't just playing up to us tourists.
Then, we continued our journey to the nearby beach - An Bang Beach. At a cafe looking over the beach, I had an iced coffee and other people in the group had a coconut. We walked on the beach and just chilled. There was no rush. We were there for the perfect amount of time.
The next leg of the bike ride was through more fields and farmland. The pathways were well marked out tracks, though a little muddy in places. Along one of the pathways was a water buffalo and its owner. I pulled out my camera to try and get a photo. Next thing i knew, we had stopped to ride the buffalo! I hesitated when it came to climbing up onto the animal, but it was strong, healthy and well cared for. Whilst the owner sang "Buffalo Soldier" by Bob Marley, he lead us on the buffalo as we tried to maintain our balance. We went a short way down the pathway and then back on ourselves. Im glad i did it.
It was then time for lunch. However, where we were eating was quite a distance away and it just started to rain. So, the guide organised a boat for us to travel down the river and right to the restaurant. Here, we were treated to the biggest banquet of delicious food ever!
Whilst we were eating, the rain seemed to have stopped but, once we set out on the return journey, it poured down once again. There was no boat to rescue us from the rain this time, so we had to power through. It was a 20 minute journey and, by the end of it, we were drenched! It didn't dampen our spirits though - it was good fun and a fantastic day!
The forecast didn't look good for the next day, so we stayed in bed. However, when we woke up, the weather was actually pretty good. We found some nice coffee shops in the old town and some good food. We also stumbled across a temple and, although we left a donation, we thought we would get away with not having a ticket... We didn't. After actually paying for a pack of 5 tickets each, we were told that, if we were quick, we could see a show at another temple minutes away. It was packed out, but we did make it in time to see a some traditional music and dance performances and we enjoyed it a lot.
I didn't have my camera with me the whole day, but I did go back to the hostel to get it in time for the blue hour. Vietnamese women were lighting lanterns down the river again. It was the perfect time to take photos to - dark enough for you to see the lanterns, but light enough to take clean images. I was buzzing - I had got the shot that i wanted, and a shot that perfect captures Hoi An! It was time to get some pictures of the people, and there were plenty of possible pictures at the night market!
We spent our last full day in Hoi An back at An Bang Beach. Ive never been at a beach when its been so windy, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. After the initial hassle from the deck chair owners, we were only bothered by a couple more people. The beach was relatively clean and the water was warm (not that i went in). It was nice to relax.
We also cycled down to Cua Dai Beach but there wasn't much there. So, it was time to return the bikes to the hostel. Then, we went back to the old town for food. The sunset was the best I've seen in Vietnam! Luckily, I had my camera to take some shots. I also got some shots of people by the river before going to a super cool bar for a few drinks.
The following morning, we had plenty of time to kill before moving on to Nha Trang. Our hostel let us keep our bags in the lobby whilst we got some food and went in search of stuff to do. Then came 5 o'clock and it was time to get our 13-hour sleeper bus. Bring it on!