Where do I begin with Hoi An? It is a city that makes your soul feel good. Historically a port town, the city’s architecture is a beautiful mix of French colonial buildings, Chinese temples, and an ancient Japanese covered bridge and pagodas. Then there are the Chinese lanterns that are illuminated each night and cast a romantic spell over the old town. I can’t imagine anyone strolling through the city at night, with the myriad of riverfront restaurants and cafes, street artists, floating candles, and bicycle rickshaws carting tourists up and down the street, and not falling at least a little bit in love with the place. Even when it is jam-packed with tourists, as I’m sure it always is. Vietnamese and foreign tourists alike seem to flock to Hoi An. It is like a precious gem set in the center of the country.
It is famous for its tailors and every street is littered with dozens of tailor shops where you can get anything you want custom made, from clothing to shoes to bags. I didn’t have anything made, but people say that the tailoring is extremely affordable so a lot of people come here to have nice suits, dresses, and shoes made. You select your style and fabric, get sized, and can pick up your item in 1-4 days.
Our days there were mostly spent wandering the city, perusing the many shops, eating, and drinking amazing Vietnamese coffee. We also spent a day riding bikes to An Bang beach, only 4 km away. On our way back, we took a side road to explore the countryside and were rewarded with awesome views and close encounters with water buffalo. The beach itself was nothing spectacular. The water wasn’t very clear and was pretty chilly, but it was a nice way to spend a hot afternoon.
One evening we met an Australian woman who told us about a cat sanctuary in town. She has spent some months volunteering there and told us how to find it. So one morning Natalie and I rode bikes there and hung out with the kitties. There is a vegetarian cafe there called Jack’s Cat Cafe and they have a Facebook page if you want to check it out. While we were there, we learned more about the sad truth of cats and dogs being stolen and eaten in Vietnam. The sanctuary has to be highly secured, with double locked doors and high fences, to prevent locals from stealing the cats.
We spent three nights in Hoi An, and although I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, I could have spent several weeks there. Or longer. Always longer.