From Nha Trang I hopped on a 12 hour sleeper bus for the city of Hoi An. Having just been sick for all of my stay in Nha Trang I promised myself a bit of extra self care on the next leg of my journey. As we rolled into Hoi An we passed the glowing rice paddies as the sun woke and I knew this city was going to be a special one.
Through recommendations from friends I found Hoi An Villa. A beautifully renovated home which has just newly opened and is still getting up in running. If I had to choose two words for this place it would be peaceful and zen. The gardens outside and open terrace for meals are surrounded by little pools with koi fish. The interior is clean and aesthetically appealing- the type that makes you actually not even want to leave sometimes haha! I stayed in a private room which had two beds, a locker, AC, and large swinging windows. Though the bathroom is shared it is always clean and has reliable water pressure and heat. Not to mention the amazing staff (one of which who became one of my best friends made in Vietnam!) and owner- Ahn.
I spent my first days aimlessly walking the streets of Ancient town. It was so clean- and the residents care for their streets- an old man even came to take my finished water bottle for me. Quaint cafes on every corner, intriguing alleyways, blooming flowers. There is a charm about this city which is hard to describe- you just need to go!
My first cafe left me speechless in so many ways. I sat in a small corner which faced a window which perfectly framed the outside traffic of tourists moseying along. The wooden table held a small box with simple yet profound tools. Wooden blocks with words which held so much power. The words were basic- ice, thank you, bill, hot, water, whisper- along with a cute mini pad of paper and pencil. These tools allowed connection. Communication. And a means to provide. Reaching Out Teahouse is a business which employs individuals with speech and hearing challenges. The perfect place to find some inner peace and reflection. It is important to note that while enjoying the traditional coffee, teas, and biscuits that one must embrace the tranquil silence and use at maximum a soft whisper. We spoke in silence; with our glowing eyes, wide smiles, and thankful hands. I felt so at home as I sat and absorbed this energy. I watched the outside world continue to move through the motions and reflected on the fact that so many still have yet to experience this stillness and connection.
You must spend at least one night in Hoi An watching the sky turn to a dark glowing blue into darkness only to be lit by the floating lanterns on the river and hanging lanterns through the markets. This was the Vietnam I had been dreaming of. Enjoy a drink or dinner on the riverbanks. Stroll through the markets. We opted for local food later in the evening at a local stand called Mr. Son which was tucked away further upstream away from the haggling of the markets.
As painful as it is- set that alarm for the awful hour- and sit on the local beach as the sun rises. We chose Ang Bang Beach which seemed to be a great choice. Not only did we get to watch the sunrise but also the local people. The community spread across the coast line- beach volleyball, soccer, ty chai, aerobics, running, swimming. It was a family affair. The sun burned from behind the clouds painting the skyline and ocean golden. Sooner or later I lulled into a sleep to the sound of the crashing waves waking to find the locals had all cleared out ready to start their busy days. There was a short period of time where it was just us- post local and pre tourist. We indulged in the bungalow resort feel with breakfast and smoothies at Soul Kitchen which did not disappoint.
Rent a bicycle and cycle along the rice paddies at sunset. A glimpse into local life of farmers and up close views of water buffalo- you might even get to see some bathing! I hear this is also really great at sunrise but I didn’t have it in me for two mornings of early rising!
Rosie’s Cafe- a charming yellow cafe lost in a maze of picturesque alleyways on wouldn’t tend to wander down. The owners are two young girls with a precious story of their 9 years strong friendship and long time dream of opening a cafe coming true. Favorites here- the French Toast- better than I had back home in the States! and the smoothies.
The Espresso Station- the best iced mocha I could find in all of Vietnam. Another gem hidden in an alleyway- with art, playlists, and an aura which makes my hands tick longing to create something! Good vibes here.
U Cafe- a bit of a stroll outside of Old Town but so worth it- and a peaceful walk. Stick your feet in the pools and let the fish nibble at your toes- for free 😉
Tailor made clothes- I can’t give advice on this. I wish I could- but the options are endless. What I do know is word of mouth (by other travelers or a local you trust) is the way to go. Everyone raves about the pieces they have custom made here. Guys literally have full suits made and either ship them home or hop on the plane home dressed to impress. Girls can have anything from gowns, jumpsuits, work clothes, anything you can imagine made. I was personally too overwhelmed to find a place which produced high quality while also not participating in the corrupt sweatshops and commission based business. There are many reputable places however I didn’t have the time or energy to track them down. Lucky for me I stumbled upon a boutique which had almost the exact jumpsuit I envisioned for myself which fit my like a glove! Be prepared for endless shops and markets which will burn a whole in your wallet if you aren’t careful- it is so easy to get carried away.