It only makes sense to blog about Hoi An today, as I have woke up every day for the past month wishing I had been magically transported to the ocean. For a girl that loves being near the water and always visits the beach at least twice a summer, I have missed making a seaside escape for the past two summers. Thus, I thought it only appropriate to go back in time to Spring Festival and my trip to Hoi An Vietnam, in central Vietnam.

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect from Hoi An, but the guide books said it had a beach, so I took a $65 round-trip flight from Hanoi to Hoi An and headed on my way. For this part of the trip I met up with a friend named Aveleigh and her group of friends. I didn’t really know the girls, but it turned out to be a great travel group. Upon exiting the airport I could immediately sense the beach-town feel, and the temperature was a complete 180 from Hanoi and Sapa. Palm-trees and bright green rice fields lined the roads, along with the typical one-room style houses that were painted bold, bright, colors. The houses were really unique in that they served as much as temples as places of shelter. Doors generally remained open, which gave nosey tourists a good view of huge altars filled with statues, offerings and candles that made-up the centerpiece of nearly every house. I just read that many Hoi An residents practice Caodaism (the third largest religion in Vietnam, after Buddhism and Roman Catholicism), which is a mixture between Christianity, Confucianism and Buddhism and involves worship of figures ranging from Jesus to Victor Hugo. This religion is quite fascinating, and followers believe that history is divided into periods of revelation.

We started our 2.5 day trip in Hoi An at the Sunflower Hotel. It was about $8/night for a dorm-style room. It was located right in between the old town and the beach, and included a pool and awesome breakfast. This place was quite a find. The first day was spent wandering around the Old Town, which is a well-preserved and bustling area of town that houses lots of small, yellow-painted shops. The town area is actually a UNESCO world-heritage site, and I can see why. Its charm is truly noteworthy. The area was full of custom-made tailors and shoe stores, so naturally we all attempted to get something made. In the end, most were failures. I now have some linen pants that kinda look like I’m wearing a diaper and my sandals are cute, but already falling apart after a hand-full of wears. The other girls had similar experiences, except one really nice coat. I also discovered that ginger tea in Vietnam, which is a simple enough mixture of finely sliced fresh ginger in hot water and honey. This is also common in China, but I hadn’t seen it before. Now I make my own all the time at home. At night the waterside of the Old Town lit up with lanterns that reflected beautifully off the water, and we ate some western-style Vietnamese food that wasn’t too great…but gave me a better idea of the typical dishes.

The second day was one of my favorite since moving to Asia. After a leisurely breakfast, Aveleigh and I rented bikes and toured the city. We first went northwest from our hotel to an area filled with rice paddies. It was just incredibly quaint and beautiful. The sun was shining but there was a nice breeze, people along the road were friendly and happily served cheap french bread, cheese and a peanut-butter-like spread (yea for the French influence!), and I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the houses. I really will just have to let the pictures speak for themselves here, but after a morning ride we stopped to eat a lunch of traditional Cao Lau, which is special to Hoi An and more flavorful than Pho in my opinion. It included some small, dark, square-shaped, somewhat salty but incredibly flavored hard crackers that were awesome. Look how similar my photo looks to the one in Wikipedia!

After lunch we headed on East towards the ocean. Again, the scenery on the way was just stunning, some of the most beautiful I have seen in my life. The beach was filled with all sorts of food vendors and beach-goers, but it wasn’t overly crowded and had a friendly vibe. I REALLY wanted to hang out, but the bike lock spot wasn’t really close and I didn’t have a towel, so I meandered back through some side streets and headed to the hotel. I also had an early motorbike ride to catch to Hue the next morning!

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