30 March 2015

Hoi An – merchant Vietnam

Caged monkey
In Hué, we discovered the remaining traces of the old imperial Vietnam. Hoi An, our next destination, has much more profane origins. While it's probably older, Hoi An was always rather a commercial center, a city of merchants.

Thanks to the wonderful guys of the Stay Hotel in Hué, we got the right contact and stayed in a beautiful guesthouse called Strawberry Garden, where we paid 20 USD (16 EUR) for a spacious double with a huge breakfast and, wait for it, a bathtub! The guesthouse was a bit outside the busy tourist center of Hoi An but because of this, it had space for a colorful garden and the owners give you bicycles for free so you reach all attractions in less than 10 minutes.
Inside a merchant home - Hoi An
As it was raining heavily the day we arrived and the trip from Hué had been quite exhausting, we postponed sightseeing to the next day. As Lisa felt like having a day off, I contacted our British ladies Ellie and Avalon. We met shortly before noon for some exploring. Visiting sights in historical Hoi An is as easy as it can be. You buy your ticket (50'000 VND / 2.2 EUR) per six sights, get a free map and off you go. We decided to focus on the old merchant homes Hoi An is famous for.

After the first one, we felt hungry. Lucky for us, finding delicious food is never difficult in Vietnam. On a small square, next to the river, some ladies were selling chicken BBQ grilled on wooden skewers. Chicken BBQ doesn't sound exotic, I know. But the way we ate them definitely was. We stuffed the chicken together with a lot of
Hoi An
leaves (coriander, mint, basil, etc.), cucumber and starfruit into first a layer of rice dough (similar to the dough rice noodles are made of) and then a layer of sticky rice paper to hold it all together. To finish, we dipped the whole thing in a creamy, delicious peanut sauce. I almost started to drool now by just describing this.

With a full and happy belly we visited a few more merchant houses and temples and learned to differ between Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese influences. In some houses they even offered us tea or cookies while explaining the history of the dwelling. Most of the houses are still inhabited and we learned that the families have to move everything upstairs once a year for a couple of days, as most of the city gets flooded during the peak of the rainy season.

Vietnamese BBQ
In the evening Lisa joined us again and we went to a vegetarian restaurant the girls had discovered online. What a great discovery! We feasted on delicious dishes from all over Vietnam until everyone was close to bursting and washed it all down with cheap fresh beer.

That same night, the four of us decided that it was time to leave Central Vietnam. Even though the sights were beautiful and the food awesome, we were tired of the chilly weather and the grey skies. So we booked a night bus for 320'000 VND (12 EUR) each to Mui Ne, a beach town close to our last destination in Vietnam, Saigon. A good month after leaving the coast in Cambodia, it was time to go to the beach again!

More pictures from Hoi An

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