Hey there, Hoi An
The historical river city of Hoi An is about halfway between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. We took a two-hour flight north to Da Nang with the low-cost airline VietJet Air. From there, it was an hour by taxi to our guesthouse, the Green World Hoi An Villa.
Hoi An was an important port from the 16th to the 19th centuries and you can see influences from places like Japan and China, and also Europe. Old Town is so well preserved that it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.
Hoi An is also known as the City of Lanterns. At night, the streets are lit up with colourful, handmade lanterns and all the light reflected on the river creates a romantic atmosphere.
We visited the most famous landmark – the Japanese Covered Bridge. This 18 m-long wooden bridge with its Japanese-style tiled roof was built in 1590. We also walked the stone streets to the Hoi An night market, where only Joubert was brave enough to try a frog threaded onto a skewer and cooked over the coals. He said it tasted like chicken. Wessel and Shivani are both vegans and avoided the meat and seafood, but they loved the grilled mielies.
The Cham Islands are an archipelago of eight granite islands, known for great snorkelling. The next day, we took a motorboat from Hoi An to Hon Loa, the only inhabited island. The trip took about half an hour and we clung to the gunwales as the boat skipped over the waves.
After a stroll around the fishing village on Hon Loa, we snorkelled in the clear water over beautiful coral reefs. Unfortunately, our session was cut short when small, translucent jellyfish arrived on the scene. You can’t see them easily but it hurts if you get stung.
We got back in the boat and admired the reefs from above water. The outing ended with a seafood feast on the beach before we headed back to Hoi An.
The next day we visited another World Heritage Site, the My Son temples. We hired scooters at the guesthouse and started the 40 km ride early in the morning. The first 25 km section was along a highway – a scenic tar road with lots of trucks. Once we’d crossed the Thu Bon River, the road got narrower and the countryside became more rural.
At My Son, the ruins of Hindu temples and tombs are hidden in a mountainous valley. More than 70 temples were built between the 4th and 13th centuries by the Cham people – it was the religious centre of the Champa kingdom. Many of the temples were damaged by US bombs during the war.
On the way back to Hoi An, we pulled over for fuel. Joubert was in front and I was riding pillion. As he swung off to the filling station, the scooter slid out from under us and we hit the tar. Joubert was bleeding from the elbow, knee and foot; I walked away unscathed. A woman came over to help us but communicating was tricky. We eventually realised that she wanted to accompany us to a nearby clinic. She went ahead on her scooter and Joubert and Wessel followed on another scooter.
A nurse at the clinic cleaned Joubert’s wounds and bandaged them. Not long after, we were on our scooters again and back on our way to Hoi An. Later that evening we went to a bigger hospital so Joubert could get stitches. In Vietnam, you’re stitched up without local anaesthetic…