Hoi An, Vietnam

19th - 21st January 2019

Our first stop on the scenic drive between Hué and Hoi An was a local fishing village on the coastal lagoon, where prawns were harvested from wooden canoes. Our route took us over Hai Van Pass, a more interesting route than via the tunnel. Here our longer detour gave us the chance to enjoy both the view and the spectacle of a Vietnamese couple taking wedding photos on top of a high structure clearly marked 'do not climb'. It was no easy feat for the bride mounting the rickety ladder in her gown and heels but the pictures would definitely be worth the challenge. From there we passed through Danang and visited the Cham museum, a record of the art and culture of the Cham people, a Hindu race who ruled most of southern Vietnam for a thousand years. Binh took us to a local bakery to sample local lunch fare. We weren't quite sure what we were eating but the local rats seemed to enjoy it!

Wedding photos

Cham sculpture


We drove on to the Marble Mountains, five peaks said to represent the five elements of water, wood, fire, gold and earth. From Non Nuoc village, where stone masons were busy chiselling away at religious statues, we explored the peaks' pagodas and natural caves converted to shrines.

Sights of the Marble Mountains

Binh leading the way

Marble Mountains

Cave Shrine

We made a brief stop at the famous 'China Beach' before reaching the UNESCO World Heritage town of Hoi An, which would be our base for two days. We were just in time to catch the town on one of its dark nights, where the only light is generated from traditional lanterns for which the town is famous. Every business must have a display of lanterns and many more drift down the Thu Bon River.

Japanese Covered Bridge, Hoi An

Lanterns on the river

On the boat to our island cycling destination

Our first day in Hoi An was free, and we opted to take a cycling excursion on a neighbouring, almost-traffic-free island. This turned out to be one of the highlights of our entire trip, giving us a taste of Vietnamese life outside of the big cities.

Binh took us to visit several local craftsmen: a 90 year old builder of traditional coracles, rug weavers where Phil tried his hand at the craft, and a traditional rice noodle maker. Our route took us past lazing water buffalo and past paddy fields tended by back-breaking manual labour. We even came across a Vietnam style boat yard, which piqued our interest due to our sailing history.

90 year old coracle maker

Phil tries rug weaving

Noodle making

Boat yard - Vietnam style

After an afternoon exploring the town, the evening found us taking a class in traditional Vietnamese cookery. Our skills may have been better if the beer drinking hadn't started way before the cookery, but apart from Christine's singed spring rolls, our offerings turned out to plan and delicious.

An early start the next day brought us to the nearby Cham ruins at My Son, where Binh's planning allowed us to enjoy the evocative location, surrounded by rainforest, by ourselves for a while. The visit was rounded off with a display of traditional Cham music and dancing.

My Son

My Son Cham Cultural Performance

Traditional Art Performance House.

Mmm, pancakes at the market.

Back in Hoi An we had time for more culture at the Traditional Art Performance House and a wander around the market to pick up some souvenir lanterns and sample freshly prepared pancakes, before heading out for dinner at the lovely "Streets" restaurant where street kids are given a chance to find work and hope.

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