six people outside a temple

Haggling in Hoi An

Despite the expensive prices, we spend four nights and three days in Hoi An. On the first day we check out the old town for a bit and then cycle a fun 5km or so to the beach.

Cua Dai is where everyone goes, but when we get there the tide is in and there’s very little beach at all – we later learn that it’s being washed away by rising sea levels. Yes really, climate change sceptics!

We cycle a bit further north past a few restaurants boasting private beaches and soon find a stretch of public sand. We’ve left it late in the day though and there’s a strong sea breeze, so it’s not the most successful seaside trip, although we do still manage a quick dip in the choppy waters. After a good ten minutes of haggling, we also end up buying a small Year of the Goat trinket from a beach seller who explains how tough her life is. She say’s we’re lucky to be able to travel, and she’s dead right. It’s easy to forget that a lot of people here are only just scraping by.

Next day we wander around the old town a little more, this time by bike. Learning our lesson from Hue, we decide against paying to go into any of the historical buildings, and instead just soak up the atmosphere of this chocolate box pretty place.

We also get some jeans turned into jean-shorts (it’s hot here!), check out a veggie cooking course but don’t actually do it, and eat a fantastic veggie dinner at the same place – Karma Waters. It’s as vegan chic as it sounds, but the food is the freshest and healthiest we’ve had in Asia so far.

On our last full day in town, we sign up for a half day ‘Free Hanoi Cycle Tour’, led by a couple of very sweet university students, most of whom have taught themselves English from TV and films, and do the tours for free to improve their language skills. This is a fantastic morning tour in a group of just four people, by bike and ferry to Kim Bong Island, and includes a look at boat making and family temples, and some hands-on practice at making rice paper and weaving a floor mat, plus a rather random but fun game of charades (you try acting out the word ‘Fairy’..!)

We make a small contribution to the community, and a donation to the guides at the end; the Lucky Money we received at New Year on the train. It’s the best thing we’ve done in Hoi An by far. Recommended – and not just because it’s a bike tour!