Hội An is easily our favorite city so far. It’s absolutely beautiful, with its French architecture nestled along the mouth of the Thu Bon River. Here, nature had finally gotten the better of us, we arrived in Hội An earlier than we had planned thanks to “Doksuri”, the typhoon which ravaged the central coast of Vietnam. It was also our first taste in stark differences of communication. We’d tracked the path of Irma back home for days yet only learned of Doksuri less than 12 hours before it made land fall & we had to immediately change our route.
But thanks to that bit of unfortunate turn of events, we just decided to extend our stay in Hội An to 6 nights, the longest we’ve spent anywhere outside our boat trip to Antarctica. We’ve often discussed places we could live or joked about settling down right where we were, but this is the closest we’ve come to being serious. I legitimately looked up land/building prices & devised a plan to open our own hostel & yoga studio!
Hội An Tailors
Our main objective of traveling to Hội An (besides beauty & food) were to pick up some new threads. Prior to departing the U.S., we had both donated or sold the majority of our clothing & certainly most of our formal wear & Ben’s work suits. We reasoned, therefore, that it made sense to begin to restock our closets from here where it is such a better deal than back home in D.C.
Selecting a tailor can be a bit overwhelming, there are literally hundreds of places that advertise custom clothing & it all comes down to what you want & how much you want to spend. If you are looking for something simple & cheap there is no shortage of options, but if you really want something properly tailored & expect it to last more than a few washes, you are better off paying more for it. As they say, “you get what you pay for.”
As of September 2017, only 3 (or 4 depending on who you talk to) shops do their own in-house sewing (Kimmy’s, A Dong Silk, & Yaly); everyone else contracts it out to the fabric markets overnight to get made. From our experience, having the in-house tailors made an enormous difference. We purchased a lot of items (it’s a bit embarrassing really) & we were incredibly impressed with the tailoring work. We had 4 different fittings to make sure everything was up to our standards & they went above & beyond to make us happy.
If you are really in the mood for a shopping spree, you don’t have to stop at clothes. Many of the shops make custom-made shoes & leather goods as well!
Hải Vân Pass
When we were shopping or being fitted for clothes, we couldn’t pass up the chance to see enjoy the beautiful scenery along Hải Vân Pass. Known for its scenic views & winding turns that test any driver, we rented a motorbike for the day to explore it ourselves.
Made famous by the BBC hit show Top Gear, the drive towards Hue from Hội An is spectacular. Jeremy Clarkson called it "a deserted ribbon of perfection—one of the best coast roads in the world." It really was beautiful & certainly one of the better maintained roads in all of Vietnam. Riding this road by motorbike is the only way to do it in our opinion; having the ability to stop on the side of the road & look out admiring the views in addition to experiencing the continuous winding curves is something not replicable with a car or by bus.
On northern side of the pass, we found ourselves in the small beach area of Lang Co Beach. Sitting quietly on the coast, this small town with its beautiful beaches was certainly more local with not a tourist in site. We grabbed a bite at a local restaurant on the beach before heading back over the pass to Hội An.
Easily, one of the most underrated parts of Hội An are its beautiful beaches & waterways. An Bang beach is probably the most well-known & therefore the most visited. While it is lovely, if you continue further south from the city of Da Nang you’ll come across “hidden beach” & though it’s pretty easy to find, the limited number of tourists & pan handlers give it its name.
Unlike other beach areas, you can find chairs & umbrellas here for free as long as you buy a few drinks or lunch from the cafe they are in front of. Just do not try to fool the ladies working, they will keep tabs on you & know if you wander off to another café. While we didn’t do this, we saw them confront more than one guest about their lunch locations! We cannot express enough how beautiful the water & outer islands are, it must be some of the most underrated beaches in all the world.
On the inlet side, there is no shortage of “cruises” & small boat trips offered to the tourists in old town Hội An. Luckily, our amazing hostel arranges their own through a local fisherman who proudly shows off his hand-built vessel. One beautiful evening we were able to climb aboard & sail out with a small group to enjoy the sites of Hội An & an amazing sunset from the water.
Hội An will remain a favorite city of ours for a long, long time I think. Its easy-going vibe, great ex-pat community & long port history makes it an enticing place to stay. It is easy to see why so many people come & never leave! After a few days here, we were ready to get to work & start pitching in around town. With such great shopping and relaxing atmosphere, I think we could find a few excuses to come back someday.