As the sun sets on the sleepy port town of Hoi An, Vietnam, the streets come alive with the most vibrant shades of crimson, yellow, and violet. Hoi An is renowned for their silk lanterns. They hang from every eave and balcony, lighting up the narrow streets of what I believe is possibly one of the most charming places on earth. Hoi An is a place you can easily forget about modern life and take a step back into the past. If there was ever a place in which to get lost, this is it.
Prior to Hoi An, my husband and I were in Hanoi, a city filled with hustle, bustle and the never-ending sounds of honking vehicles. Hoi An was a peaceful, welcomed change of pace, and we looked forward to the wildly different experience. My husband and I flew into the Danang Airport, about 30 kilometers north of Hoi An, and arranged a driver to take us down the pristine coast to the Hoi An Riverside Resort. Since we were beaching it at our next stop in Nha Trang, I decided to forgo a beach resort this trip and opted instead to stay within a short distance to the center of town. It was a perfect location — we were able to bike to town or the beach within a few minutes.
After settling in, it was only a matter of minutes before we were heading into town to experience a shoppers dream… and what Hoi An is quite well know for: inexpensive, high quality tailor made clothing! At first it’s quite daunting, dozens of shops filled with bolts of material and shop owners desperately trying to win your business. We finally found a shop that called out to us. Which is ironic, because it may have been one of the few places that wasn’t literally calling out to us.
As we walked in we were greeted with a smile and a lap full of the latest fashion magazines and photo albums filled with recent shots from the runways. I picked a few dresses out of Vogue, and decided on a white, fitted suit among other outfits. I was skeptical at first about how my clothes would turn out, but less than 24 hours later I was trying on suits and dresses that fit better than anything I had worn before. I was convinced!
Tailor made suits are one of area’s specialties. There was this Prada suit I’d always wanted and had never purchased. I was able to describe it, do my best to sketch it out, and the tailor was able to make it to my exact measurements. Even my husband, who is usually adverse to shopping, couldn’t get enough of this phenomenon. I don’t know if it was the perfect fit, the extremely low prices, or a combination of both that kept him ordering more and more. Needless to say, an extra suitcase was purchased for our trip home. Our suits cost us anywhere from $80 to $100, Men’s shirts were in the $15 range, and dresses averaged about $30. I mean seriously? How can anyone not leave Hoi An without a few extra bags?
After a full day of shopping and sightseeing, it was time to fill our tummies with the local cuisine. If you like your food fresh and full of flavor, Hoi An is the place for you. I’m not sure if we were really lucky or just chose wisely, but every restaurant we visited was amazing. Being a port town, seafood is the specialty here, and everything is caught daily. Many places will let you choose the actual crab or shrimp you would like them to prepare. For me, I made a habit of ordering the set menu entrees consisting of an appetizer, first course, main course, and a dessert. On average, a set meal costs from $2.50 to $4.00 US. You might even enjoy this bargain meal in your brand new $100 silk suit!
Hoi An is known for its local style of cuisine… so much so that almost every hotel and restaurant offers cooking classes. These classes cost as little as $5.oo and go up to about $30.00 depending on where you go and what you choose to make. We booked a private class at our resort which included both a chef and a translator. For the next hour we cooked flavorful dishes of only the freshest ingredients from the local market. The best part was sitting down right along the river at our private table, enjoying the fruits of our labors.
After all the sightseeing, cooking, and shopping it was time for a little rest and recovery. Thomas and I hopped on our bikes and rewarded ourselves with a day at the beach. Even though our resort was not directly on the beach, it offered off-property facilities right on the sand. We biked about five minutes before hitting the pristine waters of the South China Sea. It was time to grab a straw hat, sip on a frosty drink, and let the day slowly fade into a balmy evening illuminated with nothing but Hoi An’s enchanting silk lanterns.
Hoi An has so much to offer — the shopping, the food, the beach. To this day, what comes to me when daydreaming about Hoi An, is the city itself. Walking along the river at night, taking in the glow of the lanterns, reflecting on the calm waters. This is the stuff of which daydreams are made.
I’m a Bay Area mom with midwestern roots. Born and raised in Indiana, I have always had an affinity for travel, adventure and the arts. Before my days of playdates and homework, I worked as a television host, reporter, producer, and actress in Los Angeles.