HOI AN – an ancient treasure in Vietnam

HOI AN – an ancient treasure in Vietnam

Train ride in Vietnam. This was one of our main goals to do while in this beautiful country. We’ve decided to take the night train from Mui Ne to Danang (HOI AN – an ancient treasure in Vietnam actually). We were really exited while boarding on a semi old wagon and walking to our cabin.

At the Binh Thuan Train Station
At the Binh Thuan Train Station
Night train to Danang
Night train to Danang

Then the small size of it almost killed our enthusiasm 🙂 On one of the bunk beds we laid all of our luggage and other 5 were for us. The space was so small that only one at the time could stand up and change clothes.

No more room 🙂
Danang nigh train
Snack on the train
Danang night train
It was almost impossible to sleep on such a smal bunk bed for me

But as it turned out this only helped us to have more fun and few beers didn’t hurt too.

Danang nigh train
Saigon Beer always comes handy

We’ve reached Danang train station at 6am and from there we still had a good half an hour to our destination – Lama Homestay, just on the outskirts of Hoi An town. The Homestay was really amazing (Lama Homestay) and our hosts were the kindest ever. The place is set in the middle of rice fields a good 15 minutes bicycle ride away from the old town. The bike rental was free of charge and it was a great bonus too.

hoi an lama homestay
In front of Lama Homestay
lama homestay Hoi An
Our neighbours

Lama Homestay Hoi An

Lama Homestay Hoi An
Homestay in the middle of the rice fields at the back
Lama Homestay Hoi An
Friendly owners dog
Lama Homestay Hoi An
New friends

Ancient town of Hoi An – UNESCO Heritage site

Hoi An, once a major Southeast Asian trading post in the 16th and 17th centuries, is basically a living museum that houses old-town architecture. Some notable heritage buildings include Chinese temples, a Japanese-designed covered bridge, pagodas, wooden shop-houses, French-colonial houses, and old canals. Hoi An was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in December 1999.

Hoi An
Japanese Covered Bridge

Hoi An
Quan Cong Temple, Tran Phu Street

It’s Riverside is the best place to be at night as the area is lit by quaint and old-fashioned lanterns, making it an atmospheric and beautiful spot to stroll with the kids (just keep an eye on them because there are a LOT of people here).

Hoi An
Hoi Ann streets at the evening
Hoi An
Walking through the ancient City of Hoi An

There are basically three different categories of things that you can buy here. First is souvenirs, second being clothing and the last is food, both western and Vietnamese.

Hoi An
If Anthony Bourdain visits your place than lines are a must

The souvenirs are nothing special, since offerings are limited in diversity throughout the country (hats, lanterns, wooden artifacts…). Hoi An is better known for its tailor shops, which mostly service personal orders so you have to wait to have yours shirts and dresses made to the perfect fit. Most designs are traditional Vietnamese in nature, with some offer contemporary twists and touches of foreign taste. You can also present your own design for your dress as well.

Hoi An
Fruit at the market stalls
Hoi An
Thai pancakes at the Nigh Market
Night Market
BBQ-ing our own dinner at Anh Boa BBQ Hotspot

Things to do in Hoi An:

Countryside bicycle tour

Your day will be filled with discovery and surprises while doing this trip. We’ve crossed immense rice fields, learned the secret of making the famous woven mats that serve as beds, observed boat builders while making the boats that wind down the river, crossed floating bridges on bikes, tried to row and navigate the amazing fishing basket boat and lots more. The kids absolutely loved this trip.

Hoi An
Boat ride to one of the islands around Hoi An
Hoi An
Working on the rice field

Traditional basket fishing boat
Reminiscing about days events 🙂

We’ve also visited a family distillery where rice wine has been produced in the same manner for generations. Not far from the start of our journey we made a visit to a local family making Banh Dap using the traditional method. These small savory rice flour bowls are a common breakfast staple in the countryside. We continued riding to one of Hoi An’s villages, stopping at a family home to learn about the traditional family houses. Our host was nearly 90 and fought in the Vietnam-American war.

My Son

Less than 50km from the picturesque port city lies a collection of Champa ruins nestled amongst the mountains in a geological basin of the Quang Nam province in Central Vietnam.

My Son sanctuary became known to the western world in 1885, when French architect, archaeologist and art historian Henri Parmentier  and his colleagues began excavating and documenting the site. They found 72 monuments within a semi-circular, two-kilometer wide valley. Nowadays  there are 8 groups of temples found throughout the complex, and 71 standing monuments.

My SOn

Even though compared to the iconic Angkor Temples in Cambodia, that we’ve visited last year, My Son is not quite as extraordinary. However, as the religious and political capital of the Champa Kingdom, it is one of the most significant Cham sites in Vietnam.

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 due to its historical and culture significance, the Champa city of My Son Vietnam was an important complex that was occupied from the 4th to the 13th centuries.

Unfortunately My Son was heavily bombed during the Vietnam / American War and received substantial damage after the Viet Cong moved in and used the complex as a military base.

At the entrance of the site is a decent museum, filled with artifacts, detailed information in Vietnamese and English, and old images of the temples before the war.

If there is one advice that we can give you it would be to take water with you, take A LOT of water with you because it gets very hot out at the ruins, and there is no one selling any inside the sanctuary. Bottled water, ice cream and other refreshments can be bought near the ticket office.

Beaches of Hoi An:

Hoi An’s beaches are a major attraction in their own right and a great complement to the old town – especially during the hot humid months of summer. So on our last day before departure we’ve decided to do some beach bumming. After discussing this idea with our hosts they recommended An Bang Beach, around 6kms from downtown. This is the place to be for past couple of years since previous favorite Cua Dai beach, was washed away in 2014.

An Bang welcomes you with deck chairs, palm frond umbrellas and with a great range of restaurants serving everything from local seafood to western dishes. The ocean makes a perfect playground for the kids with its shallow and warm waters with not too big of a waves. Just be careful for rip currents out of the well-marked safe zone.

An Bang Beach

If using the umbrellas and deck chairs you have to pay for it or be prepared to be constantly reminded that you have to order a lunch per chair used while there. After a while we got really tired of it and after – not great at all – lunch, we decided to call it a day. Our advice is to carefully choose the restaurant/bar in front of which you will spend your day. Based on the reviews we wanted to stay at Soul Kitchen of Deckhouse but sadly they were fully occupied so we were forced to choose something else instead.

Also don’t expect turquoise blue water like in Indonesia or Philippines because you will be disappointed. For us it didn’t matter a lot since our next stop was Redang, Malaysian Paradise Island with the waters and sea life to die for.

Dinner for our friends birthday at Lama Homestay
Well deserved gift

One can see why Hoi An is such a great place to explore or simply relax for a day or two. On our way to airport in Danang to catch a flight to Kuala Lumpur we easily came to a conclusion that our best time in Vietnam was spent here.

Coffee at the Airport
Boarding time at Danang Int. Airport

MUI NE – Vietnam

MUI NE – Vietnam

Bình Thuận Province – South Central Coast Area of Vietnam

It took as an easy four and a half hour ride with one stop to get to Full Moon Village Resort near Mui Ne – Vietnam in Suoi Noc Bay,  where we’ve stayed in lovely two bedroom villa (Full Moon Village) This area has arguably the best beach around Pan Thiet. .

Saigon – Mui Ne minivan ride
Our Villa at Full Moon Village

Mui Ne - Vietnam

Mui Ne used to be a quiet fishing village about 200 km east of Saigon. Now it is a bustling beach resort, which attracts Vietnamese weekenders from Ho Chi Minh City, Russian, Korean, and Chinese tourists, and a few backpackers on the Vietnam Open Bus Tour trail.

Shopping at the COOP Mart at Phan Thiet

Mui Ne is mostly known for kite surfing and has become pretty popular tourist destination over the years.

Kitesurfing (credit to Emma Ghebaru)

We came to Mui Ne for beaches, for sand and sun, and to relax after the hustle and bustle of Saigon. As it turned out the rain at that time made our favorite part of Mui Ne visit to be the Red and White Sand Dunes.

There are two areas of sand dunes which you can take a tour to, along with the beautiful place called the ‘Fairy Stream’, which make for a pretty incredible day amongst landscapes we never expected to see in Vietnam. The White Dunes are 25 km northeast of Mui Ne, between Bao Trang (white lake) and the sea. The Red Dunes you’ll find just east of the fisher village of Mui Ne about 10 min from Full Moon Village with a local bus.

Keeping the inside during the rain was virtually mission impossible

Red Sand Dunes

The Red Sand dunes are a real site to see. We visited the site between the spells of rain and it turned out just perfect. In a scorching sun I can’t really imagine how we would cope with the kids running barefoot. Children of the fisherman work the dunes as mini tour guides and will even show you how to sled down the dunes. From the moment you’ll step on the edge of the road at the bottom of the Dunes you’ll be surrounded with them trying to get you to pay for the “sleds” (basically a piece of plastic to sit on). We bargained down the price and off we went.

Mui Ne Fishing Village view from the Red Sand Dunes
Sliding down the Dunes

Thankfully it rained before so we could run barefoot

It’s a relatively quiet place that has a laid-back, breezy quality to it. Even in peak seasons you’ll see only a modest amount of tourists pottering about in their bathing suits and flip flops. Mui Ne’s residents are mostly comprised of hospitality workers, sleepy security guards, tour guides in their jeep tour mobiles, and fishermen. Wake up early enough and you can catch the townsfolk on their way to the dock.

Resorts and bars have a monopoly on the sea view, lining up the entire beach one after the other. Here it’s a matter of choosing the best bar for your buck to access the beach from. The beach is also accessible from little alleyways that opens from the main road – but these aren’t so obvious so you can try and just walk through the bars if you “brave” to.

While staying here we endured three days of on and off rain so besides hidding from mosquitoes (there were really a LOT of them in our Villa and around the greenery of the Full Moon Village) we spent most of our time either on the beach or in the pool or running from the rain).

Mosquito nets are a must during rainy season
Alone at the pool

Anyway the beach was clean and well maintained and the kids loved running around or playing in the waves.

Mui Ne - Vietnam

But of course don’t expect the clarity of the water like in the other SEA countries like Philippines, Thailand or Indonesia.

All in all we had a good time here but everything on the account of our kids having fun despite constant raining and tons of mosquitoes. Otherwise if you are not a kite surfer you can skip this place and head further North or South.