With a promise never to fall into another tourist trap for the rest of our trip, Zach and I arrived back in Hanoi to rest up and prepare for the beginning of our road trip through Vietnam. Our original plan was to ride the A1 down to Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An, continue south to Nha Trang and then cut west inland through De Lat and ending our trip in Ho Chi Minh City. After riding for nearly 5 days in absolutely miserable weather and stopping in a few towns off the A1 highway (the road trip summary and video can be found here), we eventually found ourselves biking through Hue.
We meant to push through Hue to Da Nang to save time, but after a random encounter and a day of partying with the locals, we holed up for a day there. We woke up refreshed–albeit a bit hungover–and continued onwards to Da Nang and Hoi An, Vietnam. We trekked the mountain motorbike trails on the east coast to come up Da Nang seated in a sparkling blue bay surrounded by the mountains that we still had to descend. After almost a week of rainy weather, no sun, and impatience, we were finally glimpsing the beauty of the Vietnamese coastline.
As far as my travel through were, Vietnam, Da Nang and Hoi An were my absolute favorite places to visit. Da Nang is a vibrant city with an entertaining nightlife that I didn’t really get to experience due to illness, but from my bed I could hear a few venues with patrons belting out karaoke, loud laughter, and the city pulsating; we weren’t even in the heart of it either. Hoi An is a different kind of liveliness that sits just a 30-minute motorbike ride outside of Da Nang and although it is much, much smaller, it felt like there was so much more to do. Hoi An is a more pleasant, peaceful cultural hub that contrasts Da Nang’s city life.
I must’ve been too enamored with both Da Nang and Hoi An because I filmed very little and I have almost no video or film of the latter.
En route to Hoi An from Da Nang, we decided to stop and check out a temple that resided on a random chunk of rock that towered over the roadway off to the side. I have no recollection on what it was called or what its importance was, but it was still cool to wander around.
Although my experience in the world is very little compared to many others, I still proclaim Hoi An as the tailor capital of the world; it didn’t matter what you wanted, you could buy it at a cheap price (after haggling) and get it tailored very cheaply. Sneakers, dress shoes, sports shoes, winter coats, suits, Hawaiian shirts, jeans, sweats, summer dresses, skirts, tanks, gloves, winter hats, snapbacks, dress shirts, socks, and even custom-made underwear were all available in wooden shops lining the market street; I couldn’t believe it and I probably didn’t cover everything that you could get. The men’s suits shops were more of an episode than a minute shopping experience. You get to flip through a catalog highlighting styles from Hugo Boss to Ralph Lauren to Versace; if I could guess there were more than 60 styles. Next they bring you through the material and color options depending on your price range (I was originally only going to spend $200, but ended up purchasing 2 three-piece suits for $480. Damn those adorable Vietnamese women with their flattering salesmanship). After a detailed sizing measuring every nook and cranny of your body, they set 2-3 fitting appointments to make sure your suits are to your liking and they fix every single one of your concerns. You choose your jacket-lining, fit, color, style, etc…everything. I was overwhelmed and mesmerized at the same time. Whether you are male or female, I suggest going to Kimmy’s Tailors; they specialize suits but also sell dresses, Hawaiian shirts, winter jackets, and a few other things. Their packaging is travel-friendly–small and not to bulky–or you can have it air-mailed/ship-mailed back to your home with the price depending on where you live.
The Hoi An night life includes peaceful house bars that allow you to people-watch the inebriated tourists from afar. We talked up a older British man who just happened to be a SE Asia veteran with his own travel company. For about 3 hours he gave us hints and tips about traveling through Cambodia and Thailand as he chain-smoked and enjoyed his beer; it was a great time.
Motorbiking through the cramped streets of Hoi An at night, during a full moon, while the orange and red paper lanterns beamed overhead made for a great experience as well.
Although I find it as an odd descriptor for me to use, I would probably label Da Nang and Hoi An as delightful. Apart from a small amount of rain, these two places are sunny and very friendly towards travelers. I want to think that they enjoy travelers because of our personalities, but it’s most likely due to the fact we spend so much money. All of those $5 purchases really add up.
Due to time constraints with our schedule, we decided to ship our bikes by train to Ho Chi Minh City and fly. If the weather wouldn’t have ruined 3 days of riding through Vietnam, we could’ve complete the entire Hanoi-Ho Chi Minh City extravaganza. Maybe another time…