Everything on living in Hoi An after almost 3 months here, keep reading for the story or skip to the index below for the facts. This post was going to be a bit of a whinge about how dull it is sitting still for a couple of months but yesterday, after starting this post in the wee small hours, we went out for breakfast and a bike ride and I found myself falling under a car. Being alive and content in an ultra charming little riverside town suddenly isn’t so bad. More on my accident down the page, back to the slow travel thing. Over the last 4+ years of travel we’ve had several slow travel periods but it’s never been a style we’ve embraced and has always been brought on by necessity. We’ve spent months on end in both London and Romania but I can’t think of anywhere else, in 50+ countries, where we’ve stayed in one place for more than a few days at a time. There was 6 weeks on Ko Phangan, but that was necessity, Chef had surgery and needed recovery time before he could pick up his backpack again. So here we are living in Hoi An, committed to at least 2 months in one house and I was, yesterday, going a bit stir crazy. Today I’m laid up with an infected foot from a too-close-for-comfort traffic accident and in all honesty, I’m pretty happy to sit and do not much at all. As in Egypt ( the runaway truck incident) I had a near miss and it shakes everything up .
- Living in Hoi An Video
- I love Hoi An And I Love Vietnam, It’s Not The Place, It’s Me
- Living in Hoi An
- Finding a House or Apartment in Hoi An
- Daily Routines and Eating
- Costs of Eating Out in Hoi An
- Wi-Fi and Powercuts
- The Hoi An Ticket
- Pre Wet Season Heat ( September)
- Living in Hoi An in the Wet Season
- Living in Hoi An When it Floods ( November – December)
- Coffee in Hoi An ( and wine, tea and beer)
- Keeping Busy in Hoi An
- The Night Market
- Getting Around
- The Traffic Accident and the Fabulous Vietnamese People
- What is Slow Travel
- The Advantages of Slow Travel?
- Is Slow Travel Necessary With Children?
- Is Slow Travel Necessary as Digital Nomads
- What Do Our Future Travels Look Like, Will They Be Slow?
- Picked for you!
Living in Hoi An Video
D worked hard to put this little video together for you. As you can see, we’re working on getting YouTube up and running with talking to camera videos, but we’re not quite ready to publish yet. This just gives you a taste of life in Hoi An, the place, the food, lifestyle and our house ( please subscribe, we’re getting better at video every day and about to invest in proper equipment.)
I love Hoi An And I Love Vietnam, It’s Not The Place, It’s Me
This is a lovely town, it’s not another Chiang Mai, there’s no malls, movies, co-working spaces or ice skating, but it’s a lovely town with cute shops, an interesting market, beautiful countryside to explore, wonderful people and great food. The house we’re in is amazing, brand new and very budget friendly and there are some big day trips to do to nearby places. It’s not ideal for a long stay but it’s extremely pleasant. I’m just not good at sitting still. There’s a lovely beach too, but we’re not generally beach people.
Living in Hoi An
Finding a House or Apartment in Hoi An
We arrived with an Airbnb reservation which went bad, thankfully. When we saw our planned Airbnb we took to Facebook and found ourselves a beautiful, brand new, 3 bedroom house within hours. It cost us under $20 per night. We can put you in touch with our landlady, Dao, she has a couple of houses and is one of the nicest people you could meet. Contact her through the Facebook page of her tailor’s shop, Khan Tran Tailor Shop. she also makes excellent shirts. There are plenty of places to rent in Hoi An but you’ll sometimes need a minimum of a 3 month visa because of government regulations. Expats mostly stay out of town, some towards the beach, some prefer paddy fields, we chose to be within walking distance of the Old Town. Check the flood maps if you are staying in the wet season.
Daily Routines and Eating
We stay in a lot. This is what’s getting to me, I hate staying in but it’s necessity. Chef’s training takes priority and if you know what Ironman is you’ll know that he’s training for 3 disciplines, swim, run, bike. A stupidly long swim, an insane bike ride and then a full running marathon at the end. He trains for hours, 6 days a week and we let him have the prime 5 am to 9 am slot. That’s when I’d like to be running, going to yoga or practicing my photography, but I can’t. So I’ll just have to wait.
We eat out at least once every day. We rarely eat 3 meals, usually just late breakfast and dinner so with the ultra light, ultra delicious ( but not spicy) Vietnamese food we’re losing a lot of weight. That’s great for me, not so great for the boys. We buy fruit at the market to make smoothies at home and I rarely cook much more than eggs. We order pizza online and have a movie night on our huge flat screen TV, we’ve found great pizza and they accept our Payoneer card ( that’s Amazon paying for our pizza, thanks Amazon!) They deliver Vietnamese dishes, Indian and baguettes, it’s almost like having room service, but I prefer to be out mingling.
Costs of Eating Out in Hoi An
Prices start around 20-30,000 Dong for superb street food. You could eat mi quang, cau lau or pho 3 times a day and pay no more than $3-5. Of course if you hit up the tourist restaurants you’ll pay more but some good restaurants, the markets, street stalls and pho joints will feed you incredible, healthy nutritious food for minimal cost. If you need western food expect to pay from around $4 at Mix Greek restaurant, around $5 and up for a pizza, around $4 for a great burger at Jim’s snack bar and so on. A western style coffee at Mia comes in around $1.30, their cheesecake is superb at roughly $2. Take yourself to the Happy Buffalo for beers and incredible, well priced Vietnamese/Western fusion bar food, it’s a great place.
Wi-Fi and Powercuts
The wi-fi is the best we’ve encountered anywhere in the world. It’s strong and it’s fast. In the run up to APEC we had one full day when power was off and one period of 4 hours. We had notice that power would go off both times but it was still incredibly hard to cope with in the heat. Often one side of town has power, another does, so you can get on your bike and find a cafe if you try. People talk about the wi-fi going down in Vietnam because of under sea cables ( there is some truth in sharks chewing the cables apparently). We got the chance to talk to a Hanoi IT professional ( through our local Hash House Harriers meets) and he said it hasn’t happened in the last 2 years, but you never know.
The Hoi An Ticket
This is a tricky one to get information on before arrival, but now we are here the infamous Hoi An ticket is no problem at all. Adult visitors ( kids are free) need to buy a Hoi An ticket to go into the numerous museums and ancient building that are open to the public around town. You DO NOT need a ticket just to wander around Hoi An. The only snag with this is that the Japanese covered bridge is considered a ticketed item, so visitors simply wanting to cross can get very angry when they are asked for a ticket, I’ve seen it happen. There is a second bridge that you don’t need a ticket for just metres away, but I guess they don’t realise. If you visit early or late there is rarely anyone checking tickets on the bridge, I’ve walked over it dozens of times without a ticket. I have bought a ticket and we spent a pleasant half day exploring some of the museums with the kids, it’s a nice thing to do and with them being free it’s an absolute bargain. The ticket will only get you into 5 attractions of your choice.
Pre Wet Season Heat ( September)
It’s insanely hot, from 30-37º C here right now ( September). The wet season will be here any day and we’ve already had a near miss with a cyclone. Mostly we’ve had blue skies with rainless thunder clouds rolling in around sunset. It’s dramatic, beautiful and hot. We picked this climate for Chef’s training, but we’d much prefer it cooler. We have to run air-con for most of the night, we’re used to tropical heat but this is intense. We only have air-con in our bedrooms, that’s typical here, by day we’re fan only. It’s rare to find anywhere with air-con, no restaurants or coffee shops ( other than Dingo Deli) have it. It’s OK, everyone manages. But laundry piles up incredibly quickly and we’re very glad of our washing machine.
The video below is Chef and I cycling in the downpour the cyclone brought.
Living in Hoi An in the Wet Season
The wet season hit us in late October, days of torrential rain, but interspersed with sunny periods and a welcome drop in temperatures. It was still warm enough for fans, but no more aircon. The rain wasn’t much of a problem until a cyclone or typhoon came too close, then 4 days of torrential rain brought on the typical Hoi An floods.
Living in Hoi An When it Floods ( November – December)
Life just went on. Today you’ll need a boat to get around the old town and there are plenty. Some roads outside the Old Town are flooded, some aren’t, we still have power and wi-fi but we can’t get an Uber and no restaurants are delivering food. There is a full post on Hoi An flooding experiences here.
If you’re thinking of staying in Hoi An through the wet season take a look at the flood map before you rent a property.
Coffee in Hoi An ( and wine, tea and beer)
If you’ve been reading for a while you’ll know that my veins flow with Americano black coffee, Earl Grey tea and red wine. I have all three here in Hoi An. Coffee is semi problematic as we can’t buy instant and we don’t have a cafetiere, Aeropress or any other travel coffee maker with us. But we’ve found a couple of fixes. Firstly, the little stainless steel over-cup Vietnamese coffee filter works just fine and you can buy one for around a dollar in any market. Secondly, our favourite coffee shop, Mia, sells great Arabica beans which they grind freshly for you. Vietnamese coffee tends to be sweet, chocolate-y or caramel-y and we don’t like it. There are loads of western style ( mostly Australian style) coffee shops and roasteries in Hoi An, as well as traditional Vietnamese coffee joints. Mia wins hands down for us, they also do great carrot cake and cheesecake. Unfortunately they don’t have air-con so I can’t really sit down there to work. Dingo Deli has coffee and air-con but their coffee leans more towards Australian long black than Americano, also it’s a lot further away.
I bought my Earl Grey with me from Sainsbury but there are plenty of fancy tea shops around. Every corner shop sells wine ( from $7 up ). Although mostly I’ll have a Saigon Green (from 50c up) if we’re out, it’s colder and wetter.
Keeping Busy in Hoi An
The Night Market
The night market is on the far side of the river, opposite the old town. It’s pretty tacky but fun. This is the “party” side of the river with plenty of bars, there are also nightly fun games and attractions along the water’s edge, it’s fun for kids. There is an abundance of street food and cheap restaurants over this side, quality is variable.
We hired bicycles at $1 per day, others prefer motor bikes or scooters. Uber is good in Hoi An and ultra cheap or there are plenty of taxis around. There are local buses to take you to Danang .
The Traffic Accident and the Fabulous Vietnamese People
We’ve already be blown away by how nice everyone is here, hotel owners, our landlords, the guy at the corner shop, my mi quang lady, just about everyone, but my accident brought this into sharp focus.
What happened was this, we were all out cycling, mostly it’s pretty safe round here, there are plenty of push bikes and mopeds but not too many cars and trucks, some streets in the Old Town are pedestrianised and push bike only and in the countryside you see little on the road other than ducks and water buffalo, so we use the bikes a lot. Yesterday morning we were passing the market on a congested, slow moving traffic street. I got distracted, I wasn’t looking at the road and I hit a drain cover causing my bike to topple towards a passing car. There was nothing I could do to stop myself falling, the car hit my foot and pushed me back the other way towards the gutter. It’s a bit of a blur, I’m not sure exactly how it all happened but I have one bruised foot, one skinned foot, a big bruise on my hip and a mangled bike. I was VERY lucky to not go under the car. It wasn’t nice. I’ve always ridden bikes, I cycled across Cuba for my 30th birthday and I biked to work every day in London, I just lost my concentration and took my eyes off the road and it’s the first time I’ve fallen off a bike in about 25 years. Falling seems to hurt more at 50. But there you go, shit happens when you least expect it. Chef falls off from time to time too, it’s inevitable. He’s caught his wheels in train tracks, skidded on wet surfaces, cars have run him off the road, all sorts. He’s usually moving fast with his feet clipped in as part of his Ironman training and yes, it scares the crap out of me but so far he’s been sore, nothing too major. Always take out travel insurance, it’s vital
What I wanted to talk about was the response from the local Vietnamese people. I’ve never experienced such extreme kindness anywhere in the world. They scooped me up, sat me down, massaged me with tiger balm, got ice onto both feet, gave me a drink and a shoulder rub. It was so nice of them. From our experiences here it seems pretty typical, the Vietnamese just are nice, happy people. I have no idea why Nomadic Matt famously had such a bad time in Vietnam that he left. Seems crazy. Anyway, I asked Chef to take this picture to prove my point. Did you ever see such a kind bunch? So thanks ladies and gent of Hoi An, you’re superstars and I’m a bad cyclist.
My bike was fairly badly damaged, I was expecting to have to pay for repairs. Instead our landlords took the bike away, welded it back together, bought me dressings for my feet and were just very concerned. Amazing kindness, they see human beings not dollar signs.
What is Slow Travel
You can’t put a time limit on it, it’s a matter of slow-for-you. We tend to stay as long as we need or want to stay and then move on. We can’t right now. But that’s what we prefer. So the time you spend depends on how much there is to do and how much you want to do. We cope much better in London, with endless places and events to keep us busy and strangely, in Romania. You’d think there was nothing to do in a tiny village but Breb works it’s magic on me, I just have to look out of the window to be perfectly happy there. It’s related to climate too, we don’t like this extreme tropical heat so we do tend to stay indoors more to escape it. In contrast we love getting out in the snow, we all do. Everybody is different and everybody’s definition of slow travel will be different.
The Advantages of Slow Travel?
There’s a list of advantages of slow travel that most people can recite. Slow travel is cheaper, it’s better for the planet and you really get to know a place. I think that’s about it. They’re not big enough advantages for me. We’ve not discovered much more in Hoi An in the last couple of weeks than we did in the first one. We’re undoubtedly saving a lot of money. Our house rental costs us way less than any hotel round here ( under $20 per night) and includes washing machine, internet, drinking water and gas for cooking. I’ll give you the final cost when we see our electricity bill. We’re running the air-con all night almost every night in two bedrooms and it’s going to cost us. We’re used to the tropics and rarely used air-con at home in Queensland, but it’s seriously hot here right now.
Is Slow Travel Necessary With Children?
For my children no, absolutely not. They love what we’re doing now, they love that we’re not doing much so they get to play more computer games. I don’t love that. I’d rather they were busy and getting out and about more, so that’s a big part of why I don’t enjoy slow travel.
When they were younger we could take them out to playgrounds but they’re too big for that now and I can’t let them go out alone here. That was one of the big attractions in Romania, they could wander the village freely and safely, here that’s out of the question with the obstacle of the main road . Also, of course, they don’t want to go out, they want to stay in and play computer games. We drag them out to eat at least once a day but I think in 6 weeks we’ve met absolutely nobody to talk to. Sad but true. This isn’t the backpacker town it used to be, it’s full of Chinese and Australian holiday makers and nobody talks. We’ll sit in restaurants for hours, playing Monopoly Deal and lingering over a Saigon beer, nobody wants to interact. This is fairly unusual, travellers are often talkers.
So we take them to pottery classes, Vietnamese lessons, cookery and painting sessions. They enjoy it once we get them there, but they’d still rather stay in. They enjoy riding the bikes sometimes, they like Vietnam, but it’s not very exciting for them because we’re not doing enough and we’re too isolated in this house. It’s one of the big reasons I’d rather stay in a hotel or guest house, being in a house puts you behind high walls. I’m not sure travel is working for them any more and we may need a rethink.
Is Slow Travel Necessary as Digital Nomads
Yes it is. It’s very, very hard to travel at any kind of pace and work at the same time. Although this slow, 2 months plus in one place, isn’t required. Generally if I’m working I feel bad that the kids are doing nothing ( they’re perfectly happy, it’s a mum thing). But quite honestly I’m hardly doing anything you could call work even though my days are relatively empty, when we travel faster I seem to be more productive. Must be the pressure.
What Do Our Future Travels Look Like, Will They Be Slow?
No, no and no. I can’t stand it! Chiang Mai was fun, I loved having the co-working space, the cinema and the mall, they broke up our days and weeks and gave us some variation. We also had friends there and saw them often. I really don’t like this settled thing, so once Ironman is over and Chef doesn’t have to train every day, we’re back to more normal paced backpacking. We’re off to Malaysia, Langkawi and Singapore next, all are booked and confirmed. We’re also hoping to get over to Borneo. So cool things coming up soon. For now we’re busy creating our complete Vietnam travel blog and guide, check it out.
How are your plans looking and have you tried slow travel or settling for a while? Do you dig it?