Spend any amount of time in Hoi An and you quickly realise that it is a magical place. It’s more than hundreds of tailors and eateries assaulting you at every turn. The people there are special. Take the time to stop and engage in conversation with the young girl who is trying to sell you a bag of peanuts and you’ll find a person who is as keen to learn about your story as she is to make a few thousand dong from her wares.
They’re just like you and me, except their hometown is invaded by tens of thousands of visitors every year. You’ll have no doubt have your list of recommendations from various sources, but there is something engaging in stopping and talking to the young girls who are trying to eek out a living by selling you a candle in a paper cone to float on the river. They have a blend of innocence and street savvy that makes them eminently likeable.
If you’re in Hoi An during the summer months then a must do is to head down to An Ban beach at the end of the day and observe the mass of people flocking down to the sea. They might trickle down to the beach during the late afternoon with their variety of blow up toys and ‘floatation’ devices, but their return to town at dusk is a veritable stampede, a wave of humanity, salt encrusted and sandy, beaming with happiness, each managing to find their motorbike. It’s almost as if the whole community transports itself down to the refreshing waters, with all manner of hawkers selling their goods, and BBQs popping up to feed the masses. Watching them in the water is a sight to behold. Take yourself to one of the beachside bars, Soul Kitchen is our favourite, and watch the family fun.
Moving away from the old town gives a glimpse into ordinary life. Head to the tiger market at the start of the day and you’ll see local trade in full flow, fresh fish being cut to the customer’s needs, meat on open slabs and all manner of vegetables and fruit from the local gardens. It’s a splendid example of community trade, each stallholder bringing the produce that they have worked to either catch, raise or grow. It’s a window onto how we used to trade. Enjoy Hoi An!