Bia Hoi in Hoi An

Hoi An

The road South from Hue leads past Danang, a big industrial sort of place, past China Beach (of, I’m told, TV series fame), where GIs used to come for R&R, and on towards Hoi An.

Hoi An is an old chinese merchant town, sort of like Melaka and Georgetown in Malaysia. A very quaint old town, situated on the banks of a river and full of very atmospheric and picturesque old chinese trading houses. The whole old part of town is another UNESCO world heritage site in Vietnam. Not only is the town a world heritage site, it sits right next to another one – My Son, a collection of roughly 1000 year old Cham hindu temples that look a lot like Angkor in design, but are a lot less overgrown. Hue, Hoi An, My Son, Ha Long bay – all UNESCO world heritage sites – they lay it on a bit strong in these parts, don’t you think?

Anyway, before you come to Hoi An, you need to prepare. Despite its world heritage status, there won’t be much sightseeing being done here. Shopping is the order of the day and there is no mercy. Hoi An is famous for three things – its old town, its tailors and silk shops, and its seafood. Well, amongst tourists it’s really only the second two that count. The town is just a pleasant backdrop while you shop and dine your way to oblivion. Actually, on second thought, it’s just the shops that matter, the town is pleasant background, and the restaurants are just where you pile on the calories for the next marathon shopping session. There are tailors selling everything you could want everywhere you look in every sort of material in every sort of style. Contrary to the tailoring in Thailand, this doesn’t even look half bad. Get measured up in the morning and you’re all kitted out by the evening. And if you’re in a rush, they will also do you whatever you want overnight.

The tailors and restaurants are two sides of the same coin, of course. The shops are full of enthusiastic female tourists choosing materials and designing their own clothes, and the restaurants are full of vaguely dazed looking blokes knocking back “bia hoi” – the local vietnamese sort of cheap beer, hoping to get to a decent anesthetic buzz going before they’re faced with the tonnes of clothes they’ll have to lug through the rest of the country.

2 Responses to “Bia Hoi in Hoi An”

  1. Matthias Ripp Says:

    Nice blog! How was your impression of this UNESCO World Heritage Site? State of Preservation, Visitor Management, etc.?

  2. martin Says:

    Cheers. Hoi An is nice, no complaints whatsoever. Nicely preserved, visitor management could be better I guess, but by asian standards it’s quite nicely worked out, I think. And compared to say Hue, not overly expensive either.