Ignoring the tailor touts

Day 77
Hoi An, Vietnam

The Ha An was even more impressive in the daylight. Our room overlooks the French-style courtyard and the onsite café has a legit and delicious breakfast buffet — the best I’ve had since Mykonos. After gorging ourselves on eggs, fresh baguettes and fruit, we stopped at the desk for a map of Hoi An, a charmingly small town of 75,000 on the banks of the Thu Bon River.

Hoi An Old Town, which dates back to the 16th and 17th century and basically encompasses most of the town, was designated a Unesco World Heritage Site about 10 years ago. Most of the sights in town can be accessed with a single ticket, so we bought a pair, a couple of bottles of water and started walking around.

We visited the Assembly Hall of the Fujian Chinese Congregation, a community meeting spot that later became a temple, the Tan Ky House, a preserved home occupied by seven generations of the same family, and the famous Japanese Covered Bridge, but weren’t terribly impressed with any of them. For us, just roaming the narrow streets, haggling with vendors in the market and checking out art galleries along the water were the highlights.

Hoi An is also well known for its 200 tailors, whose touts and constant “Hellooooo’s” can get beyond irritating. We’ve heard mixed things about the quality of the custom-made clothing often produced here in just a couple of hours so decided against have anything made up. Others at our hotel had bags full of what they claimed were perfectly copied skirts, suits and shirts.

The town really heats up in the afternoon, so we retreated to our hotel for bathing suits and then hopped into a taxi to Cua Dai Beach, a beautiful stretch of sand on the South China Sea. This beach runs for miles north to Danang, where it’s known as China Beach, what was once a hang-out for American soldiers during the war. We paid for some beach chairs under a palm-thatch hut and took in the surroundings.

There were a number of relentless hawkers on the beach selling crappy jewelry, fruit and lots of tourist junk. They walked the line between amusing and annoying, although more often were the latter. We went for a couple of dips in the sea to cool off before chowing down on a fresh seafood lunch. The grilled calamari and shrimp spring rolls were delicious. The skies turned overcast so we packed up and returned to town, where after some intense bargaining, walked away with some cool souvenirs.

At the hotel, we packed our backpacks before having dinner at Brother’s Café, what is said to be the classiest joint in town. Burt’s red snapper cooked in a banana leaf put my grilled beef with chili and lemongrass to shame. After a drink overlooking the scenic waterfront, we walked back across the street to the Ha An and hit the hay.

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