My sister and I had never done a trip together and given my love for Vietnam and her desire to see it, we decided to brave a holiday together. We decided to cover Ho Chi Minh city, as we would be flying there from Singapore. And then looking for another place to visit we chose Hoi An. You have to fly to Da Nang and then take a 30-min taxi ride to the city and we got to our hotel from an outer road by the evening. So far we hadn’t seen the city, so not wanting to waste time we changed and made our way to the centre of the town.
You may wonder why I am elaborating our arrival in such detail. This is because my first impression of Hoi An would dazzle me and become my lasting impression of the town and possibly of Vietnam. By the time we got into the city centre it was dusk and the lights had come on. Picture a town made up of ochre yellow houses, tiny streets, Vietnamese lamps hung in the doorway of every single house and in clusters on the bridge across the river, the sight of brightly coloured boats moored by the river bank and a cool breeze in the air.
I felt like I was experiencing magical realism. I have never been so moved by a town as I was by Hoi An. And I could see my sister was equally taken in. We spent most of that first evening just walking and soaking in the town, not wanting to miss anything. Later that night I called Aniruddha, who must have wondered if my sister and I had a little too much to drink since I was literally gushing about Hoi An.
Like all of Vietnam, the food in Hoi An was equally good. We sampled the local specialty, the white rose dumpling, which is a shrimp dumpling made from translucent white dough and shaped to look like a rose. Near the bridge, we chanced upon a food vendor selling spring rolls. Her set-up was simple. She was grilling pork skewers on a little charcoal stove and serving them on a large metal platter with a basket of fresh lettuce, a small plate of rice paper sheets and a sweet chili dipping sauce. You had to make your own rolls and pay as you ate. So my sister and I squatted on one of the stone benches and right there in the middle of the street, with traffic and people walking by, we gorged on one of the best meals I have had in Vietnam.
I highly recommend a holiday to this beautiful little town – truly one of the most special places I have been to.