When the trip was planned, we had kept 1.5 days in Da Nang and 2 days in Hoi An. Are 2 days in Hoi An, really enough? The answer depends on how long are you spending in Vietnam. For starters, no matter how many days, don’t skip Hoi An. Trust me you will regret it. So we decided to make the most of our 2 days in Hoi An and then leave for HCMC (Saigon) on the 3rd day morning. So today we start our journey to Hoi An from Da Nang.
Travelling from Da Nang to Hoi An
Travelling from Da Nang to Hoi An is actually pretty easy. You have 3 options:
- Private cab transfer [Around 450000 VND]
- Shared cab transfer [Around 150000 VND]
- Public bus (Runs every 20 mins, Bus No. 1) [25000 VND + 10000 VND Luggage]
As you can guess, travelling from Da-Nang to Hoi-An made the most economic sense if we took the bus. Also, I somehow love travelling the way locals do, not just in Asia but Europe as well.
During my breakfast, the hostel staff gave me details about the bus no, bus stop and the ticket price. Once we were ready, we thanked the receptionist. She really made us feel very comfortable and the best part, she was doing this job just to improve her English, so that she could go abroad later for her studies. Reminded me of my college days when I used to work part-time. We clicked few selfies with her and off we went. For the hostel review, check out KonTiki Da Nang, Review.
I asked her to feed the bus stop details in my Google maps for navigation. After a good walk of 1.5-2 kms we reached the bus stop. I confirmed with the locals just to be sure. After that we waited for approx. 15-20 mins before the Bus No. 1 arrived.
Bus No. 1
The bus normally takes 1-1.5 hours and most of the drive is on a 4-laned highway. After getting into the bus, we kept our backpacks at a particular location in the bus. The conductor came to me and asked for 140000 VND for 2 people. But luckily, not only our hostel friend had told us the ticket price, she had even written in down on a paper. I showed the conductor that piece of paper and the price came down directly to 70000 VND (25000 VND/person + 10000 VND for the luggage).
Be informed, kind and helpful
I paid him that amount and started tracking the bus progress on Google Maps. Meanwhile, I also got talking to 2 British girls sitting right behind us. The conductor was demanding 100000 VND/person from them and they were almost going to pay, I quickly handed them a piece of paper with the actual ticket price. So finally they told him that they would pay only 35000 VND/person and if he asks for more then they will get down. Finally he relented and gave them the ticket and I think he cursed me under his breath.
Anyways, this incident marked the beginning of my friendship with those girls and even today, we keep are in touch. During this ride we saw lot of Premier Hotels which were under construction right along the coast from Da Nang to Hoi An. Most of these hotels are coming up 5-10 mins away from the Marble Mountains. We caught a passing glimpse of the Marble Mountains while on the way. So in case, you want to visit Marble mountains, you can catch any bus that travels between Hoi-An & Da-Nang. You just need to inform the conductor that you need to get down at Marble mountains. It’s just 5-7 mins walk from the point you get down on the highway to Marble Mountains.
After a ride of another 30 mins, the bus dropped us at the Hoi An Bus Station. It’s also the last stop on the route, so need to worry with the maps. It was 1.5 kms to our hostel, so we walked. You can also grab a GRAB motorbike for 20000-30000 VND.
Day 1 – 2 days in Hoi An
We reached the hostel around 2 PM. One of the best things about this hostel was reception desk. The guy who checked us in, gave us a proper orientation tour of the places to visit and best places to eat. All this without asking. I simply loved this about the hostel. The hostel had a free cycling tour beginning at 3 PM.
So we decided to head to the room, keep the luggage and then come down for a quick lunch. Again, the hostel recommended Banh Mi, Phuong for a quick lunch. For those who don’t know Banh Mi is a Vietnamese Sub-way type of sandwich which can be had with chicken, beef, fish & pork fillings. We tried the Chicken (Ga) Banh Mi and now I know why the hype around it. It was the best Banh Mi that I had in my entire Vietnam trip.
After the lunch, we were back at the hostel for the cycling tour. We had to pay a rent of some 15000-20000 VND for the cycles and a deposit as well. Deposit was refundable. For a more detailed review on the hostel, you can check out this post – Tribee Bana, Hoi An Review.
Cycling Tour – Tribee Bana
The cycling tour was easily supposed to take 2-3 hours. So were advised to get our caps, sunscreen and a water bottle. The rough itinerary was:
- First we cycle for 10-15 mins and stop at the Family temple of the Village. As per the guide, rich Vietnamese families have their own temples where most of their ceremonies are performed and this particular temple belonged to one such family. The family had also allowed the villagers to use this temple.
- Next up was to go to a local house and learn rice paper making.
- After that we would go further around the village and then head back to the hostel. The whole tour was supposed to take around 3 hours.
First stop – The Village Temple
Next stop – Rice Paper Making
Rice paper is nothing but what we Indians would call a non-crispy and slimy Dosa. Basically rice flour is mixed with water and then just like dosa you spread the mixture over heat….once its slightly cooked, you take off the rice paper and add it to a cracker (Papad) and then you eat it together with some spicy dip (chutney/sambhal). They also served us some peach or lemon tea. At the end, everyone gave a small amount to the family as a token of gratitude.
Losing our way back
While returning to the hostel, we initially lost a couple of girls from the group and had to search for them for 20 mins as the Village doesn’t have a proper mobile network or data connection. Finally our guide found them and we started again. I decided to be the last in the group as I was busy clicking photographs and making videos.
As I tried catching up with the group, I found one of my fellow hostel mates. She was kinda lost and a little panicked. Frankly speaking even I had no idea where we were, but I consider myself blessed with a navigational memory wherein I don’t remember directions at all but if I walk or cycle sub-consciously then somehow I manage to head to the right destination. So we slowly started cycling back to the hostel.
During the last part when we were close to the hostel, I lost my sense of navigation and luckily she bailed us out. She was in Hoi An since a few days now and knew the area around the hostel pretty well. During our conversation I found out that she’s a Sindhi settled in Canada and currently pursuing her studies in Hong Kong. We became such friends that she promised to show me around a lovely street side place for dinner.
Aftermath of the cyclic tour
I was sweating by the time we were back at the hostel and the sun had already set. So it was decided that we would meet in the lobby around 7:30pm and then head out together for dinner (all 3 of us). So I quickly went to the room and had a nice long bath. 1 word of appreciation about the hostel dorm room – Tribee Bana doesn’t have bunk beds….Yipeeee…
We stayed in a 3 bed mixed dorm and shared our room with Natalie. Natalie’s travel story was pretty touching. Basically, Natalie’s grandma had passed away and left Natalie some money. And since her grandma loved travelling, Natalie was going all over the world specially South East Asia with that money. If I ever leave my grand children some money, this is what you have to do with my money as well, go travel and see the world :).
Me & Kshipra got ready and headed down to the reception. But Monisha (Canadian friend) had some pending assignment to complete on an urgent basis, so we decided to kill time by playing Jenga. Also, if you noticed the hostel notice board, then had free rum & coke today. So what followed was a very interesting Jenga session. Finally, Monisha joined us around 8:15 and we headed for dinner.
Beauty of Hoi An lies in the night
Though I have never counted myself as a romantic person, I have to admit – Hoi An is probably the most romantic town I have been to. The lit up lanterns all over the streets and by-lanes, the river side, soft music playing at most places and excellent street side food. I just fell in love with the town that night.
As promised, Monisha took us to a street food cart with small stools perched right next to the river bank. I tried Cau Lau (its a famous pork dish with noodles and some sauce). We also ordered some fried chicken spring rolls and 1-2 more dishes which I cant even pronounce right now.
Post a heavy dinner, we walked around the town and we had Shrimp noodles some places followed by Banana pancakes. By the time we were back at the hostel, it was already 10:45 PM. However, I don’t know what got into me and I headed straight into the coffee shop next to the hostel. They were closing down, but on our insistence they let us stay there for another half an hour. I quickly glanced at the menu & found another Vietnamese speciality that I had been searching for – Egg Coffee. Yeah a coffee made from egg.
The story behind the egg coffee is that during the Vietnamese war, milk wasn’t easily available. So someone used egg instead of milk and voila the famous Egg Coffee was born. By the way, I can assure all you guys who might be cringing right now – You can’t taste the egg in the coffee, I can bet you that. Kshipra ordered some hot chocolate and we chatted till they finally shut down the shop.
And off we went to bed. Tomorrow is special – Its my wife’s birthday as well as Kshipra’s. Beat that for a coincidence. Day 1 of our 2 days in Hoi An is done and dusted.