Traveling around, you tend to have brief encounters with other backpackers where you swap information about where you've been and where you're going. You give and get advice about where to eat and where to sleep, and you tend to get the positives and negatives about every city in the country. Hoi An is a place that has come up many times and everyone has said it is one of their favorite places in Vietnam.
Pulling into town, we were slightly underwhelmed at first, but it didn't take long for its charm to win us over. Most of the buildings are remnants from the french colonial period and the Old Quarter has achieved UNESCO World Heritage status. The whole town has a very laid back vibe and it's easy to walk around its narrow streets lounge in its sidewalk cafes all day and never get bored.
Carved from bamboo roots
Every evening in a small square, they have the Vietnamese equivalent of bingo. You get a paddle with three symbols and a word above each. Musicians play and the MC's pull sticks out of a bucket with the symbols and words on them. They then sing a verse about the word and pass out flags to everyone with that symbol on their paddle. Get all three and you win a lantern.
The real magic here, though, happens at night. The streets of the Old Quarter are shut off to everything but pedestrians and “primitive vehicle users”, and the whole town lights up with thousands of lanterns and lamps. It's so perfect it almost feels like a movie set, but that only seems to add to the charm.
Japanese covered bridge