Sunday 4 June 2017

Last week in Hoi An and and my last two nights away chilling at the beach in Danang...

My last week in Hoi An (Ancient town part) was a far more social/fun one and I had a great time.

I did a site inspection/checked out the Anantara Resort which is a stunning hotel just down the road from my house which also overlooks the river .  It is truly a beautiful property and the nicest, close to the Ancient/old town hotel I have seen.  To be fair its 5 star and should be.
Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me so best to checkout the photos on instagram - kiwitravelguru

Also close to my house and the central market was The Ha An Hotel.  A nice hotel with a pool and all rooms had an outdoor area or balcony.  Again a great option for an easy walk into town for all the shops, restaurants.

I finally found Hito Café  (344/2 Nguyen Duy Hieu St ) which I knew was just around the corner from my place and had gone looking for it since I moved to the house in March after meeting one of the owners at the March expats get-together.  Run by two great guys, that serve great coffee and food.  It is off the main road down (which is why I kept missing it and they were just going to put the signs back up which had come off. ) .  It is truly a hidden gem - a lovely space and comes complete with two of the cutest kittens.  Make the effort to find it is well worth it.

Another coffee place which was also around the corner from me was Mia Coffee which I could always grab a good takeaway coffee and Panini on a busy workwise day.

I spent the 26-30 April at The Historic Hotel Hoi An as my lease was up.  I could have stayed the extra 4 days at my place, but it was getting hotter I was hanging out for a pool again and to justify it I believe it is always better to stay at a hotel to really recommend it!  They also generously offered me an agents rate at a busy time.
The historic Hotel has big rooms, a great pool area and while in a different location to the Anantara or Ha An it is minutes away from the old town.  They provide a free shuttle to Cua Dai where they use the private beach of the Hoi An Beach hotel (I think I didn't see any other ones out that way and to be fair I didn't use it as I hung out at the pool).

I got my legs waxed (again) at the Hoi An Day Spa which was nice and handy (as I was now around the corner at the Historic Hotel although I had gone there previously on a recommendation) and the ladies there were fantastic.  Not a single hair was missed thanks to a fluorescent lamp /strobe light .  A very unique but thorough wax job.

I caught up with Cath, an Australian expat also working remotely for some great wine and the best money bags (huge...and packed with shrimp etc) I've ever had at White Marble .They have Vietnamese and Hoi An Cuisine along with light snacks (and meals) but wine and platters worked for us. They have premium international wine list with 13 wines by the glass - heaven!!  Actually last time I was here I went there and had a glass of wine but had no idea it was the best in town.
To be honest as it was so close to the hotel I went back the next night for the money bags and a glass of wine.

On the Friday before I left town I caught up with Sharon (Hoi An Now) and her friends for dinner at MIX (Greek restaurant - up from the Japanese bridge) which I had heard so many good things about.  Great food, lovely owners and we timed it well as there were people waiting outside to get in.  It deserves the amazing reviews it gets.  Another great night out.
While you are probably questioning the logic of going to a Greek restaurant in Vietnam, the reality is after 8 weeks of mainly Vietnamese food which I love, it was really good to have a change and the idea of going was to check out as many great options as possible.....all about research.

I  then spend my last two nights at the Pullman Danang Beach Resort who on a busy long weekend/ Vietnamese holiday gave me an agents rate.  It was more than I wanted to spend but so worth it.  It was the perfect ending to an amazing 2 months.  I just loved chilled - I loved my room, the beach and the pool.  I spend my first night just chilling in a cabana (sort of) lounger on the beach listening to music on my headphones until about 10pm.  It took me that long to get through the very strong 2 for 1 cocktails from 6pm.  The staff just delivered the second after I had finally finished the first one (well after the happy hour had finished) and ended up having dinner there (on my lounger).
It's an amazing stretch of beach along from the public Khe My Beach  (china Beach)....same beach just further down.  Pools are great and the one at the Pullman was amazing ( I even had it all to myself first thing in the morning for some laps before breakfast) but in my opinion you can't beat swimming in the sea. The sea floor dropped steeply a couple of times and there were big waves but that's the beauty of the beach/sea!

I had a 90 minute hot stone massage on my last day (before I flew out) at the Ocean Spa (17 An Thuong 5 St, Ngu Hahn Son -email - which was just heavenly and I think I paid USD$15/17 + Tip for it. I swear I was so relaxed that I slept for probably an hour of it.

I went into Danang for dinner on my last night and had the most amazing pita bread and dips and crab cakes  at the Waterfront Restaurant and Bar.  After wandering the streets near the hotel in search of a recommended restaurant that I couldn't find , (I jumped in a cab in the end and went to the Waterfront). I got there too late to want a full meal but it what I had was great and it looks out onto the waterfront which is a bit of a promenade. 
Danang city is pretty amazing at night all lit up and again I think is an underrated city and I wish I had taken more time to check it out but I didn't.

How time flies...8 weeks away seems like a long time and the first 3 weeks in Hoi An were a bit lonely, I will admit. Much better after I met a few expats (and travellers) and had people to dine with.  I should have posted on the Hoi An Expats face book page seeking people to catch up for dinner with earlier!

In reality I worked as if I was home (march is always normally a busy Europe/Asia/USA early bird big sale month...April with school holidays and Easter is generally quieter so gave me a chance to check out some more hotels etc and chill a wee bit) so my vision of getting up at 6 am and working until 1 pm and having all afternoon off everyday didn't really eventuate!
Still I'm not complaining ...I had a ball.  I met some amazing people, ate and drank at some very cool places, did some great tours, and stayed at or viewed some amazing hotels. 

It was much busier than it was 4 years ago when I was last there, (more motorbikes/cars where before it was more push bikes) and it's definitely growing -a 'Second Hoi An'  development is in progress currently 
Hoi An has been voted in the top 10 places in the world to visit (The Wanderlust Reader Travel Awards 2016, voted Vietnam’s Hoi An as their readers/voters favourite city in the world to visit) so you have to expect that it will get busier.
Years ago as an agent I would have given a money back guarantee on Hoi An as everyone I sent there loved it.  To be honest as an agent I would never give a money back guarantee as there are always people who would be upset by a day of rain, or a mosquito bite, or the sight of a cockroach that supposedly ruined their whole holiday  - fortunately they are not my clients.
The Ancient/old town is a pretty town -stunning with all its lanterns lit up at night and well worth the visit.
And whilst it is getting busier, it's still a fantastic place to visit or live.....and I would go back in a heartbeat.

A big thanks to the amazing people I met and for the great contacts as a result,  to my gorgeous landlords (who spoke no English) who lived next door and their daughter who did (speak English) for making my working remotely experiment so fantastic.


Saturday 3 June 2017

Only two weeks left working remotely from Hoi An...

Only two weeks left ...where did the time go...

My 2nd to last week...

Easter weekend so pretty quiet work wise for me so I caught up with Tracey from Wide Eyed Tours at Felina Cantina (An Bang beach) where they serve the best tacos and if I could bottle his special sauce and sell it here I would be worth millions!!
Tracey showed me around the new hotel that Travis from Wide Eyed Tours is building in An Bang as well as several of their villas.  The  villas are in their brochures and on Expedia etc and a great option for families/ groups of friends and quite unique to Hoi An and An Bang would definitely be my preferred spot - a  mere VND80000-100000 (USD$4-5) from the ancient town but it is so chilled if I had my time again and I hadn't come in the high season would have opted to live out there.
On the way back into town I checked out Essence Hoi An.  Loveliest staff and all the rooms were lovely - modern but with a touch of Vietnamese influence.  The new wing has some higher level accommodation with its own full own deck option which I loved and their own pool/bar etc and soon to have butler service.  The room in their original wing look out onto the paddy field which is an amazing outlook.  Slightly out of the ancient town but bikes to use and transfers into town and the beach. Two pools on the property for both the old (not that old ) and new wing.
The other hotel I checked out is the semi newly opened Lasenta Hotel.  Beautiful hotel, modern rooms and an infinity pool over looking the paddy fields. Important to note however that the infinity pool isn't huge and as I was there in high Season (not NZ's but everyone else's apparently)  that it appeared cramped and staff as lovely as they were hard to converse with.  Still a great location half way between the ancient town and An Bang.
No photos to share sadly as I didn't have my camera with me but they are on my Instagram page under kiwitravelguru

That Friday (Good Friday in fact but as Easter is not celebrated it felt like just another day- no Easter esggs or hot cross buns in Hoi An - not a bad thing if you look at it in a diet way! ) I did the Vespa Adventures Street and eat tour which was great.  Fantastic guide and safe drivers and I got to see parts of Hoi An I hadn't got to in the last 7 weeks.  Amazing food , a trip down the river to set off lit candles and make a wish that I never did during a full moon because of the insane crowds, and plied with alcohol along the way. I ended up on a tour with some English expats working in Hong Kong making the most of the long weekend (1.5 hr flight for them).  Great group, and I can't recommend it highly enough.  I wouldn't recommend it for my folks in their 70's as I wouldn't trust them to be on the back of a bike but the guide and the drivers were great and as I said before the food was amazing.  One of the English Hong Kong expats had done it before and talked his friends into doing it again...and if that's not a recommendation I don't know what is!

Obviously in your last few weeks you finally think about tailoring (in a city that it renowned for it) .  My landlords daughter took me to her friend around the corner from where I lived (I believe you should shop locally) to Huy Bao (49 Phan Boi St) who made me two amazing pairs of boots and handbags to match along with a birthday present hang bag for my sister (made to her measurements!).  The shoes were made to measure and I picked out the leather , heel type and style and were rapt with them. 
I went into the Yaly(  358 Nguyen Duy Hieu St Shop) and picked up some great winter (ie NZ weather dresses) but the reality is that for one of the dresses (a premade dresses that I saw there and liked that they copied which I had to get them to modify ( shorter armpits etc..) I  went in for 5 fittings for it still to be not quite right. The average stay in Hoi an is 3-5 days so it would not have been long enough had I not had more time and it being just around the corner.  To be fair they have a huge number of stores and clearly an army of tailors and like every tailor I went to make it their mission to get it right. they are known to be the best and generally charged more for that reason .
Across the road was Blue Lantern Tailor (331 NguyenDuy Hieu St) who made some amazing copies of a De Nada dress and went out of their way (on the back of the motor bike to 4 fabric shops to find the perfect material ) to meet my expectations. My sisters friends who were passing through got a woollen coat, dress and other items made in 2 days that they were rapt with it.
Two days before I left I used a tailor Bao Diep (which was close to the Hoi An Historic Hotel) -28 Tran Hung Dao St.  I had a picture of a merino hooded top/jacket that I wanted copied.  Given that it was made out of cashmere/wool it turned out great.  It did have to be tweaked a few times and I'm grateful for their patience with the changes I wanted done in such a short amount of time!
The reality is with Tailoring that unless you are copying something or want a basic shirt/dress/suit made you have to allow time and days for refitting which most don't.

Friends of my sister's were passing through Hoi An so I took them to one of m favourite places Lantern Town Restaurant - 49 Nguyễn Thái Học - the email address if you want to book is (where I had meet the owner previously and sold them on the amazing duck spring rolls). Sadly our pre drinks took longer and they had run out . But they went back the next day for dinner when I was out with other friends and agreed with my recommendation.  To be fair all there dishes were great but any duck dish there is to die for. 
We went across the river from the old town where the bars are open later and had a quick look at the night markets and had a few drinks at a bar along the river before being chucked around midnight (my latest night out in  the whole 8 weeks away!!).  Its not recommended to use a motorbike taxi at that time of night - use a proper taxi if its too far to walk back to your hotel from.
I also took them to my other favourites Felina Catina and Soul Kitchen at An Bang the following night and we had a great time.

That weekend I had booked myself to stay out at Victoria Beach Resort.  I first saw the resort in 2004 on a famil and sadly the beach out the front has been badly eroded away but the hotel does have its own really nice private beach next to hotel and I can see why so many of my clients have opted to return to the resort year after year. The hotel generously upgraded me to a deluxe ocean view room which was fantastic.  Its a lovely property. 

While staying at the Victoria Beach Resort (out at Cua Dai Beach) I took the opportunity to have a look at some of the other hotels in the area.
Hoi An Beach Hotel is across from the beach and backs onto the river.  They have their own private beach across the road.  Two pools, nice rooms and nice and handy to all the restaurants, mini mart etc.

Along the road from the Victoria Beach Resort is Golden Sand Resort and Spa which has a massive pool and all the rooms have balconies.

Along from there is Sunrise Premium Resort and Spa which is the newest of the 3 along this stretch of road (Thanh Nien Road).  It is the furthest way from where a lot of the restaurants were but there were places across the road.  The only room type I could see was the deluxe room which was lovely but has more of a Juliet balcony - ie you can open up the sliding doors but there is no where to go. Out of the Victoria, Hoi Beach Resort, Golden Sands this is the most modern. 

 The last Hotel I checked out in the area was the Palm Garden Resort which is on a different stretch of Cua Dai Beach and has a great beach front area as well as pool etc.  Its a big resort nicely spread out and again has been a favourite for some of my clients in the past.

The Cua Dai beach area is still only 4-5 USD in a cab to get to the old town with many of the hotels offering shuttles into the Ancient/old town area.

After a relaxing weekend at the beach I headed back to my house in town and on the sunday night (4-7pm - I think I finally left at 9!) I went to the Hoi An Expats monthly (April) social gathering at O'Malley's Bar and Grill (part of the Anantara Resort) which conveniently was minutes away from where my house is. The charity of choice this month was the Hoi An orphanage.  Perfect for me as I often grab the toothbrushes etc at hotels that I stay at to give to either Ronald McDonald house or women's refuge at home. Naturally they welcomed them and it was less excess baggage for me.
I met up with some people I had met at the March get-together and organised to catch up with a few of them for my last week in town.
Amongst other expats I had met previously, I caught up again with Sharon and Stewart from Hoi An Now  who are a lovely couple who run the website and are a wealth of information. It is a must check out site if heading over to Hoi An as it is an insiders' guide for tourists and expats about everything Hoi An. Activities, restaurants, shopping, essential information, family, tours.

Now only one week in town to go...