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Monday, 24 September 2007

A Little Euro Flavor in the Heart of Vietnam - Page 2

Written by Aaron Horwitz
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Last May, I headed off to Southeast Asia – where the US dollar stretches a bit further than it does in Europe – and while backpacking through Vietnam, my two travel companions and I stumbled upon Hoi An, a small town on the central coast that just might be Southeast Asia’s most European city – at 1/5th the price.

While the beach was nice, the best part was the ride; we cycled through shanty suburban neighborhoods, along a beautiful river, and across iconic lush green Vietnamese rice paddies. The scene was Vietnam at its finest.rice paddies

But, Hoi An still has much more to offer. The streets of Hoi An’s Old Quarter make its modest city centre look like a modern metropolis. Motor traffic doesn’t dare drive down these tiny one-lane streets. The sidewalks are paved with cobblestones (reminiscent of Switzerland or Germany), and the beautifully decaying buildings, most of which remain from the 19th century, show off a combination of Chinese and French architecture.

Hoi An offers plenty of cheap, delicious food options, as well as some excellent souvenir shopping. And if you’re lucky to be here on the 15th day of the Lunar month, your eyes will be treated to a town that, on this night, is lit exclusively by paper lanterns. Exploring a little further to the Old Quarter’s end will take you to what is easily the most stunning place in the region, the beautiful Thu Don River. This long, breathtaking stretch of water is bursting with life and yet, one of the most serene experiences you’ll ever have.

riverA half-hour private paddle boat ride with two lovely Vietnamese ladies as your guides and paddlers will set you back 30,000 Dong (relax, that’s only US$2) and trust me, it’s worth it. A cruise down this river feels like traveling back in time, and gives a sense of daily Vietnamese life like no package tour could ever offer. Watch the local children splash around in the water as their parents wash their laundry alongside them. Observe and photograph Hoi An’s finest fisherman at work, then follow them as they take their fresh catch to the bustling riverside fish market. Slip down narrow waterways where the quiet boat traffic will evoke feelings of Venice.

If you’re traveling through Vietnam make time for a stop in Hoi An. This historic town in the heart of a rapidly developing nation will offer a peaceful reprieve, not only for your tired soul, but also for your dwindling savings account.

© Aaron Horwitz

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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