Hey friends! Wow, it's been a LONG time since I wrote the last travel blog. I have good reasons for my silence, though! For one, Pete and I moved to Costa Rica and started managing Nautilus Boutique Hotel, the vegan/vegetarian restaurant on-site (Olam Pure Food), and the yoga program at the hotel. If moving to a foreign country isn't enough, try taking over a business! It's been CRAZY, to say the least. To top it off, Pete and I were robbed back in May - the thieves stole both our laptops, my camera, our GoPro, and all of our hard drives and memory cards - which means we lost ALL of our travel photos from Asia. It was an extremely dark period in our lives and I just didn't have the emotional energy to come to the blog to write about our travels, as it's a reminder of all of the photos we lost.
In the end, it's all just "stuff". I'm still healing, but the major downside for you as readers is that the remaining three travel posts will have photos that were taken on our iPhones, versus the beautiful travel photos I snapped. Glad we still have our phones, at least! It's a major bummer because Hoi An was our favorite part of the whole trip and I spent a whole day taking photos! Ah - lessons in non-attachment. Hope you all still love me!
Hội An, Vietnam
After we left Vung Tau Beach, we made our way back to Saigon so we could catch our flight to Hội An, which is in the middle of the country (Vung Tau/Saigon is in the south). The flights throughout Vietnam are really affordable! Flying was a nice and fast way to travel from the southern part of Vietnam to Hoi An. Once we made it to the Danang airport, which is right near Hoi An and the fastest way to access it, a driver was waiting for us.
We heard from many people that a homestay is the way to go in Hoi An, so Pete booked us a homestay called Pham Gia Hoi An. A homestay is basically what it sounds like - a family opens up their home to guests. Generally, the family provides food and options for cultural events, depending on the place that you choose to stay. Homestays come in all budgets and amenities! Ours was top of the line (at around $30 a night)!
Pham Gia Hoi An is BEAUTIFUL and we quickly fell in love with the host family and the property. It's a big white house that's modernly and ornately decorated. The rooms are super gorgeous and the amenities are fabulous. Pete and I both felt that the room and bathroom were the nicest that we stayed in throughout Southeast Asia. We ended up extending our stay there by a few days once we arrived. The beds are big and extremely comfortable, the bathrooms have beautifully-designed, tiled rain showers, we had a balcony, and more. They serve a beautiful breakfast spread every morning.
Because we are vegan, they went to the local vegetarian restaurant and brought us both vegan Pho for breakfast every morning. Some of the other guests were jealous! It was so kind of them to go out of their way to get us hot food for breakfast versus simply handing us fruit or something, as other people do when they hear we are vegan. It feels like a hotel in many ways but you get the comfort and friendliness of a local family taking care of you. I got sick while in Hoi An and they brought me ginger tea and checked on me regularly.
Hội An is a charming town on the central coast of Vietnam. Inside is the well-known "Ancient Town", a beautifully preserved trading port from the 15th to 19th century. The architecture and culture represent the various influences that have created the site, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town area is blocked off to motorists and can only be accessed via foot or bicycle. We rented bikes and rode around in the evening. There are beautiful canals that cut through the streets, and you can see distinct differences in certain areas between Japanese, French, Vietnamse & Chinese influences. There are bridges, soap houses, temples, colonial buildings, and color all around.
We went to a couple of the bars in Ancient Town and enjoyed the evening. It's a very charming place but one downfall is that everyone is trying to sell you something on the streets. The homes lining the streets have been converted in clothing stores (Hoi An is famous for beautiful custom clothing tailoring), restaurants, bars, cafes, souvenir shops, and more. You still get an idea of what everything looked like back then and I found myself imagining what it must have been like in the 16th century as a port town, full of people from many various cultures.
Lanterns of all colors line the streets and light up at night. We immediately fell in love with the charm of Hội An and could've stayed much longer!
I wanted to take a yoga class so we looked up the local yoga studio and rode our bikes over to Nomad Yoga. The yoga space is situated inside of a two-story house in a residential neighborhood in Hoi An. The downstairs has been converted into a daytime cafe (we didn't get to eat there, unfortunately) and the upstairs has a space for yoga. Pete and I took a Hatha yoga class by Manoj.
It was one of the most interesting yoga experiences I've ever had. Manoj is from India and his Hatha class was nothing like an class I've ever taken in the west! The focus in many of the poses was different than what I'm used to (there was a big emphasis on lifting the toes in standing postures throughout the class). We practiced very basic postures but they felt different in my body than usual, based on the focus and instruction. I appreciated the experience but not sure if the style is right for me long-term... perhaps that's while traditional yoga from India had to be adapted for us Westerners! We can't handle the real thing!
Thanks so much for staying tuned and loyal! I've had so many exciting (but exhausting) life changes take place since May and I am finally getting back to normal! I promise to share more stories, tips, techniques & travel photos more frequently!