Christmas in Hoi An, Vietnam

Thursday, 24 December 2009

For our fourth Christmas in Beijing (2008), we decided we'd had enough of the cold, the pollution, the grey, the missing friends and family. So we hotfooted it to Vietnam on a three week tour that plonked us right in the middle of this amazing country on Christmas Day - namely, the quaint and astonishingly beautiful village of Hoi An. Oh, you must must must must go.

It was really interesting carrying Christmas with us, tucked neatly into our suitcases. I must admit, I was a little worried about Santa finding us (I did put in a Temporary Change of Address form at the Office of Vacated Homes for Festive Purposes) and I did bring along the kids' handmade cards and decorations (including a teensy paper tree made by Ella) and a Santa hat or two, but it was nonetheless unnerving.

Would we find a traditional roast dinner on Christmas day? (no) Would we receive and make the traditional round of phone calls from family and friends? (no) Would we watch Christmas tv classics from Frosty to Miracle on 34th? (no) Would we be able to bake our annual Christmas cookies and nibble them under the tree in the morning with mugs of hot coffee? (no)

What we did find, however, were new traditions. The heat wasn't new to us, being Australians, but waking to miraculously stuffed stockings in a hotel room was definitely a first. Thankfully, we could throw open the curtains to reveal a floor length view of the ocean that really made things special, complete with water buffalo raking the beach.

We then made green tea and nibbled on some iced cookies we found in Ho Chi Minh City. Perfect.

Breakfast wasn't the usual Christmas cookies, coffee, fruit, yoghurt and pancakes with lemon and sugar, but rather a buffet breakfast of almost the very same delicious morsels...

...followed by a game of pool on the top floor of the Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort, and a gaze out over the beautiful grounds - with nary a person in sight. So peaceful. So fuss-free. So quietly festive; almost in a sad way but also deeply satisfying and beautiful.


We then went for a wander around the gorgeous grounds of the hotel, tempted to take a dip in the stunning pool (a little too cool!)...



...and strolled back to our bungalow...

...where we placed a quick call to Granny for a little soul-soothing.

We then jumped in a cab headed for town, where things were a lot busier and bustlier.

I cannot explain the emotion that encompassed our family in Hoi An. Despite the persistent rain - the beauty, colour, food, people, atmosphere are all quite breathtaking. I'll be posting more extensively on our stay here, but our Christmas Day is one we will never forget, spent wandering this magnificent village.

There is a curious combination of both peace, silence and noise in this town. The streets are a higgledy-piggle of laneways and narrow roads, embracing the Thu Bon river, zig-zagged with lanterns and edged with fretwork on balconies, rusting yellow walls and lime green plants.

There is a feeling of Italy in Hoi An. Of hilltop villages with their tucked-away streets, busting with treasures. And of course, everything is also embued with France, from the croissants, breads and pastries, to the fabulous coffee and European cafes, spilling out onto Asian streets.

For lunch, we stopped at one of our favourite cafes for noodles; not your classic Christmas dinner but wonderful nonetheless...

...before wandering through the bustling food market...

...resplendent with a rainbow of fruit and flowers, pinch-me-fresh seafood and women in coolie hats selling crusty breads.

For afternoon tea, we hung at a wonderful first storey joint on the river for beer and cocktails and lemonade, watching the locals on the river and the tourists navigating the mud below. Heaven.


One of our most favourite things was the Vietnamese fishing boats. After hours of wandering, we were keen to take a boat back to our hotel but after years living in Asia, we were reluctant to pay the tourist prices and instead took a taxi, which was a fraction of the price.


If you ever get a chance to visit Hoi An, be sure to plan a stay of at least three full days, absolute minimum. I'll post on our other days in this amazing town soon - and while you're waiting, please book a ticket to Vietnam. You won't regret it.

A merry and very happy Christmas to you all, no matter where you are in the world.

1 comment:

Dani said...

Merry Christmas McCartneys!!!!! Glad you loved Hoi An. We also luv the place. Looking forward to our first Asian Christmas in Phnom Penh. Mind you, I had a great Christmas in Adelaide once..... XXXXX

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