I had booked my hostel in Hoi An the previous day using hostelbookers.com. The Californian had commented that a friend of hers had recommended the Sunflower Hotel, even despite the fact that her room had a rat in it. (Apparently, the hostel’s quick response impressed her.) She said it was the best place to meet other travelers in all of Vietnam. I looked it up and saw the positive reviews and low rate. Then, I looked at a map and discarded it from possibilities.
Instead, I booked a bed at Sac Lo hostel. If I am going to stay in Hoi An, I do not want to bike 5 kilometers from the beach to the ancient town. Sunflower is on the beach. Sac Lo is only a kilometer from the ancient town center.
When the bus pulled into some empty lot somewhere in Hoi An town, a number of cab drivers awaited. They were probably disappointed to find that our sleeper bus was only about one-third full. I tried to find out if we were anywhere near Sac Lo on Google maps, but it would not give me a clear map.
The Aussies had not yet booked a room in Hoi An and asked if they could join me and check out my place. Together, we got into a cab and went to Sac Lo.
With it being only 7 am, I would not actually have the opportunity to check-in. Sac Lo is probably more of a guesthouse than a hostel. The people who run the place — sisters I am guessing — live on the first floor of the property and use their kitchen to make and serve breakfast. Reception is not manned at night, and they take a midday break to nap. Besides the sisters, there is a young girl of about 12 living there that is probably the older sister’s child.
The Aussies were able to get a private room for one night, but the next night was already fully booked, so they would need to find another hostel.
The Aussies and I left our bags at Sac Lo and walked to find some food. The first cafe we found did not serve any food. Again, my Vietnamese saved them, as the server’s English was lacking. We asked for ‘food’. He nodded his head and said ‘fruit’. After a pause, I said ‘an sang’; he shook his head ‘no’.
We found a street pho place and ate. The darker-haired Aussie ate the full thing with a spoon rather than chopsticks. I’m not even sure how he did it, but he managed to clear his bowl of noodles. When it came time to pay, I correctly interpreted the cost.
Heading towards Old Town, we found another hostel called DKs. They asked about a room there for the following night and booked one.
During the walk, I looked to the sky to find the crescent moon. I was unable to find it in the sunlit sky and realized I had probably taken the last photo of Luna on this trip. We strolled into Old Town, stopping by a Chinese-style pagoda.
I had lived in Hoi An for over three weeks back in 2008, conducting research on the local government’s role in implementing UNESCO regulations and encouraging tourism. In a way, I gave the Aussies a small tour of the Old Town. In a park, there were a group of Vietnamese high-school age students, dancing some strange hip-hop aerobics. That entertained us for a few moments.
As our breakfast had been early, lunch was early too. I showed them a place where they could get some Western food. The lighter-haired Aussie order a pizza; it was good. I ordered spaghetti it was okay. The darker-haired Aussie ordered lasagna; it was terrible.
We returned to the hostel, checked in, and napped. The dorm room I was in could host six people, but the entire hostel probably hosted around 12. It was small and cozy. A quiet hostel for a quiet town.
I sat in the common area for most of the afternoon. I met the cast of characters at the hostel. Most of them had stays longer than I anticipated, often times five nights. An American girl had stayed there for 10 days already.
I made one quick trip into the Ancient Town that afternoon. It had been my intention to get a suit tailored while in Hoi An. I used the biggest name in Hoi An, Yaly. Last time I was in Hoi An, I took the advice of a man who helped me with my project. My suit ended up too tight and of questionable quality. He almost certainly received a commission.
So, my advice to those who want to purchase tailored clothing in Hoi An: Do not take any local’s advice; they are getting a cut! Use websites like TripAdvisor to determine which tailors produce quality products. And use the actual website, not the ubiquitous signs you see all over Ancient Town claiming some kind of TripAdvisor certification. I swear there is an industry in Hoi An just producing these signs.
When dinner time approached, two girls, one Dutch and one German of Peruvian descent, invited me to dinner. I must say, the quality of restaurants in the Ancient Town has improved in the six intervening years. We made it a full meal with appetizers of White Rose, a local delicacy, a main dish, and dessert. The Dutch girl and I had ice cream; the Peruvian-German had chocolate mousse.
After dinner, we crossed the river to the side opposite the Ancient Town. While the area was constructed to mimic the Japanese-style architecture of the Ancient Town, the side was much busier than I recalled. When I was here 6.5 years ago, there were a few restaurants, but they were rarely frequented. Now, there were plenty of bars selling bia hoi and sinh to. There was a park adjacent to the river with cobblestone paths. A night market sold, among other wares, Chinese lanterns. It was kind of sad to realize that my research project had become an outdated relic in the past half decade.
When we returned to the hostel, we had found that two other guys at Sac Lo — they were white; I honestly never figured out their home country; probably the UK — were now ready to go out to dinner. So, again, we went out. I had a spring roll appetizer. The Peruvian-German again had chocolate mousse.
After a stop at the nearby Dive Bar (that’s the bar’s name, not a description), we biked home around midnight. The Aussies had arrived back after their night out at the same time. We made plans to attend a happy hour at DK the following evening.