Hoi An, Vietnam: Travel Tips

Asia, Travel, Vietnam

Watch our travel tips video above on Hoi An for more detailed and colorful explanations.

The historic town of Hoi An may just be the most charming city in Asia. Located in central Vietnam, just south of the country’s third largest city Danang, Hoi An is a growing tourist destination. The Ancient Town is a UNESCO Heritage Site and it’s a stunning place in which various cultures collide—see lasting remnants of the strong Chinese history and influence, the Japanese Bridge and merchant houses, and French colonial architecture. And don’t forget the incredible Vietnamese cuisine. It’s a wonderful destination to eat, relax, and soak up traditional Vietnamese culture. If you’re planning to visit, here are 7 quick tips to enjoy Hoi An to the fullest.

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Coffee by the beach at Sound of Silence Coffee in the Hidden Beach area of Hoi An.

1. Skip An Bang Beach and Head South
An Bang Beach is the main beach of Hoi An, but it can be a bit of a tourist trap. But it’s easy to get away and find your own private patch of sand. Just head south along the beach. A good spot to stop is Sound of Silence Coffee, which specializes in espresso-based drinks (which aren’t easy to find here in Hoi An). If you order a drink, you have free access to a beachfront seat. Nothing is better than having a fresh cup of coffee with toes in sand and the sea as your backdrop. Check out Sound of Silence Coffee for the best beach experience.

2. Enjoy the Local Cuisine
The cuisine of central Vietnam is fresh and flavorful. Our personal Hoi An favorites are the Cao Lau (a noodle and pork dish) and Banh Xeo (a savory, crispy pancake that’s rolled in rice paper). There are also a few spots where you can order an egg coffee, a Hanoi specialty.
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Take the time to bike through the vegetable village outside the ancient town of Hoi An.

3. Take Your Bicycle to the Fields
Escape the manic roads and take a bike ride through the tranquil rice paddies. Most hotels, villas, and homestays in the area offer free bikes to rent—definitely take advantage of this. It definitely takes some nerve to get on a bike in Hoi An, but once you reach the rice fields and Vegetable Village (Tra Que), you’ll find some serenity amongst the plants, cows, and water buffalo.

4. Visit the Hoi An Museum
The main museum in Hoi An is small, but has some interesting artifacts, especially from the Vietnamese/American war. Because of its location, Hoi An was somewhat neutral during this time, as it sits near the demarcation line between the north and south. Still, there was plenty of fighting going on in this region, and the chilling artifacts at this museum—including missiles recovered not long ago by the Vietnamese—remind you of the recent and dark history here in Vietnam.

5. Protect Your Valuables When Biking

Petty crime can be a problem in Hoi An. We have heard stories of cyclists being bumped into and robbed during all times of the day. If you’re carrying a bag, the best way to avoid any potential problems is to simply strap your bag around the bike’s handlebars. Keeping your bag attached to the bike makes it much more difficult for quick-handed scooterists to snatch your stuff.
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The Vietnamese Hat known as Non La is together with Vietnamese dress, one of the most recognizable symbols of Vietnam.

6. Get Lost and Explore
Even within the busy Ancient Town, you can find plenty of small streets and quiet alleyways to sneak into and explore. Outside the main town, take your bike through the rice fields and around the quaint neighborhoods of Cam Thanh and Cua Dai.
7. Loosen Up with a Yoga Class at Nomad Yoga
Yoga can be hard to come by in this part of Vietnam, but Nomad Yoga offers a great selection of classes daily (except for Sundays) for all levels. The studio is in a beautiful setting, located just near the rice fields in Cam Ha. Classes on offer include Ashtanga, Hatha Vinyasa, Gentle Flow, and Yin Yoga. You can also take an early morning class right near An Bang Beach.
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The Rich Beauty, Food, and History of Corsica, France

Europe, France, Travel

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This mountainous isle is a land of many contrasts. Corsica is full of natural beauty and incredible food, but it comes with quite a turbulent history. It’s home to Napoleon Bonaparte and (arguably) Christopher Columbus, two dominant figures whose widespread influence is still being felt around the world today. Despite this, present-day Corsica is a fairly sleepy island packed with fascinating historical attractions and driven by an independent spirit. Here, I’ll be featuring some of the beauty of this island in pictures, and best yet watch The Big and Small Travel Corsica Video below:

In the video above, we showcase the Citadel, beaches, historic sites, food, L’Île-Rousse, and even yoga from Handstand Steph. This is a wonderful way to enjoy the intimacy and splendor of the isle of fierce beauty.

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J-Crew overlooking the Ligurian Sea in Calvi.

The first thing we noticed on our trip to Corsica was the ubiquitous presence of the Corsican flag. The flag is bold and striking, and revealing in its black-and-white simplicity. Against a white backdrop, it depicts a Moor’s head in black with a white bandana above his eyes—a symbol of liberation, even though Corsica has mostly been under Italian or French rule.

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The Wild Boar of Corsica & the striking Corsican Flag.

This flag was everywhere, reminding us constantly of Corsica‘s strong independent spirit, which can be traced back through an interesting and significant history that includes connections to both Napoleon and Columbus. When in Calvi, I recommend exploring the citadel, which is open to the public and free to roam. It is filled with lots of small passageways, breathtaking lookouts, and interesting architecture. You’ll also notice a monument to Columbus, as well as churches and historical points that refer to the island’s existence under Genoese rule.

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Calvi Citadel – Palace of the Genovese, and reputed birthplace of Columbus. Hmm …

We present many visuals to document the citadel in Calvi, as well as the beauty and attractions at L’Île-Rousse (Red Island), named because of the color of the rocky islet that serves as a natural harbor.

You can get to L’Île-Rousse by train (which offers incredible views of the coast along the way). We recommend hiking up to the top of this part of L’Île-Rousse (just behind the train station) for great views of the Genoese tower and the vivid hills of Balagne in the background. This hike is short but intense and full of nooks and crannies that allow for great photo opps of the sea and beyond.

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Handstand Steph caught on camera at the red rocks of L’Ile-Rouse.

Overall, the food (especially the cheese and wild boar), wine, and striking landscapes are enough to make anyone swoon. But what most struck me most about Corsica was the relaxed sense of efficiency and an overall dedication to self-sufficiency. Corsica seemed to be running on its own watch, despite being part of France.  This made it feel like its own special little paradise.

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La Pietra Lighthouse in L’Ile Rouse, Corsica.

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Plage La Pinede (Calvi Beach) in Corsica.

 

European Yoga Adventures: Yoga Shala Reykjavik, Iceland

Europe, Iceland, Travelin' Yogi Files
Handstand at Jokulsarlon, South Iceland

Handstand at Jokulsarlon, South Iceland

Travel is the best way to get out of your comfort zone, and yoga is the best way to get out of your head. So, why not combine the two? Follow my journeys as I attempt to do yoga across Europe. I’ll be getting lost in non-English classes, discovering new forms and philosophies, and hopefully offering some useful tips and valuable insights along the way. First stop: Iceland!

 

With my “nomad mat” in tow, I set off for my first yoga class in which I would understood absolutely nothing. Driving up to Yoga Shala Reykjavik means coming across a rather faceless windowed office building, something straight out of any American suburb. I saw no signs for the shala, and so simply followed a few mat-toting girls up the stairs. Inside, the place was much more inviting, with a rainbow of beanbags and a shrine of various yoga books and knick-knacks.

Photo Credit: Yoga Shala Reykjavik

Photo Credit: Yoga Shala Reykjavik

Still fighting jet lag and a lack of greens in the diet (fresh produce is a rare commodity in Iceland), I was feeling a little rundown, hesitant, and a bit nervous to enter the class, but I felt at ease upon meeting the sweet girl at the front desk (who I would in minutes learn was also the teacher), who greeted me in crystal-clear English and told me my first class was free (yay!). I still wasn’t sure what language I would be hearing for the next 90 minutes, but this was also an Ashtanga class, a form of yoga I was pretty familiar with, so I went in with head held high.

Post-Class Glow

I quickly realized this class was filled with all Reykjavik residents. The teacher then entered, and the Icelandic soon began. It seemed everyone knew what the hell she was talking about…

Eventually, though, the choppy consonant-driven language seemed to meld gracefully with Sanskrit. My ears started to excitedly perk up when hearing “asana,” and I slowly started to recognize the 3-2-1 countdowns. This was exhilarating in itself, even though I still felt like a beginner, lifting my head and peeking around, getting scared when we turned to the back (which meant I was now in the front!).

Love for Yoga Journal on the bathroom floor...

Love for Yoga Journal on the bathroom floor…

I certainly wasn’t letting my mind go, though; in fact, I kept thinking about thinking too much. But once I started getting more comfortable—and remembering that everyone is really just focused on their own practice, not on dumb old me—the more I took in the calming energy of the class. I noticed a great focus on deep and detoxifying breathing, something I don’t get enough of in my classes at home in San Francisco, which tend to be way more rigorous. The breathing among this small group overtook and warmed the room. It felt like a natural force much bigger than the sum of its parts; it felt very Icelandic in a way—this small room, like the island it rested upon, could create some real fire and noise.

Speaking of noise, I only realized the lack of music about an hour into the class—a stark difference from the techno-blasting class of home. I thought no music would drive me mad, but I didn’t even notice it. It was refreshing, actually, to hear nothing but syllables, inhales, exhales, and the occasional squeak of a mat. Yoga is not about comprehending the external anyway—realizing this can be pretty liberating.

Next up: Paris, France!