When we decided to spend 6+ months in Asia as part of a sabbatical, we had the choice of many destinations and a little time in each. Or trying to become a local whilst slackpacking, i.e. slower paced backpacking.
Most travellers have a quest to tick off as many countries and places as possible, but that is not what we wanted to do. We wanted to stay long enough in a place, that we could almost feel like we’re a local, and I think we’ve finally achieved that in Hoi An!
Also read: Travel – Living like a local
We’ve been in Hoi An, Vietnam for just over 3 weeks now, and this is what a typical day looks like:
- We have a chat with the family and staff from the Full House Villa Homestay over breakfast. Sometimes we meet up with them during the day for lunch
- We drive away from tourist town to one of our 2 favourite coffee shops. They know us here, and they know our standing order. (2 black, vietnamese style coffees, no sugar, over ice).
- Otherwise, we go to Thuy’s coffee shop in the Old Town, someone Tim reconnected with 20 years after his first trip to Vietnam.
- On route, we may pass Lucy (not her Vietnamese name!), who we met at the Homestay, who will wave a furious “hello Lieza!”.
- Later, we’ll pop down to the lady who makes the most delicious avocado smoothies from her street stall. She knows us, and we can exchange pleasantries in Vietnamese now. We’re always greeted with the biggest smile and free tea.
- Nancy (also not her Vietnamese name), will WhatsApp me to ask me about our opinion on some tours they’re running. We are happy to help!
Also read: Funding slackpacking or glampacking travel
- At the beach, we pop into a shop to buy some bread. The lady behind the counter says “I know your face!“. She’s seen me around town.
- Lunch time, we get a wave from the Bun Hue (Noodle) street food seller around the corner from us. We communicate with rudimentary English and Vietnamese, augmented by hand gestures and Google Translate!
- Dinner time, we have a choice of 2 local restaurants. At the closest one, we may run into Bat, aka Tony van Travel (he does motorbike tours) who we met in our first week, or at the other we wil run into an 86-year old grandad that we communicate with in French about the old days!
- After dinner, we decide it is time for some night time swimming, as it is still so hot. The owner’s son, Kit (3), decides he wants to come and swim or play in the water with us.
Also read: Travel styles – holiday vs travelling
Tomorrow, we’ll run into other people we’ve met over the past 3 weeks. Other than the expats, not many people stay longer than 3-5 days in Hoi An, so what we’re doing is quite unusual – and the locals respond so well. They are so welcoming!
Our next few weeks won’t give us the same immersion into an area, probably not until we get to India, will we have the same experience. But we’re already very sad to leave Hoi An. We will definitely be back – this place has really grown on us – especially when you get away from the tourist centre. But we are also really looking forward to spending 4 weeks in Pondicherry, India in November!