Updated: Dec 22, 2017
Imagine doing "gangnam style" in a basket boat, cooking with a Vietnamese chef and eating 6 courses under a marquee on the beach. Only 5 days in Hoi An, and we still managed to get a fishing, culinary and luxury adventure out of our stay in the Cultural Heritage Site. Sienna tells this story.
Content by Sienna Juul Nyegaard / Written by Mathilde Moyell Juul
I'll have to start off by saying: I LOVED HOI AN. My mum would probably say it's because we stayed in such a nice hotel. Perhaps. And probably also because we celebrated my mum's big b-day. Ok, I like celebrations. But I honestly liked everything else too: the lamps, the fishing, the sailing, the food and...the kids club. But let's leave the best for last, and let me start off by telling you about the rest of the hotel.
I'll admit, Philip and I have stayed in some nice places while we've lived in Singapore, but this one does stand out. My mum turned 40, so as a surprise, my dad had arranged that we'd go to the Nam Hai Hotel in Hoi An to celebrate her on the day. My grandmother came with us and had agreed with my dad, that they were going to make this a treat for my mum and splash out for 5 days!
I know, I look happy right? They had 3 pools, in two of them kids were not allowed, but I loved the one for kids, so that was ok. We lived in a villa, where there was this great bath in the middle of the bedroom, that I spent my evenings in and Philip and at night I slept on a sofa that turned into a bed.
The hotel als had litle bikes we could ride on - even tandems for more people, and the staff were so friendly - one of them showed Philip how you collect and chop coconuts!
My mum, dad and grandmother loved the food at the restaurants and as my dad said on arrival: 'They make good coffee, always a good sign'!. So, as you can hear, it was the perfect place for my mum to wake up, on her 40th birthday.
My mum was tired, as she was pregnant with Chris, and not so sure about turning 40 I think. But I know she had a really nice day, she relaxed in the spa and the hotel with us and in the evening, she was in for another surprise!
As we walked down to the beach in the evening, we spotted a chef standing over a gril and a marquee with a laid table underneath. This was where we were having dinner - just us! We had about six courses, so much that we could harldy eat dessert OR the extra cake that came in for my mum. But it was really magical, and my mum and dad also got to enjoy it just the two of them, after my grandmother took Philip and I up to the villa.
One of my mum's presents from my dad, was a cooking course. Hoi An is very known for their cooking courses, and today, my mum and dad were going to cook 3 Vietnamese courses for us at the hotel. But first, they had to go to the market to buy the ingredients.
Philip, grandmother and I, also went there a couple of days after, and there were so many smells and fresh food everywhere - also fiiishy smells!
I really liked the colours of everything and was also surprised that each of the vendors had so much of one thing always. One person would only have onions, one only lime, etc.
My mum and dad did didn't just choose their food here, but also at the hotel that had their own garden with GIANT pomelos. They were showed around and realised how much of the food is actually home grown and used for the hotel restaurant.
Now it was time to cook in one of the hotel restaurants, while Philip and I played outside in the pool with grandmother. Mum and dad were taught to do everything from scratch, and my mum was very excited, as she loooves Vietnamese food.
Having spent 2 days now at the hotel (and the market), it was time see Hoi An. To begin with, we just walked around, looked at the houses, saw all the tailor shops in the old city and went to a couple of museums.
What's nice about Hoi An compared to Hanoi, is that a big part of it is pedestrian, so you can walk there without fearing for you life and scooters and cars racing the roads. It also has different quarters, so we went to the French quarter, where we visited a house, where a guy could tell us about the old days when a lot of French used to live here and about the war with the Americans.
The man was very nice and I liked that area - it was nice and quiet and I bought a great hat in the street - exactly the same as my mum's, although she'd bought hers in Zara for a lot more, haha.
We walked a bit more, down to the river, and here we went on one of the many boats.
There are many boats you can take, that go different places, but we wanted to go the Redbridge Cooking School by the river. Apparently they also serve a good lunch - that you don't have to make yourself.
Philip was excited as he got to steer and after a long walk in town, it was just nice to chill on the boat, look at the city from the water and sit with my mum and our matching hats!
We did see a cooking class in the making, and the food was really good. It was a nice afternoon, and as we got back, we got to see Hoi An in a new light!
Lanterns is the big thing in Hoi An. You can buy them in so many forms and colours, but the streets and bridge are also covered with animals and big balloon type lanterns. It's all very beautiful, Philip and I liked Hoi An at night.
Having had a small taste of sailing the day before, we were ready for a new escursion - one that took us all a bit by surprise.
We first went on a boat like the one the previous day. The we chaged on to a smaller canoe, and here the fishermen showed us how to throw the nets. It looked fairly easy when we watched him, but it wasn't when we all had a try!
I actually just preffered to sit in the boat (with another cool hat) and see my family make fools of themselves trying to throw the net. And then something odd happened. All of a sudden the fishing women arrived in these new boats - round and hard to balance - called "basket boats"
The guides on our trip jumped in the boats and from some speakers, the "Gangnam Style-basket-boat-dance" suddenly blasted out! It was really weird, but also really fun, and more and more guests got into it and tried to stand up while the boat would rock and tip (and them too sometimes!) - even Philip had a go!
I was not too happy about it at the time, but now I can see that it was quite fun. After the dance, we stayed in the boats and went on a little excursion through the wilderness of the lake.
After some sailing, we ended up in a little village, where we were taught some new skills, doing a mat and a hat out of these strong leaves!
The village people were really nice, the kids a little shy, but I was a bit shocked to see how little space they had and how few things they had compared to us.
The guides were also really nice, one carried me as I was tired, and as we went back on the boat, they created a zillion things out the leaves: birds, bracelets, grashoppers etc. And just as we thought the trips was finished, we had more fishing to do!
This time we did it from the beah, and my brother, being a lot less shy than me, had another go and actually improved every time! Again, I preferred the company of my hat.
But only until we were to try a new way of fishing. This time the net was attached to this manual machine on land, and there, I had a go, and yes, we finally caught some fish too!
It was the end of the tour, and although it had been fun, it was also a lot of fun to come back to our kids club and our own lovely beach.
When people go to Hoi An, they often stay in the city, but we liked to do little excursions instead and stay and enjoy the beach and lovely hotel on the coast.
In the morning, we would get up and walk the beach after sunrise, with no other people on it and we'd also sneak into the adult pool before anyone used it. In the day, we'd play in the pool or beach and often found other kids to play, or we'd just relax and play uno.
Above is Philip with a friend he made on the last day and below, me with my mummy with her big tummy!
And then, there was of course, the kids club.
THE KIDS CLUB
Up until our trip to Hoi An, whenever there was a kids club, I'd be too young for it, but now I was 4 and Philip and I could stay there on our own (although my grand would normally be there) and so many cool things to do!
Philip played tennis quite a few mornings and I did a ton of arts and crafts, biked around and just played with all their toys. The people there were so friendly and they even gave us a t-shirt when we were about to leave the hotel.
When we were leaving, Philip and I were both in tears, we'd got to love the hotel and Hoi An so much and I'm sure unborn Chris loved it too!
A relaxing as well as a fun b-day getaway for all of us, a trip that was short, but with all the experiences we had it seemed like two weeks!
I can definitely recommend Hoi An, and of course, the hotel - especially travelling with both a granny and preggy mama!
TRANSPORT: Flight return Singapore-Hoi An, 25 min. taxi-ride to and from airport.
REASON: Mum and dad had heard that for first-timers to Vietnam and if only a short getaway, Hoi An would be a great place for relaxing, culture and great food!
ITINEARY: March 2016, 4 nights Hoi An.
PRICERANGE: Nam Hai is very expensive, and since being taken over by the Four Seasons chain, prices have gone up 50%. However, if you can afford to splash out, it's not a bad place to do it1
STRETCH: 4 nights and 5 days.
SIENNA: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐⭐ MATHILDE: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐
Hotel Nam Hai (now Four Seasons) https://www.fourseasons.com/hoian