We really enjoyed Danang – the scenery, the abundant and cheap milk tea, and real Italian pizza – but after three days, it was time to leave. Every month, there’s a full moon festival in Hoi An that we had accidentally timed perfectly! Funnily enough, it was not on the full moon, but about 3 days before it..
We took the (notoriously scammy) #1 bus to Hoi An from Danang – knowing it only cost 15,000 dong per person (there’s a sign on the door). The attendant tried to get us to pay 50,000 dong each, and we shook our heads & kindly refused. She left grumpily, and ignored us. We fully expected her to come back in a few minutes and try again, but she left us alone for the entire bus ride. Sweet!
Once the bus stopped in Hoi An, we went to retrieve our backpacks from the front of the bus. I got mine on, when the lady tried to stop Tristan from taking his bag. Keeping in mind that Tristan is around 6 ft and she was a 60 something Vietnamese lady, you can probably imagine how well that went. She tried to haggle again, demanding 20,000 each from us. We smiled, and offered 30,000 again. She refused again, but at this point, we were already at our destination, and her lack of bargaining power seemed to slowly dawn on her.
We started to get off the bus, and yelling, she angrily snatched the 30,000 from Tristan’s hand. I think we won this round, although I’m still amazed at the hassle that was necessary just for us to pay the right amount! She was definitely used to getting her way – even the locals get shaken down to pay 20,000 – so I’m a tiny bit happy that she was put in her place, at least this once.
After checking in to our homestay, we rode bicycles into the Old Town to see the full moon festival. We were greeted by lanterns lighting up the streets and women selling paper lanterns on every corner. The river was alight with candles floating on paper flowers. It was magical!
We walked along the river, swept along in a sea of people. Every so often somebody would come up to us trying to sell us a boat ride – lots of boats were floating on the river, with people setting paper lanterns afloat.
We sat and ate Cao Lau at one of the many eateries lining the streets. Cao Lau is a special noodle dish that can only be found in Hoi An, because the noodles are said to be made with water from the Ba Le well (a well on the outskirts of town). It’s said that the water gives it a special flavour.
From our plastic chairs, we watched the paper flowers float under the Japanese bridge, where they accumulated until they burned out. Sometimes they would collide and erupt in a short fiery blaze. It’s oddly cathartic, just watching flickering flames float around the water.
We walked around a little while more, exploring the town. It’s very touristy, but also incredibly cute and charming. I’m grateful for the happy coincidence of arriving in Hoi An just on time for the festival – it was an enchanting sight, and totally worth coming for!