Our trip to Vietnam was somewhat of a “spur of the moment” decision. We had the idea just a few weeks prior to our flight! We excitedly booked a one-way ticket not knowing how long we wanted to stay. Our thought wasn’t to have a tourist mindset, but more of a “living and experiencing the culture” mindset. Our stay could have been a month, 6 months, or more depending on how much we enjoyed it.
Welcome To DaNang
We flew into Danang where we had a hotel booked for the first week. During that week we wanted to explore the area and look for apartments where we could rent month to month at a cheaper price. We were excited and nervous – this was the first time doing something so spontaneous and extreme. Southeast Asia was very different from anything we were used to and there was a language barrier involved as well.
During the first few days, we spent most of our time walking the streets, pushing Bo in his stroller. One of the first things we noticed was how interested the Vietnamese people were with our one year old. Everyone wanted to hold him, touch him, get pictures, etc. It became a bit overwhelming for Bo, but he warmed up after free snacks and fruits were offered to him.
Almost every other building in the city was a narrow and long restaurant operated by the family living above it – all connected side by side along the hectic scooter crazed streetside. The street corners and sidewalks were also populated with vendors selling street food, coconut drinks, handmade items, and so on. The most interesting though was a scooter roaming around with a makeshift oven built on the back, selling a delicious little meat stuffed steamed bun. Everyone knew when he was getting close by the echos of “Bun Boa” resonating from the loudspeaker rigged to the bike.
While enjoying the food, scenery, interesting people and time spent over those first few days, we still hadn’t found an apartment that stood out to us. We could have been a little tired from the trip, or the excessive walking and activity, or maybe just the pure craziness of the city – but we were getting a little bit stressed.
We had explored enough of the city to get an idea of the vibe. Though it was interested and exciting, we wanted somewhere a little more chill. Just 30 minutes south of DaNang was the little ancient town of Hoi An. This was on our list also, and we has heard it was a little calmer. We made the decision to take a taxi at the end of the week to continue our search.
DaNang to Hoi An
Upon arrival into the old city, we could instantly see the difference, and knew this was going to be a better fit for us. We booked a hotel for the following 3 days and got settled in.
Again, we were off on foot to wander the new territory. It was evening time and though still very lively with people and street filled scooters, it felt less chaotic. We liked the little town and were feeling refreshed again. As the sun fell and the night began, we got a little deeper into town. We weren’t following a map, just roaming free. Up ahead there was much more activity.
More people in the streets. Colorful lit lanterns hanging overhead – criss crossing between the rustic yellow buildings. Our eyes opened wide as we entered what we now realized was the magical old quarters of Hoi an.
We knew for sure this was somewhere we could spend more time. The next day we met up with a local rental agent who assisted us in finding a place to stay. Sure enough, she had a small apartment that checked our boxes and we signed a one month contract to start.
So there we were. Unpacked. Settled in. Living abroad. Starting a new adventure.
Life In Hoi An
Spending a month in Hoi An was interesting, but had its ups and downs. Most days were dreadfully hot (even the nights), and our only transportation for most of the stay was on foot. We really got to know the city by walking down new side streets and trying new restaurants (2-3 times a day!). The food in Vietnam is raved about by many, and we could easily see why. We tried to give ourselves a nice balance of local food and western food, which wasn’t too hard being in such a tourist-heavy location.
On a couple of occasions, we rented a scooter for further exploration, taking us to villages on the outskirts, and the beach just outside of town. Even though the traffic looks like a crazy free-for-all, they actually have, in my opinion, a very efficient constant flowing traffic system.
About halfway through our month in Hoi An, Shay was having problems stomaching some of the local food and not feeling great. We soon found out that the reason for this was not from bad food or sanitary reasons. She was pregnant with baby number 2! We had big decisions to make on what to do next.
In the end, we felt it was best to make our way back to South Africa, where she could have more familiar maternity checkups and be close to family.
Back To DaNang
We finished out our month in Hoi An followed by a week back in DaNang – making sure to hit some of our favorite food joints and knock off a few other activities on our list.
Our time in Vietnam was shorter than we’d originally planned, but it was an experience, unlike anything we’ve been through before. At some point in the future, we plan to go back to Vietnam – as well as venturing into Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries. In fact, we plan to travel the entire world, slowly but surely – keeping a comfortable balance between home and away.
There is nothing quite like the enrichment, gained knowledge, and experience of getting to know our earth and it’s diverse cultures and geography – and I feel incredibly lucky to share these escapades with my family.
Note from Cody:
Thanks for following me and my family’s life adventures! I hope you check back in from time to time to see what’s new!