Travel Diary: Hoi An

16th October, 2013

Of all the places we roamed during our monthlong adventures in Asia (so many of which I am excited still to show you!), the one that nestled deepest into my heart was Hoi An, Vietnam, an exceptionally well-preserved ancient trading port on the coast of the South China Sea. Instead of taking a hotel room in town, we rented a simple but achingly beautiful little villa a few miles out, a quiet place that really felt like home for a moment. HoiAn2 HoiAn3The house was built around a central courtyard, with a small saltwater pool and explosions of exotic flowers. HoiAn4It offered the perfectly tropical quintessence of indoor/outdoor living, with walls made of intricately carved wood panels through which light and mists of rain and bird songs shone. Its clay roof tiles rested on an equally elegantly articulated open beam system. At night, light was provided by handcrafted silk lanterns, their tassels swaying softly in the evening breeze. Every morning, our next door neighbor would bring over freshly baked bĂĄnh mi ~ the Vietnamese version of a baguette ~ plus eggs laid that day by her constantly clucking brood of chickens and mangoes and bananas plucked from the trees in our adjoining yards. We’d fry the eggs, squeeze fresh oranges and bathe outside. HoiAn5Personal car ownership is uncommon in Vietnam; most locals ride motorbikes everywhere they go. Thus the streets are steadily buzzing with fantastically noisy swarms of them, moving in manic unison like huge grists of bees. There are no streetlights, no stop signs and no speed limits, but somehow it just seems to work. It was incredible to see families of six piled onto a single bike, doing the daily school/work drop-off circuit. Grannies in their seventies would ride to market in the morning, balancing twelve dozen eggs and never flinching for a second. You have not really been to Vietnam until you’ve ridden through its streets on the back of a fast-racing motorbike. It’s an experience not to be missed. HoiAn6As our house was outside of town, down a maze of dirt roads with no names, we had little choice but to live like the locals. We borrowed vintage bikes and braved the hair-raising streets. HoiAn7Much as I admired those badass grannies, more often than not I preferred to ride on the back while Zach drove, so I could snap pictures of the pretty scenes speeding past. HoiAn8During the 16th and 17th centuries, Hoi An was an important Vietnamese trading center, where Chinese, Japanese, Dutch and Indian spice merchants settled. It was considered the most propitious port on the continent, for the ancients believed that the heart of Asia (the dragon) lay beneath the earth of Hoi An. Because of this, the old town has a rich and layered look, its architecture teaming with color and a confluence of cultural influences. HoiAn9 HoiAn10Silk lanterns line the streets and litter the trees. When they alight at night under the gaping gaze of a full moon, it’s a beauty that blows your socks off. HoiAn11Music sweeps down the time-softened streets, playing from cerulean speakers disguised as silk lanterns and strung from jangled telephone wires. HoiAn12 HoiAn13Motorized vehicles aren’t even allowed on the streets of the old town, but incense burns everywhere you turn. Its perfume will forever live in my memories of these places. HoiAn14 HoiAn15The locals live and eat simply, all fresh fruits and fish and sticky rice harvested from the endless paddies on the outskirts of town. Hot chili sauce tops everything, the recipe for which we have just about mastered. Back home, I’ve always been impressed with the quality of cuisine that TURF, Zach’s restaurant in Montauk, is able to turn out from a simple kitchen inside an airstream trailer, but the Vietnamese make just as much ~ if not more ~ with a whole lot less. Some of the best meals I’ve ever eaten came out of tiny pushcarts equipped with rickety camp stoves, at most. HoiAn16 HoiAn17Between cruising the streets, feasting on fantastic food, shopping the markets and sunbathing on the beach, the real bulk of our time in Hoi An was spent at Yaly, being fitted for custom clothes. No longer the center of trade it once was, the town has since become a mecca for tailoring, and travelers come from far and wide to have bespoke wardrobes made. I felt so inspired by the way the locals all dressed in daytime pajamas ~ the men in solids, the women in vibrant prints ~ and thus had a whole trove of similar looks made for myself. HoiAn18Zach ordered an elegant tuxedo, and I got the grooviest navy suit. I can’t wait to wear it back in New York! HoiAn19 HoiAn20Hoi An is also home to a vibrant ceramic art scene, and we clumsily tried our hand at a bit of half-baked pottery. HoiAn21 HoiAn22 HoiAn23The town is situated near My Son, an ancient Hindu temple that dates back to the 4th century and was dedicated to the worship of Shiva. Touring it, I wore a custom-made top inspired by the white one I wore HERE, little silk shorts modeled after the pair I wore HERE, and the loafers I originally wore HERE. Sadly, the shoes were destroyed after hours of trekking through the muddy ruins, but the sacrifice was well worth it to experience these acres of awe-inspiring structures. HoiAn24 HoiAn25I wasn’t the only one ready to rock the local way of dress! HoiAn26 HoiAn27Together, the sense of living with nature, the calming visions of rambling hillsides stretching up into the clouds, and the derelict, moss-soaked ruins comprised a poetic, meditative incantation, the chants of which still echo in my imagination. HoiAn28 HoiAn29|PHOTOGRAPHY| by Zachary Lynd and Kelly Framel

  • Chuan Vy

    Hoi An, the quiet city. Thanks for your photos about my country.

    • el armario de la nena

      such a beautiful country. I would love to visit some day 😀

      • Chuan Vy

        Welcome to Hoi An nana, I hope you’ll love that city

  • Rougeuse

    Such beautiful places! Lovely outfit! x

  • Grace

    Lovely. Now I want to go to Vietnam!

  • Nico

    These place are wonderful and even if they are so far from Europe there is something similar! Love the shirt in the first shot!

    New post on lowbudget-lowcost Fashion Blog

  • Denisa

    Wow, really perfect pics. Have a nice day.

  • SaĆĄa Rakovec
  • Hoi An is my favorite city in Vietnam too! It’s known as the vacation spot for locals!

  • el armario de la nena

    you cannot get an idea about how much IÂŽm enjoying your travel posts

  • Ivana DĆŸidić

    truly amazing photos..and you guys look great!

  • gorgeous pics

  • UrbanJungleFashion
  • Amazing Pictures! Looks like an awesome Trip!


  • Man, your photo diaries have me aching for a vacation off the beaten path. Thanks so much for sharing. It’s inspiring to see how you immerse yourself in the culture of the places you visit.


  • Camille

    Wow! These are beautiful images. You seem to have captured the essence of the place.

  • Ava Anhdao

    Though I was born and raised in Saigon, my return to Vietnam revealed that Hoi An was really the Viet home where I belong. Thank you for loving my country so… Here are some of my Hoi An photo diaries from my last Vietnam trip

    And we stayed at this lovely boutique hotel on a quiet street but still within walking distance to the old town:

    • theglamourai

      Loving your posts; thanks for sharing. Happy to see someone else fall in love with Hoi An in the same way I did.


      • Ava Anhdao

        Dear Kelly, I’m very touched that you took the time to see the posts and respond. There are many lifestyle/fashion blogs on the web but your blog lives at the forefront of my inspiration consciousness. The tender care and uncompromising authenticity that you reserve for your online abode really sprinkle my internet adventures with so much joy and inspiration. Thank you for your work and please know we adore you out here!

    • Chuan Vy

      Your photos are so wonderful chiÌŁ Anhdao. I was born and raised in Da Lat, now living in Saigon, but I love Hoi An

      • Ava Anhdao

        Hello Chuan Vy, I adore your name, em. Thank you for looking at my photos and for writing. We didn’t have enough time to visit the dreamlike hills of Da Lat but we will have to next time. Like all born & raised Saigoners, I have a love/hate relationship with Saigon because of its complexities, but it still has a hold on my heart like no others. Nice to e-meet you and hope to see you around online.

  • Sinead

    Such a fantastic post. I went to Hoi An in 2011 and had the most incredible few days – it’s such a peaceful part of the country. These photo’s are beautiful, a reminder that I need to work on my photography. Feeling inspired!

  • Jennifer

    Absolutely amazing photos!

    xo Jennifer

  • Chantel

    Wow amazing photos.

  • Travel diaries are my fav posts. Thanks for the armchair traveling today. 🙂


  • Nelya Zlamanyuk

    These are stunning photos and makes me want to visit Vietnam badly!

  • Phuong

    So gorgeous. I love hearing your story of your experiences

  • Cristina Monti
  • Jacqueline Jax

    ThAt was charming. I have to say, your blog is quickly becoming my favorite. I find myself wondering what’s next and coming back for a visit almost daily. Thanks for the beautiful imagery and delightful stories. You make me thirst for more travel in my life and have reminded me to stop and smell the scents if the day rather than getting swept away in my roller coaster life of fashion. I’ll be back again soon. Here’s a link I would love for you to enjoy. My tea at the a Biltmore. Have you ever been? Jax

  • These pictures are breathtaking.

    Mafalda ❀

  • Deborah Carnahan

    Beautiful country and gorgeous pictures. What an amazing trip and thank you for sharing the experience.

  • CJAJ09 CJAJ09

    Am I the only who is totally loving Zach’s look?? gorgeous pictures and thanks for bringing us along on this journey.

  • Liz
  • Now I’m in the mood for travelling! Definitely on my bucket list! Lovely pictures! x

  • autumnbryan

    Would love to know the villa you chose as I’m going to Vietnam, and hoi an, in January!!

  • Megan

    Did you get a chance to go to HAY HAY? It’s an art and gift store in Hoi An that has the best souviners around, unlike anything else in Vietnam, expecially Hoi an.

  • Stephanie

    This is all just too beautiful! In currently looking online for accommodation in Hoi an for my partner and myself. Can I please ask where did you stay in your pictures above? I would love to have a more village/homestay more so than five start hotel. X

    • theglamourai

      Hi Stephanie! Lucky you!! We’re dying to go back to Hoi An; I’m sure you’ll love it.

      We found our house there through AirBnB. Best of luck!!


  • Jules m

    So I am planning my trip down the coast of Vietnam & am wondering what mode of transportation you took to get down the coast?

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TheGlamourai is a webzine produced by Kelly Framel, a multi-media creative director based in downtown New York (but constantly bouncing around the world). Part fashion blog, part glossy mag, part fantasy travel portal, it's your ultimate online destination for stylish daydreams. Tune in for inspirational editorials, beauty tutorials, outfit ideas, DIYs, jet-set travel tips and more!
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