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Mesmerizing Vietnam – Getting your ears done in Hoi An

by Emiel Van Den Boomen

When you travel in Vietnam, always keep your eyes and ears open! You don’t want to miss out on once-in-a-lifetime experiences like the one in this story.

We visited the city of Hoi An, situated in the middle of Vietnam. As we strolled its streets we noticed this ‘shop’ with a huge wooden chair in the middle of the room. We thought of a dentist at first! Suddenly a man with a plastic lamp on his head approached us. Of course he didn’t speak any English, but in the end we managed to understand about his ‘service’: He wanted to clean our ears!

Hoi An Vietnam travel

It looks strange, but really, having your ears done is very comfortable and relaxing! Therefore, the travel tip for this week is: Keep your eyes and ears open! Don’t look down in your travel guide all the time, but look around you. Some of the most memorable places are easy to overlook (just look at his ‘shop’) and that would be a pity. If you cannot keep your ears open, just visit this guy. It helps, really.

Travel Vietnam

Ancient city of Hoi An Vietnam

Traveling Vietnam from North to South makes you encounter both the busy and chaotic Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) as well as the impressive mountain scenery around Sapa. In between, there is a place of rest. Situated in the middle part of Vietnam (close to Danang and Hue), the small town of Hoi An owns an ancient city center that was placed on the UNESCO world heritage list back in 1999.

Hoi An Vietnam travel

Not only tourists, even the Vietnamese themselves travel to Hoi An to mesmerize about life in a bustling trading port between 15th and 19th century. Being an international trading port it was strongly influenced by Japan, the Netherlands, China and India, exactly the reason why this town is so attractive. Just like with the Cao Dai religion (part 1 of this blog post series), Hoi An has gained its character from a fusion of cultures.

The beautiful Japanese bridge (with a pagoda on it) is proven evidence of that cultural influence. Hoi An’s narrow streets and lanes show great architecture of wooden houses, pagodas and temples.

Hoi An Vietnam travel

At the end of the 18th century, the main trading activity moved to the close-by city of Danang, leaving Hoi An left alone. The architectural and cultural melting pot called Hoi An came to a stand-still but remained intact. It has now become a kind of open-air museum.

Moving around in Hoi An

Hoi An is a great place to rent bikes and so we did (you know by now we always rent bikes). We crossed the city and its outskirts. On the banks of the river we asked a boy if we could join his basket to go rowing on the river, in a female Buddhist monastery we were invited for lunch, but, most importantly, WE GOT OUR EARS DONE!

Hoi An Vietnam travel

I mentioned that we hardly recognized this ‘ear-cleaning-service’ at first. Don’t worry, not all services are difficult to recognize:

Hoi An Vietnam travel

Are you ready for part 3 of our Vietnam adventure? It’s called “You Dutch, me Hmong” and it’s a story of our encounter with the indigo blue coloured Hmong tribe in the mountains near Sapa. We will continue to mesmerize about Vietnam….

Hoi An Vietnam travel


1. Vietnam – Cao Dai religion in South Vietnam

2. Vietnam – Sapa

3. Vietnam – Temple of Literature in Hanoi

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Vibeke September 10, 2011 - 17:11

Great story Emiel! I love those little hole in the wall places which reveal their identity only after you walk in. Thanks for sharing this anecdote!


Emiel September 11, 2011 - 20:56

Hi Vibeke! Little hole in the wall places, love that expression!

Tien July 17, 2011 - 21:33

I had a gromet inserted into my ears as a kid and the doctor insisted that I went back to him to have my ears cleaned every 2-3 months then. Getting your ears cleaned was indeed relaxing! I remembered him showing me the waxes he removed which are in twirls! The city of Hoi An is fascinating. I love visiting and submerging myself in these small towns taking in the sights and culture. Emiel, isn’t it ironic that Hoi An is an anagram of Hanoi? For a moment there I thought Hoi An us the new name for Hanoi or something!

Emiel July 18, 2011 - 06:31

Dear Tien,
I was also confused at first about Ha Noi and Hoi An! I visited Ha Noi again 3 years ago but it changed a lot. It has developed itself to a city that can compete with Ho Chi Minh city in the South of Vietnam. But I guess, and hope, that Hoi An didn’t change and stayed exactly the same.
Thanks for your comment!


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