When you’re travelling, and you’re in a foreign country, most of the time you’re just ‘winging’ it. I mean, you read stuff on where to go, what the best spots are, what other people thought of this and that, but in the end it’s not until you get to a place, until you see it for yourself, that you can really know whether it’s your kind of place or not.
(For us) Some places, like Jogja, need to grow on you. Some places, like Ubud, are a complete mismatch and will never really be the perfect fit. But with other places, it’s an instant attraction – like Khao Lak and, indeed, An Bang beach. When I say instant, it doesn’t mean that the second we got there we fall in love with it – I never fall in love instantly with anything (except puppies) – but it means that you immediately see it’s potential.
So, best place yet?…
If Khao Lak was one of our favourite places yet, An Bang beach has definitely been the top one so far. It’s difficult to explain why. I guess it’s a combination of things:
- It’s a very small village by the beach, and even though the weather pretty much sucked for the first two-and-half weeks we were there, it was nice to be by the sea again. We enjoyed going for long walks in the beach, even if it was freezing at times. Oh but when the weather is better, the beach is really lovely (even if there is a bit of garbage sometimes)
- It’s close to Hoi An, which is the cutest town we’ve visited so far in Southeast Asia, and even though we only went there like three or four times, it was great knowing it’s only a short bike ride away.
- The food is great, and cheap, which was obviously a massive turn-on for us. I mean I am in love with Pho, and yes, I’ve gained a bit of weight, but hey, it’s delicious and I need to make the most of it right?
- It’s chilled but not dead – our house in Sayan was pretty cool and gave us our own personal space (and kitchen!), but it was far from everything. (And it wasn’t that chilled cause of all the bugs). An Bang is quiet, there’s not too many people (even though there are more people once the weather starts getting better) but there’s enough people to have a chat now and then, and there are loads of restaurants and shops in close distance, which makes it really pleasant. There is also a bar or two, and if ever we get bored there’s always a karaoke party somewhere.
- The people are the best. Kind of like in Jogja, the people there are super friendly. I mean super. They welcome you into their lives, invite you along for family celebrations of the New Year (seasonal perk), and are just really friendly. The BEST, I’m telling you.
- It’s also cheap, the accommodation I mean. Probably has to do with the fact that we first got there during low-season (freakin’ cold as hell – OK, not that cold, but for SE Asia, pretty cold).
- (Oh and it mind sound silly but the Wi-Fi is great, which for us was a massive plus!)
So yeah, we ended up extending our stay again and again and again, and before we knew it, we spent a whole month An Bang. And have loved every second of it. (I am actually missing it already and getting all emosh while writing this post!)
New Year again
One of the things that has totally made our stay in An Bang the absolute best, was the happy coincidence that we arrived just before the period of celebrations for the Lunar New Year’s (Tet) begun. We had no idea at all, I mean, we knew about Chinese New Year being different to our New Year, but never really registered that more countries would have a different New Year (not ‘cause I’m an arrogant prick, I just never happened to think about it).
So yeah, we learnt that the Vietnamese celebrate the Lunar New Year, which coincided with the Chinese New Year, and they have a ton of traditions to go with it. One of them is having these meals in preparation for Tet, with loads of food, family and friends. And in more than one occasion we happened to be the friends. Whoop-whoop!
There are also yellow and red flowers everywhere, small orange trees (they’re not really oranges, more like really small satsumas, but you get the picture), and on the actual eve of Tet there are fireworks (just like our NYE) and after midnight they light these small bonfires (where they burn fake dollars, no idea why) and it’s really beautiful. Oh and on the first day of the New Year adults give children ‘lucky money’ in these really cute envelopes. It’s really sweet.
We also attended a ‘first day of the year meal’, which was absolutely fantastic. So pretty much free food, fireworks and beautiful decorations. Is Tet awesome or what?
The people of An Bang
The first place we booked in An Bang was a homestay, and we soon became very good friends with the family and the people who worked there. We also started going to the same restaurants regularly (hey, when you stay somewhere for that long, you just know to stick to the really good places), so we developed friendships with some of the people there too.
And even when we had to change places (the homestay was fully booked) and went on to a hotel, we were still treated like family. I mean, it’s honestly like being pampered all the time.
And even if you don’t become friends, they are just really friendly. And soo kind! Twice we got rides for free, when we switched places, just because. They wanted to be helpful! We also received random gifts! Often at the restaurant we’d get an extra slice of cake, or they’d give us some local delicacy to try, just because. We received lucky bracelets, stone-made candle holders, free waters, coca-colas and sweets, just because. They’re just so kind.
And funny! We’d often find ourselves laughing with them at anything random from day-to-day stories, like ‘we went to Hoi An at night and honked at the pretty boys’ to the most mundane things, like slipping on something on the floor or being afraid of rats. So relatable, compassionate and sweet.
Honestly their kindness and good-spirits definitely put a spell on you: you never really want to leave, just want to stay and hang out with them (and at the beach too, sure). And it’s not just us: we were not the only ones who kept extending their trip; we met other people who did the same. Even some of the ones who left, ended up coming back a few weeks later. It’s like the Odyssey’s land of the Lotus-Eaters, but instead of the flower’s nectar, it’s the people that actually cast a spell on you. In a good way that is.
Sure An Bang is a gorgeous place, but without a doubt it’s the people that give it its magic. For sure a place that will forever stay in our hearts.
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