Hoi An is my FAVOURITE place so far on our whirlwind trip of Bali, Cambodia and Vietnam! Hoi An is situated on the coast in the central part of Vietnam. It is so so beautiful, it’s no wonder it was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. The old town is situated along the river. Japanese merchant houses, chinese temples, french colonial houses and ancient tea warehouses have been preserved and converted into restaurants, cafes, tailor shops, wine bars and souvenir shops.
Cars are not allowed in the main streets and unlike the rest of the country, motorbikes don’t beep their horns all the time. We biked everywhere. Our accommodation (Green Grass Homestay) was situated about 10 minutes from town and 15 minutes from the beach. Traffic is no where near as heavy as other parts of Vietnam so it was really nice not relying on taxis and public transport to get around.
Another reason why I loved Hoi An is because it’s all about food and fashion, plus there’s a beach! There are so many good places to eat, and there are so many places to get clothes made. Unlike the rest of our trip where we only allowed ourselves 2 to 3 nights in each place, we let ourselves have 5 nights in Hoi An. We could have stayed longer.
Hoi An isn’t just beautiful during the day. At night the town is alive and lit up with lanterns. Along the river you will find people everywhere. The restaurants and bars are cranking and there are many people on the streets enjoying the picturesque surroundings.
- Get some clothes made. You can’t go to Hoi An without getting anything made. We went to a few different tailors and got a selection of things made. I got a leather jacket, some dresses, sandals and a leather bag.
- Eat! So so so much good food. There is an abundance of amazing places to eat, just pick somewhere with people dining there and you can’t go wrong. Each region of Vietnam has specialities. Down south the food is sweet, up north the food is salty, and the central is spicy. Dishes to try in Hoi An are white rose dumplings, cao lao (noodles in the picture below) and my quang (turmeric noodle soup dish). There is a really good Banh Mi shop called Banh Mi Phuong – Anthony Bourdain recommended this place on his tv show. I also loved the restaurant Morning Glory. My favourite drinks in Vietnam are the vietnamese iced coffee and passionfruit juice. I always say don’t drink your calories but here it is too hard not to!
- Cooking class – you will see signs advertising classes everywhere. Basically every restaurant can do a ‘cooking class’. Some of these classes are literally hopping into the kitchen and helping the chef prepare a few meals. I went to Ms Vy’s cooking school – same owner as the restaurant Morning Glory. This was recommended to me by my friend Jess. We went on a tour to the market via boat. We then came back to the restaurant and tried lots of street food. I picked up the courage to try the duck embryo that I didn’t try back in HCMC. I also tried silk worm salad, jellyfish salad, pig ear salad and baby clam salad. They all tasted delicious… but I think it was due to all of the different salad ingredients. We made a selection of dishes; cabbage soup (also known as the mother in law soup), banh xeo, mango salad and chicken satay.
- Beaches! I loved the bike to the beach through rice paddies. The closest beach is An Bang Beach. It is not only popular with tourists but also the locals. There are lots of sun loungers which you can laze on.
- Shop around at the tailors. Some places are more expensive than others. A good place to get dresses made is Yaly’s, however it is more expensive than a lot of the others. Don’t be afraid to be demanding and go back for multiple fittings.
- Make sure you don’t just eat at restaurants targeting tourists, local restaurants have really good vietnamese and are a quarter of the price.
- Each row of loungers at the beach are owned by different restaurants. Sit somewhere that doesn’t charge you more than a drink to sit there unless you are hungry and planning to eat.
- Don’t be afraid to use your bell on your bike when you are cycling the main streets! We would ring our bell when we were making our way to each intersection to make sure cars and motorbikes knew we were coming.