The sleepy and historic old-town of Hoi An rates as Vietnam’s most beautiful. Situated on the picturesque Thu Bon riverbank, Hoi An was left largely untouched during the war. As a result its stunning heritage remains, showcasing a crisscross of beautiful Chinese temples, Japanese merchant houses and ancient warehouses. Should that not be enough to tempt potential travelers, Hoi An also serves as one of Vietnam’s culinary hotspots, not to mention the beautiful white sandy coastline rests a mere stone’s throw away.
Here’s how we dished out 36 hours in the graceful town of Hoi An…
Depending on the type of holiday you’re after and how much time you’re planning to spend in the area, there are two major options to consider:
Option number 1 – for those with only a couple of days – I recommend booking one of the charming hotels in or around the centre of old town. Luckily the area is known for quality accommodation so visitors are spoilt for choice. We stayed at the wonderful Ha An hotel, less than a 10-minute walk from all the action. The beautifully appointed rooms overlook a stunning central courtyard where breakfast is served daily (included). The staff were also very accommodating making every effort to ensure we had a memorable stay.
Option number 2 – for those looking to spend a bit more time here – I recommend heading to the nearby coastline where one can combine some beach time with a little exploration of the surrounding area. In particular we liked the look of the very well received An Bang Seaside Village Home-stay. Once again, however, you are spoilt for choice. I simply advise doing a little research first.
Hoi An is a quaint town with all sites within walking distance. If you happen to be a little further out most hotels provide free bikes should the speeding mopeds not put you off. Otherwise hopping on the back of an Xe Om or in a taxi are both options. Consider calling either Hoi An Taxi or Mai Linh.
Combining a vibrant restaurant scene with some of the most amazing street food, Hoi An is a foodie Mecca. This list is not exhaustible.
A great introduction to the quality of food on offer here and of the specialties particular to Hoi An, we had a great meal at Miss Ly Cafeteria. The tasting menu allows you to try 3 local specialities – ‘White Rose‘ (steamed shrimp dumplings – the best we tried), Cao Lau (local flat noodle dish topped with slices of pork served in savoury broth) and Hoanh Thanh Chien (fried wontons with a sweet and sour veg and shrimp topping).
Our favourite was the Morning Glory Street Food Restaurant. As advertised the focus is on street food from the central area of Vietnam. We particularly liked their take on Hoanh Thanh Chien (made with crab meat instead of shrimp), but there wasn’t anything we didn’t love! Across the road many flock to The Cargo Club – a Western style restaurant with cafe on the side – for dessert.
For some of the best street food, I recommend heading to the Central Market to grab some deliciousness from one of the many stalls inside. We went on our second morning for breakfast, sampling a few dishes from different vendors.
Aside from that, there are several popular street vendors positioned throughout town. The best Banh Mi we tried during our time in Vietnam, by far I might add, was found by a lady who is affectionately dubbed, ‘The Banh Mi Queen‘. Apparently it’s her closely guarded secret sauce that differentiates ‘the Queen’ from others around town. Whatever it is, it’s a must!
Other restuaruants worth considering include Mango Mango, Minh Hien Vegetarian Restaurant and Streets Restaurant Cafe. I might also make special mention of the Reaching Out Tea House, a social enterprise that includes both a teahouse and a gift shop. Set up by a local couple the teahouse employs speech and hearing impaired servers, while their gift shop employs disabled artisans who hand-make various souvenirs for sale. Should you feel inspired to support this worthy cause, I highly recommend stopping by for a cup of tea or buying a couple of gifts for family and friends back home. The proceeds help those with disabilities across the country.
The best way to explore this quant little town is on foot. We decided to buy a ticket (sold from booths dotted around town) that gave us admission to five heritage sites of our choosing. Should you feel inspired to do the same a ticket cost 90,000vnd.
Some of the top sites include the iconic Japanese covered bridge, various Chinese Hoi Quan (old assembly halls built by various chinese settlers), a couple of Museums and a string of Pagodas, Temples. I won’t bore you with specifics…
The easy going nature of Hoi An inspires an easy going approach to all things PLAY. Hanging out on the nearby coastline is top choice for those with a little extra time to spare meanwhile, within Hoi An itself, it seems cooking classes and spa treatments are all the rage.
We spent our last day taking a cooking class with the Green Bamboo Cooking School. Eleven of us, each picked up from our respective hotels, were taken to the central market to pick up the ingredients of our individually chosen meals. Following this we were driven to our master’s beautiful home where she proceeded to help us cook our chosen dish. We started by prepping our dishes as a group then demonstrating how each one is cooked individually. This was followed by eating each and every one (Yes this was an eleven course lunch)! Needless to say it was one of the absolute highlights during our one week tour of Vietnam and I highly reccomend booking a class or two.
Hoi An tends to quieten down after hours. Having said that there are still select number of bars worth checking out, if only for a nightcap.
Dive Bar in particular appears to stay open a little later than most while next door Q Bar is the place to head for cocktails. Around the corner the more sophisticated amongst us might wish to check out the White Marble wine bar.
For some of the best in Spa treatments we had a pleasant experience at Palmarosa, not far from the centre of old town. There are of course, plenty of others to choose from so do a little research and book ahead…
Layover Escapades’ 36-hour Itinerary:
Start day 1 with some breakfast from the Central Market followed by a good gander at the various market stalls. Afterwards be sure to check out a couple of assembly halls and pagodas nearby. Next head to the Queen and ask for one of her famous Bahn Mi Op La to feast on for brunch. (Alternatively consider heading for a spot of lunch at the Minh Hien Vegetarian Restaurant, a little further down the road.) Head south from here, stopping as desired, till you hit the iconic Japanese covered bridge. Take a quick snap shot as you hook a right and walk over. Feel free to peruse the shops on the other side otherwise cross back over and head toward the river. Take some snap shots as you cross the river before exploring the other side. Cross back the way you came stopping for a spot of tea at the Reaching Out Tea House. Next, time to relax before dinner with a massage at Palmarosa. For dinner head to the Morning Glory Street Food Restaurant before grabbing a couple of drinks nearby to see out your first day in the graceful town of Hoi An. For your day 2 book your quintessential vietnamese cooking lesson with Green Bamboo Cooking School.