Hoi An, Vietnam

STOP 1 | Day 1 to 5 |

After 24+ hours of traveling we were happy to get to our accommodations in Hoi An (pictured below – Trendy Life Villa). Our visit to Hanoi / Ha Long Bay in late May prepared us for the organized chaos of cars, scooters and bikes and the heat. With temperatures feeling like +40 degrees Celsius (think hot yoga studio) the pool, beach and lots of water is key.

After a good night sleep our first stop on Saturday was to get a few custom made shirts for J (Hoi An is known for its custom tailoring shops and ability to replicate new outfits rapidly). With some thorough research and visits to the main larger tailors he settled on a couple of shirts from Tony the Tailor ($25USD/shirt) and A Dong Silk ($45USD/shirt). The turn around time was amazingly quick (one day with a few alterations after), J wisely brought a shirt he wanted copied which probably helped limit the fittings required. Overall both end products were great with the material at A Dong Silk being Italian cotton versus Vietnamese cotton so worth the extra cost. We visited Banh Mi Phuong for the “best bahn mi” according to Anthony Bourdian on an episode of No Reservations (and for everyday after during our stay), ate at Dingo Deli a restaurant owned by a Australian-Canadian couple (how could we not?) and spent the rest of exploring Cua Dai Beach. For dinner we stopped by Nhan’s Kitchen, although they offer American food (pizza, pasta) we opted to stick with local cuisine and enjoyed Cao Lau. Cao Lau is a Vietnamese dish made of noodles, pork and local greens is only made in Hoi An (if you enjoy Cao Lau outside this city it would have been shipped from Hoi An). Mi Quang was another noodle dish that we enjoyed here in Hoi An, this dish is generally served with shrimp and pork, local greens, egg and peanuts, the broth is also flavored with fish sauce and only a small amount is used.

On Sunday we decided to embrace the traffic by renting a scooter. Our first stop was the local gym (or ski conditioning as J likes to say, A agreed given the promise of a Banh Mi after), followed by a trip to An Bang Beach. As a popular tourist area, the restaurants have beach chairs and umbrellas out front which they allow you to use for “free” if you eat in the restaurant. That evening we wandered the streets of the Ancient Town, which is lit up by thousands of lanterns (as pictured above).

Our last day in Hoi An we ended up having the best meal at Mr. So’n. Located in strip of other similar type street vendors you know Mr. So’n is the go to as while we were there he had a continuous stream of diners, versus others which were empty. Like many establishments this is a family run business with Mr. So’n running the front of the house and Mrs. So’n delivering the delicious dishes. We enjoyed fresh spring rolls, White Rose (Banh Bao Vac – a type of shrimp dumpling Hoi An is known for), rice pancake and Cao Lau.

We visited several different coffee shops during our stay, Giang Coffee House has the most reasonable prices, good coffee and air conditioning, The EspressoStation Coffee hidden in a back alley way had a version of egg coffee (which we were craving to find since our last visit to Hanoi – however it doesn’t seem as common in these areas) and a nice outdoor seating area, but was a bit pricier (albeit the difference from cheap to expensive is about only $1USD).

We were also very pleasantly surprised with our $25USD/night accommodations, Trendy Life Villa. The villa was opened only a few months ago and is a family ran establishment. It also included breakfast, one could choose from a variety of Vietnamese dishes (Pho, Cao Lau, Mi Quang) or more Western options (omelette, banana pancakes). They were very helpful in arranging our transportation from the airport and to the train station during our stay (and for a reasonable price). There are free bicycles on site for guests to use or as we did rented a scooter from them directly.

Travel Tip – Visas – Most visitors require a visa for Vietnam which consist of a letter to present on arrival. Generally your hotel or tour group can help coordinate a letter; alternatively if you don’t have anything planned (like us) we used Vietnam Visa Choice (recommended on Lonely Planet) which worked well ($30/pp). Note that on arrival you need to present the letter, visa forms and two passport pictures and pay an additional $25/pp. Both times we have been to Vietnam it took us about 1 hour to get through so plan accordingly if you are catching another flight.

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