A rainy morning in Phu Quoc is the perfect time to reflect on my time in Hoi An, a stunning world heritage town around 35 minutes from DaNang Airport. The word Hoi An, means “peaceful melting pot”, the town having been a central point for spice traders between the 7th and 10th centuries. Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and Indians settled here during that time. Today it is a melting pot of activities, food, culture and shopping. A great place to do a little, or a lot, as we found out. Here are 5 things you must do in Hoi An.
Get on a bike and get out-of-town
The best way to see Hoi An, is as the locals do, get on a bike, motorbike, or as we did on a Vespa (much cooler). We joined the morning tour on offer from Vietnam Vespa Adventures to see the countryside. We were picked up from our hotel at 7.30 in the morning before enjoying a tea at Cafe Zoom and then heading off. We spent the morning far away from other tourists, seeing Vietnamese rural life. In the safe hands of the drivers, and our guide Van, we visited family temples, a boat yard, made rice paper rolls and tried a spot of weaving before having lunch in the rice fields and returning to Hoi An. A day to remember.
Visit a tailor
It is so very confusing when you arrive in Hoi An. Every second shop is a tailor. We had a few things we wanted to get copied and a special dress for my sister’s 40th. We wandered the streets in confusion in the heat, before settling on BeBe Tailor to get our ‘expensive clothes’ copied. I had a dress for work and a beautiful skirt copied for around $160, we are talking something that looks like a cue dress here. M had a great dress made for her party and two work dresses copied. They did it overnight, with minimal adjustments on the second fitting, a myriad of material choices and great service. If you have something cheaper to be copied, or a little cotton dress made, it is almost not worth it. You can buy holiday dresses in the shops for $10. I went to a cheaper tailor (Phuong 1) and got some little summer dresses made, and a linen dress for mum. Pretty happy with my $30 dress. Tried it on once and it was perfect!
Learn to cook
A trip to Hoi An is not complete without a cooking course. Again, we were so spoilt by choice it was hard to choose. Because of the reviews, both online and word of mouth, we decided on Red Bridge Cooking School. After meeting at a cafe in town, we were taken on a tour to the markets, which was somewhat confronting as a vegetarian. The meat is killed at 3am in the morning before being sold on at the market in the morning, and onto a plate later that day. It is actually mind-blowing how fresh everything is. After a 30 minute boat ride post market we headed to Red Bridge, a restaurant and villa just out-of-town. Mimi kept our group going, while we made rice paper from scratch, rice paper rolls, Vietnamese pancakes, clay pots, shrimp salad and garnishes. My stomach is still full!
Eat, Eat and Eat
If cooking isn’t your thing, then don’t worry you can just eat (and eat, and eat) in Hoi An, and the rest of Vietnam. We have not had a bad meal at all! Notable places to mention in Hoi An are: Morning Glory for a special dinner, the shrimp skewers and open wonton, Rice Drum for pretty much everything (especially the salads) at ridiculous cheap prices, and Streets International for the eggplant clay pot. At Streets you will not only dining for pleasure, but you will be supporting local street kids. Streets International trains homeless children to learn hospitality, they spend 18 months learning everything, from front of house to cooking to cleaning. Don’t be afraid to walk into a no name restaurant either and don’t always rely on TripAdvisor, everything is amazing. (Another thing to note when you are eating is that ‘yum’ means horny in Vietnamese, so use the term delicious!)
People watch at night
If you don’t go out in Hoi An at night, then you are missing all the fun. The place comes alive at night as it is so hot during the day. Markets, people talking on the street, whole families on scooters, children helping their parents in shops and the like. Our favourite pastime became walking around at night, watching whole families sipping cold drinks by the river, their houses wide open and people just wandering about. Grab an ice cream or a mango cake from a vendor and wander along the river, before your tired head hits the pillow.
Have you been to Hoi An?
Did you love it at much as me?