Hoi-An is a beautiful, timeless place which really showcases an ancient part of Vietnam’s history.
This historic cosmopolitan town was once a trading port dating back to the 15th century. Now a UNESCO world heritage site, Hoi-An boasts a wonderful array of old buildings full of colour and wonder.
Food is outstanding, and some of the best dishes in Vietnam, such as Cao Lau and White roses, are found here. During the day, shopping for tailor-made clothes and sipping coffee by the river is on the itinerary. And at night, strolling through the vibrant Old Town is a sight to behold as the streets are adorned with colourful Chinese lanterns. It’s one of those idyllic places where personally I could see myself living in for some time.
Being situated away from the hustle and bustle of most of the main cities in Vietnam means that Hoi-An escapes the usual pollution. And whilst staying near to the Old Quarters is best, there are also various options surrounding the town with An Bang beach being 30 mins away on a bike.
My stay consisted of 8 nights in DK’s hostel. A spacious building with a swimming pool, the rooms were comfortable with no bunk beds and the town was a 15-minute walk. The breakfast here is also fantastic with options such as banana pancakes and eggy bread being included in the room rate. Such a good way to start a day of exploring!
I also recommend Mimi’s homestay. Found through Airbnb, you can expect to pay around £12 a night and it is great value for what you get. The building is lovely, the rooms are spacious with balconies and the bathroom has everything you will need including a monsoon shower. The staff are also incredibly friendly and make you feel at home. Top this with a garden for lounging, well-priced food and free bike rentals and there really isn’t much you can fault.
Hoi-An is relatively small, so even with a small amount of time, you should be able to sample all of the best places for food and drink. My favourites are detailed below. Definitely, go to try Banh Mi a local favourite, and the same food Anthony Bourdain famously loved when he visited. Banh Mi is, in essence, a soft baguette with a choice of usually pork or chicken, sauce, patte and an egg! Its simplicity and price, 20,000 Dong (50p) will mean waiting in a queue with a lot of tourists but I say it’s totally worth it.
A wine bar in Hoi-An? I know, I was shocked too!
White Marble has crafted an exceptional wine list offering great producers from new and old world wine regions. The menu has been separated into grape varieties, rather than the more traditional layout of regions. Whilst the prices range from mid to high, it is hard to find a better selection in the area.
The list offers 15 wines by the glass which gives patrons great scope for choice with a Chateau Foncrose, Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, Bordeaux by the glass at 130,000 Dong (£4.07) in the white section, and an Argentinian, Trivento Tribu, Pinot Noir for 135,000 Dong (£4.23) in the red. The back of the menu showcases their reserve list with some of their most impressive bottles which includes a bottle of Joseph Drouhin, Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Mouches, Pinot Noir.
White Marble also has a fantastic food menu, offering small plates such as flame-grilled beef in a coconut marinade, Hoi An money bags and pan-fried calamari. Or you could always opt for their very affordable tasting menu. 6 course and a glass of wine for 450,000 Dong (£14.14).
Mia coffee is situated just on the edge of the Old Town. Walking in, you are greeted by a very hospitable team with a glass of water given upon sitting down.
With a lovely terrace area shaded by a tree and hanging vines, it feels like you’ve escaped to some mid-century Parisian cafe. The menu comes in the shape of a wooden board. A great selection of coffee is paired with slices of carrot or lemon cake, and also some delicious toasties. I must have eaten about 3 tuna and cheese toasties during my time here!
What’s nice is the attention to their craft. Coffee beans are sourced from Dalat, the Northern region of Vietnam, and are roasted on site. Packs of ground beans can be purchased on site too. But what really kept me coming back was the exceptional flat whites. Seriously, best in Vietnam! And that’s saying a lot from someone who drinks them every day back home. I will say though Vietnam does coffee well, and I have given my recommendations for the best places to drink your caffeine fix here.
Feeling in need of something healthy? Coco box is your stop. With 3 stores in Hoi An, you will never be far away from their vitamin loaded smoothies and cold press juices. The little stores are lovely from a branding perspective, they really nailed it. The staff uniforms are cute with their little berets, and the colour scheme and comfy chairs just make you want to sit there all day.
The names of the drinks are fun and inventive. ‘Sip the magic dragon’ consists of dragon fruit, strawberry, banana, yoghurt and chia seeds. And the ‘hulk effect’ is made up of morning glory, lettuce, celery, apple, cucumber and lime. The food here is simple and clean, with options such as chicken and pesto sandwiches which is a welcome break from the daily dose of rice and noodles.
Photo credit Buffalo Trip
The Little Menu restaurant is a little bit off the beaten track but definitely a place to visit. like many other restaurants in the area focus on traditional Vietnamese food is the ethos. they source all their ingredients locally and two sections of the menu really stand out. first is of the ‘earth and the ocean’. Grilled whole duck breast is served with vermicelli noodles and spices and for a fish course, pieces of local white tuna pan seared and served with wasabi and soy.
The ‘fresh from the garden’ vegetarian options give a range of wok tossed vegetables with a side of rice. they also use locally sourced ingredients for their cocktails with homemade syrups and infusions featuring. prices are on the slightly higher end but for one night it will not hurt the pocket too much.
Photo credit The Flying Fourchette
Morning glory has become a must-do dining experience for first timers in the town. The product of visionary and world-renowned Ms Vy, the food focusses on all aspects of the country’s cuisine, as she hopes to highlight some of the best dishes Vietnam has to offer.
The name comes from the spinach-like water plant which, after rice, is Vietnam’s most important side dish. An open kitchen at the entrance showcases chefs making gorgeous street food and traditional dishes, which entices you in even more. Their menu is broad, with a good range of choices. For starters, I chose wontons and white rose: both delectable, light and mouthwatering. For mains, I selected another Hoi An speciality, chicken rice. The rice is cooked in the chicken broth and then served with local vegetables, coriander and thin slices of chicken.
While it does get busy here, there is also the option of Morning glory 2. located just opposite. A sure sign that business is good! Ms Vy also runs a cooking school, with classes held on An Hoi islet, which are highly rated for their culinary expertise.
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