We were both quite skeptical on the night bus from Nha Trang about all the good things we’d heard about Hoi An. Nobody we had met seemed to have anything negative to say about the small historic town and we were trying not to arrive with our expectations way too high.
Simply put, it wouldn’t have mattered where our expectations were because everything was picture perfect. From the old timber-framed houses, the amazing local cuisine, to biking through all the small yellow alleyways to find the best coffee shops, Hoi An really seemed to be pulled straight from a thoughtfully selected Pinterest board. We spent four insanely hot sunny days in Hoi An filled with activities, most of which were very reasonably priced for such a touristy town, trying so many different dishes and exploring as much of the local coffee scene as we could in search of the best avocado smoothie. Here are some of the things we loved most about Hoi An :
Where we stayed:
We couldn’t say enough good things about the Green Tea homestay in Hoi An. Located in a quiet neighborhood just a five minute bike ride out of the Old Quarter, it was the best value for money of any accommodation we have had as of yet in Vietnam. The staff is incredibly friendly and speaks quite good english, the rooms are cleaned daily with fresh towels always provided, the free breakfast is delicious and they also offer free bicycles which make your commute a breeze.
- Rosie’s cafe: We can confidently say that we would have come here everyday if only we hadn’t found this little gem on the last afternoon of our stay in Hoi An. The coffee is great (and half the price you will pay at Cocobox or Hoi An Roastery) and the smoothie bowls are to die for. Try the mango/passion bowl for a healthy breakfast or refreshing afternoon snack.
- Cocobox: Both Cocobox and Hoi An Roastery are part of the same chain of coffee shops that are scattered about the old quarter. The vintage decor and window seat made for a four hour stay to escape the midday heat.
- Hoi An Roastery: A staple in Hoi An which sources all their beans from the highlands near Da Lat. Prices are identical to those at Cocobox and are a little pricey as this chain is geared towards tourists but the quality of the coffee remains excellent. The view from the 2nd floor windows at the Japanese Bridge location add to the charm.
Where to eat:
The food in Hoi An did not disappoint. From banh mi to tacos, everything we ate was simply delicious!
- Banh Mi Phuong: Made famous from a visit by Anthony Bourdain, this place has a line up from open until close every single day. We came here four times in four days and can safely say we didn’t find it was overhyped at all. The meat is extremely flavourful and their baguettes are always so fresh. To top it off they served us the best avocado smoothie we’ve ever had (and that says a lot, cause we’ve had quite a few avocado smoothies since we’ve been here!).
- Banh Mi Queen: We loved the Bahn Mi from the Queen as much as we did the ones at Phuong. The mixed Banh Mi is nice and spicy and has amazing flavour from three different sauces.
- Long’s chicken rice: Great place to try Hoi An’s signature Com Ga (don’t forget to wash it down with an ice cold Tiger beer).
- Pho Lien: Yass almost cried when we walked passed this place because our favourite pho spot in Montreal is called Pho Lien (the best pho in Montreal). We had to stop by and try it and we were not disappointed. Almost felt like home!
- Hi Restaurant: The best cheap eat we had in Hoi An. Prices are almost as inexpensive as eating in the street and they have an extensive menu filled with any Vietnamese dish you could want! The spring rolls and cao lao are a must! Bonus points for the very kind owners.
- Hola Tacos: When they say these are the best tacos in Vietnam, they aren’t kidding. After two weeks of eating Vietnamese food, we were craving something different and almost couldn’t believe how good the reviews of this place were. We had the classic nachos, the shrimp tacos and the black bean tacos and honestly, the nachos were some of the best we’ve ever had! We will definitely be back for more next time we’re in Hoi An!
What to do:
- Get some new clothes. Hoi An is renowned for its custom fitted clothes and the amount of tailor shops in and around the Old Town is insane. You can find pretty much any piece of clothing in one hundred and one different colors and patterns and get it fitted just for you. If you’re on a tight budget like us, there are also plenty of interesting ready made choices as well (and make sure you bargain down to the last Dong!).
- Catch a sunset on An Bang beach. If you want to spend the day there, restaurants offer an umbrella (much needed shade in the Hoi An sun) if you buy food or drinks at their place.
- Get lost in the beautiful streets of Hoi An Old Town. Every street offers a photo opportunity, especially if you know how to avoid the other tourists (hint: wake up super early!).
- Take a half-day trip to the My Son Ruins. You can book a tour with your hotel or homestay or do like we did and rent a scooter for the day and get there as early as possible to beat the crowds (and the heat)! It’s about a one hour ride from the center of Hoi An.
- Buy a pass for 150K VND and visit some of the cultural landmarks scattered around the Old Town. The pass allows you to visit five of the historical sights and is good for the duration of your stay. Our favourites were the Quang Trieu and Trieu Chau Assembly Halls.
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- By bike: many hotels and homestays in Hoi An offer free bikes for you to use during your stay. We took our bikes into town everyday and parked them in a central area for 5000 VND each as the streets can get very crowded and it can be hard to navigate your way through all the tourists by bike. You can also get to An Bang beach pretty easily by bike. Many restaurants/little shops allow you to park your bike if you buy a bottle of cold water for 10 000 VND, which is a pretty good deal as you’ll probably be buying water anyways. The first time we went, we made the mistake of leaving our bikes at the parking lot, paying the same price without getting any ice cold water in return!
- By foot: wandering the streets by foot is the best way to make sure you don’t miss anything. It is also easier, cheaper and means you can stop whenever you want for pictures and explore all the alleys you encounter!
- By motorbike: a motorbike is useful if you want to go to My Son or Danang by yourself but is by no means necessary to enjoy Hoi An to it’s full potential
- We rented a motorcycle from MotorVina to drive the iconic route between Hoi An and Hue. We had a wonderful experience and would recommend looking into this option, as they transport your luggage for you. More on this in the next article!