If there is ever a place to enjoy life in Vietnam, it most surely is in Hoi An. This cosy town in the middle of the country is full of exceptionally beautiful colonial buildings and has the best food, excellent shopping, a cosy atmosphere and one of the best spas of the entire country. Almost everybody that comes to this city stays longer than they intended to. I know I did. Since the city is most likely located halfway through your trip, whether you’re going south to north or the other way around, it’s the perfect place to relax, regroup and head back into the hustle and bustle of the rest of the country. Besides you’re going to need a couple of days anyway if you want to have some garments custom-made. Hoi An is after all thé place to do it. Sure, they will tell you that it can be ready within 24h, but when it comes down to it, you don’t want a badly finished piece of clothing nor do you want to be the person that is making the seamstresses work through the night. But most importantly, this is the city to eat, A LOT. The food here is by far the best I’ve eaten in Vietnam and you can even learn how to make it. Enjoy yourself with way too much shopping (I had to send a box home) or a trip to one of my favorite spas.
I decided to give you a three-day itinerary to how my ideal days in this lovely city would look like. If you have any more tips on Hoi An or you’re looking for tips on other places, let me know!
Get up early and start with a buffet breakfast and a dip on the pool of the amazing Sunshine hotel. After a lovely shower (they really are a backpacker’s dream), take one of the free bikes and head to the beach. It’s a very straightforward road from the hotel with endless opportunities to discover. When you come to the end of the road (there is only one), head left and stroll around the beach. When lunchtime comes around, head back into the center. You’ve had quite a sporty morning so I’m guessing you will be pretty hungry. Sit down at Ba Le Well and enjoy the set menu to the fullest. It will cost you about 100.000 Dong (about 4,40 euro) which might seem like a lot, but don’t worry, you will get your money’s worth. It starts off with spring rolls and Ban Xéo which you need to roll in a rice paper with some herbs, salad and fermented vegetables. Dip your rolls into the delicious mung bean sauce (I would love to know how she makes it). If you’re not sure what to do, the owner will show you how. Don’t fill yourself up because there is another course coming! Depending on whether you’re eating meat or not (the Vietnamese people like their meat!), you will be able to enjoy the dish of the day. In the meantime you get to do some people watching as this spot that is often frequented by the locals. After lunch, head into the center.
If you’re planning to have a couple of garments made, this is the time to do it and Yaly is the best possible place to do this. With an understanding of modern fashion, a big selection of fabrics and good prices, this is the only spot where the upper-class locals have their pieces made. We only discovered this store after we were already half-way through or fittings at Bibi Fashion and were quite disappointed that we didn’t find it sooner! Discussing prices, fabrics and models you will most likely be in here for a while. You can spend the rest of the day discovering the old part of town, go into all the alleys and just get lost.
End your day at the best restaurant in town, Morning Glory. Order any of the dishes because this place really makes it better than anywhere else! We particularly enjoyed the smoked eggplant, the fried morning glory, the while grilled snapper, stuffed squid and the seafood soup. There is however no doubt that all the other dishes are just as delicious. Before asking the check, make sure to sign up for their cooking class the next day. Hop back on your bicycle and go for a drink in Tiger Tiger for some backpacker bonding or to enjoy a shisha (free when you’re with three or more people!).
Get up in time to enjoy the elaborate breakfast and then bike to the Vy’s Market and Cooking School, the meeting place of the cooking class. You will spend all morning until the early afternoon at the market where the ingredient will be shown and explained, you will learn all about the Vietnamese kitchen and try most of it to finishing with the class itself. The class is not very hands on but you will leave feeling satisfied with how much you’re learned and most definitely full of all the food.
It is quite a busy morning so wind down with a tea somewhere before you head back to Yaly. The store will have a first prototype of your clothing ready for you so it’s time for that first fitting. Don’t be alarmed if it doesn’t look like it fits perfectly. This is what the first fitting is for, they will still be able to adjust everything. Spend the rest of your afternoon shopping, because you haven’t shopped in Vietnam until you’ve shopped in Hoi An. Make sure to buy some lanterns at the night market across the water. The smallest ones go for 1 dollar and the biggest for up to 10 dollars. Have dinner in yet another lovely restaurant, Moon Restaurant. Normally you will have been quite tired after such a long day, time to relax and pamper yourself at the Palmarosa Spa. Go for one of their perfect mani pedi’s or for a massage.
Enjoy a nice rest, you have earned it. Dive into the pool or have a long bath (or both!). Head into town for lunch and eat the best Bahn Mi you will ever try at Bahn My Phuong. The small restaurant was featured in ‘No Reservations‘, one of my favorite travel and cooking shows. And I have to tell you, these sandwiches (if I can call them that) are delicious. Head to Yaly for your second fitting. Hopefully they’re able to make the last adjustments and you can pick up your stuff by the end of the day. Spend the rest of your time doing what you enjoyed most. Bike around town, do some more shopping or just walk around to soak up the atmosphere. This last day might seem like a little light but it’s a necessary day, to give the people tailoring your clothes a decent amount of time to make your pieces and just because you have to eat a bahn mi at Bahn My Phuong!
If you’re spending more days on Hoi An (which I hope you will), here is a list of restaurants and activities described above and some extra:
02 Phan Đình Phùng, Cẩm Châu
What a perfect place, very affordable if you’re traveling with at least two people (or travelers you’ve picked up along the way as I did). A great pool, awesome breakfast and free bikes. The rooms are BIG, they have a bathtub (score) and a shower! My top pick if you’re not in the city alone or if you do want some alone time (it’s not the best place to meet new people).
61 Cua Dai Road, Hoian Quang Nam, 84
This is the hostel to go to if you’re a backpacker. It’s a very sociable place, the common areas are next to a little pool (not the cleanest) and the breakfast is quite nice. The dorms however I wouldn’t necessarily recommend, the bunk beds are the old army bed metal ones which make a lot of noise, there is only one plug in the room (if it even works, ours didn’t) and it’s not very clean. I saw the cleaning staff at work and they don’t replace the sheets, they just make the beds for the next customer. So all and all, go to the sunshine and meet people in the centre.
Cooking class Vy’s Market
3 Nguyen Hoang Street
Sign up for this cooking class in the Morning Glory restaurant. You will find the actual cooking school across the japanese bridge. It will start out with a local market visit followed by a very educational and tasty tour of the Vietnamese cuisine. At lunchtime you will start with the cooking class itself.
The end of Hai Ba Trung street.
Arrive, park your bike (paid parking), head to the beach and stroll left
90 Bà Triệu
A little out of the city center but definitely walking distance. I wish I could come here every couple of weeks for a pedicure. My friend went in for a massage and said it was one of the best she had ever had.
47 Nguyễn Thái Học
Modern snits in high quality fabrics
130, Nguyễn Thái Học, Minh An
Highly lovable jewelry in different price categories by the sweetest Vientnamese designer (who divides her time between Hoi An and Milan
Night Market (open 1pm-10pm)
Cross the Japanese bridge and turn right to head to the night market. Go here for typical market jewelry but most of all for the laterns that they only make in Hoi An.
Ba Le Well
Phan Châu Trinh, Minh An
One set menu restaurant that has a reputation for a reason. You can replace meat with fish. 100.000 Dong for a menu.
106 Nguyễn Thái Học
The best restaurant in town, look above for the best dishes. Go there several times!
321 Nguyễn Duy Hiệu, Sơn Phong
Small local restaurant with a young chef. The price is a little higher than in the rest of the town but the food is also better than most other restaurants.
Bahn Mi Phuong
Hoàng Diệu, Sơn Phong
Featured in my favorite culinary tv-show, No Reservations, this place truly has the best Bahn Mi. Also suitable for vegetarians. Try to go here as much as possible.
Trần Cao Vân
Highly recommended to try the stuffed squid. The rest of the food is also good, the beer is very cheap. The service however is not the friendliest it can be.
Go over the Japanese bridge and turn right. Look for the crowdiest bar on your left side. Come here for a good party and ask for the free shisha starting from 3 people
Go right if you’re standing in front of the restaurant Morning Glory. This is the spot for decent cocktails and high quality live music
94 Lê Lợi Minh An tp. Hội An Minh An
Fresh juices and hip interior