21Dec2016: Arrival in Hoi An
The Hoi An River Town Hotel welcomed us with coconut crackers, a map, and an enthusiastic staff member named Thu. She provided suggestions for local food spots before we went into town. The lantern-lit streets felt luring compared to the claustrophobic market stalls of Siem Reap. Hoi An had a small town feeling, like being somewhere that you’d definitely walk into people more than once. It’s center is full of artists, garment makers, cafes and dimly lit restaurants. Along the riverside, people are buying paper lanterns to launch into the river for a lucky wish. While the open air store fronts were still full of signaling vendors, we felt like we could stroll along without being bothered much by the other visitors and hawkers.
We ate at a popular restaurant called Morning Glory- so popular, in fact, that the illustrious vegetable was sold out by 7pm. The squid stuffed with pork, and the bahn xeo (an egg pancake or crepe) were the best plates of the evening. Then we spent the remainder of the night wandering streets full of tailor shops, all promising they could make any size, color or style clothing we desired by the following evening. Even the shoe shops said they could make sandals and sneakers for us if we didn’t see our size on the floor. We ended up taking the bait at Peace Tailor and Bari Tailor, and fashion designing ensued. Peace Tailor had nice options for Corey while Bari had better fabrics for women. Corey started the rumpus with three suits that night!
22 Dec2016: Day Trip to My Son Temple (pronounced Mee Son)
We started our morning with the international buffet at the hotel. I liked how the omelet station was also serving up steaming bowls of pho. Our guide, Mr. Le Xuan Thong, promptly picked us up at 9am for our tour of My Son temple. The temple site itself was small and not nearly as grand as Angkor Wat, but Mr. Thong was such an excellent guide that we felt our time was really well spent at the ruins.
After a short trolly ride, we arrived at the site in time to see a dance and musical performance. Mr. Thong shared that the site was built in the 9th century by the Cham people who migrated from India. Much of the site has actually been renovated and rebuilt by French and German teams after the vast bombing that this area experienced during the Vietnam War. There were large craters in the ground where mines had exploded as well. We were warned not to go off the trail as live mines still litter the jungle.
We had a local lunch with Mr. Thong and Mr. Vu (our driver). The noodle salad was crisp and savory and spicy all at the same time. You should also note that the papadum looking rounds (center picture) were yummy with salad, but if you didn’t eat your round, it was put back into the pile to serve upcoming guests (we found this out afterwards).
We took a bike ride to An Bang beach about thirty minutes away from the town center. Riding along the ride paddies was beautiful and the beach wasn’t too crowded as it was an overcast day.
We continued our bike ride to Cam Nam Island where we stopped for a snack. The soup stall caught my eye because of how many people were out front. Once we sat down, however, we realized it was really just one large group of school girls who were eating together. The owners, and the girls, were laughing so hard as Corey went to squat onto the small plastic stools next to their table (you’ll smile at the pictures below). This immediately prompted a selfie moment and we enjoyed eating at this stand because more and more families were bringing their little ones for dinner.
We dropped off our bikes, went back to our tailor shops for final fittings, and then tried Bale Well for dinner. It’s a spot with a fixed menu of kebabs and wraps. The staff brought everything to the table, feverishly made a sample roll, and then stuffed one into Corey’s mouth. Then they stood to watch ‘barangs’ (foreigners) try to make their own rolls while giving directions and pointers. We ate with two women traveling from Israel and another from Chile who shared their backpacking stories.
23Dec2016: A day exploring Hoi An
With nothing officially planned for today, we started off with a walk around the neighborhood. We strolled through markets, shoe shops, and quiet residential areas.
Time for a snack after so much walking! Coconut crackers, white rose dumplings, and coffee- not all from the same cafe. We basically stopped for a taste of anything from the street vendors that looked tasty. For lunch, we waited in line for bahn my/mi from a place that our hotel suggested. We figured it must be good if there was a line out the door. Once we saw the menu we realized why the line was so long- the restaurant had been crowned by Anthony Bourdain.
We captured more moments in the center of town- baguette shops and an art shop and a sleeping stall owner. We also got caught up in school dismissal.
As it was our last night, we tried our luck at Morning Glory again, but still failed to have a dish of morning glory. I think Ms. Vy, the restauranteur, has singlehandedly raised the status of the ivy-looking veggie at all four of her restaurants. We strolled home and relaxed with beers in the hotel courtyard.
It was hard to believe that we’d already finished this leg of the trip. Hoi An was a delightful first stop in Vietnam, and a wonderful introduction for our ten day stint here.
Day 1- Arrival in the afternoon
- Wander the shops in the town center along Tran Phu street and Le Loi street
- Dinner at Morning Glory or any of Ms. Vy’s restaurants
- Tailor Shops: Bari Tailor (30 Lê Lợi, Minh An, Tp. Hội An, Minh An, Vietnam) and Peace Tailor (6 Lê Lợi, Minh An, Tp. Hội An, Quảng Nam, Vietnam)
- Check out the Night Market on Nguyen Hoang Street
Day 2- Half day tour, Half day bike
- 1/2 Day Tour: My Son temple (find your own transportation or hire a guide)
- Afternoon bike ride to An Bang Beach (our hotel rented bikes)
- Dinner at Bale Well (down a side alley)
Day 3- Wander the Neighborhoods
- Find some art at Ti Tin Gallery
- See the market near Nguyen Day Hieu street
- Eat lunch at Banh My Phuong (2B Phan Châu Trinh, Minh An, Tp. Hội An, Quảng Nam, Vietnam)
- See Tan Ky ancient house and the Phuc Kien Assembly Hall