Located along the coast in the central region of Vietnam, Hoi An is a quaint, historic city characterized by its unique blend of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and French architecture.
In 1999, UNESCO formally recognized Hoi An Ancient Town as a World Heritage Site.
From Da Lat, we had to take a 4 hour bus to Nha Trang, then waited 6 hours to hop onto the 10 hour overnight train from hell (Vietnam Railways) …..No literally, it was just terrible. We’re not picky people, and I grew up in the countryside getting dirty, playing with worms etc, this train was filthy. 1st class is what we got, and you still have to share a room. You can either get a 6 person berth, or a 4 person berth. We shared with 2 other people and we got the top bunk which was a mistake. We could see all of the dirt, grime and mould above us….yuck. The sheets and pillow cases had white splats on them, so I tried to sleep on my dress, but the ride was SO bumpy I barely got any rest.
We watched a Kara and Nate Youtube video, and they went on the same train and had mentioned that someone from their cabin had got off, and the worker had come in and re-made the bed with the same sheets! I just felt so uncomfortable, and right when we got on the train it smelled like vomit, the bathrooms were also so disgusting, and the pee wouldn’t flush, so it was just sitting in the bowl.
This whole experienced cost us $100CAD. We could have taken the night bus, but had read a lot online about it being a bit dangerous due to careless driving around the cliffside. Just do your research and try avoiding this train, or book it, and know that it won’t be perfect, or wear a Hazmat suit! After the 10 hour train ride, we had to catch another bus, that took us from Da Nang, to Hoi An which was only an hour.
By the end of the day we had spent 24 hours traveling! We were excited for Hoi An and didn’t even nap, we went right into exploring!
Where to Stay?
We booked a quiet place called War And Peace Homestay It’s a very clean and unique place. Our host Duyan was so kind and had told us about her place. It’s filled with the genuine weapons, uniforms and paraphernalia from the Vietnam War! She even mentioned that she had purchased real artifacts from the museum, including a deactivated bomb! This place has a ton of history behind it.
We paid around $13CAD/night. It did include breakfast as well, but the food was pretty simple, but hey it can save you $$. This homestay is close to the main walking street of Old Town, Hoi An (about a 15 minute walk). Duyan also supplied us with a scooter. 🙂
Where to Eat?
Bahn My Phuong
Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain famously called the Vietnamese sandwiches at Banh My Phuong the best in world! It was crowded with people in line, but we went upstairs and it was empty! So just eat there. The service was really quick, surprisingly!
So far in my opinion, this was the best Banh Mi I have had here in Vietnam. The bread was so crispy, but not too hard. The flavours were just so delicious, that between Jamie and I we had 3 Bahn Mi’s, and we ordered 2 plates of the White Rose Dumplings, which you should try as well! Stuffed little rounds of white rice dough with pork or shrimp and then squeezing them together in a shape resembling flowers. As if this isn’t enough, the restaurant tops the dumplings with crispy shallots and serves them with this tasty broth with herbs on top. Anyways, before I get distracted and start drooling, 3 Banh Mi’s and 2 plates of dumplings came up to $10CAD in TOTAL!
We went here for lunch and it was really good! It’s hidden in the alley way, so just park your scooter and walk. The menu is pretty small, which makes it’s easier to choose your meal. We ordered a Bao, which was pretty good, and this chicken bowl, which had so much flavour. Chicken covered in sesame seeds and a sort of sauce, with grilled BBQ veggies, topped with thinly sliced mango, with rice.
Thanh Cao Lau
If you want to eat with the locals, this place only serves one dish, and it’s absolutely delicious! Make sure you go here as soon as you can as they close at 2pm and sometimes earlier if they run out of noodles (which are made fresh everyday). Cao Lau has slices of barbecue pork, bean sprouts, lettuce and herbs, it is then finished with a spoonful of stock. Cao Lau noodles are carefully made from local fresh rice.
If you’re craving a western breakfast for cheap, this is the right place. I’m the type of person who needs a certain meal routine, especially since I’m a health nut and LOVE breakfast or brunch, when it involves eggs, oats, smoothie bowls, and coffee. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day, so I do enjoy finding these little cafes, which have what I want. This place had great coffee, and food!
Don’t forget to try street food stalls, because it’s always so good and very cheap!
Also, check out the desserts they have in Hoi An, each place in Vietnam have very different dishes/ desserts.
We tried a dessert that a woman was selling in the Old Town just on the street. It was called “Mango Cake.” You may think that it is a cake made from mango. However, this isn’t a cake and doesn’t have anything to do with mango. Mango cake is made from sticky rice on the outside, with peanuts and sugar inside. It’s a ball that has the white powder on it, that looks exactly like a white powder donut. First bite tastes weird since the dough part doesn’t have any flavour, but the inside is filled with sweet peanuts, but not overly sweet. Not the best photo, but I promise you, it tasted amazing! We only saw them selling it at night time.They cost $0.56CAD each.
What to Do?
Trip To My Son Sanctuary
My Son Hindu Sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a great sample of the ancient Champa civilization located in the southern part of Vietnam.
The impressive Hindu-themed ruins features many beautiful stone sculptures, temples and towers in a tropical jungle surroundings. The site once contained over 70 structures! Today only about 20 remain due to the destruction by the bombing.
We went in the afternoon and it actually wasn’t too busy! Everyone was pretty much spread out, which made it seem that we were alone. It was around $8CAD/PP. It includes a quick shuttle bus to the ruins (it’s free take it!) The walk would probably be around 35 mins, and the weather was all over the place, so we took the shuttle just to be safe.
Check out the markets
Food, colours, smells, souvenirs, smiles, yelling and laughter. The essence of any country lies in its markets, and Vietnam’s are like no other. They form the heart of each community, and you can see the locals so focused with what they’re doing.
Pack your wardrobe with cheap clothes, fill your belly with local warm plates and empty your wallet buying souvenirs for everyone back home. I feel like I’m in a maze when I go here, the street markets never end, it’s streets, after streets, just filled with everything!
Explore the streets
This is why Hoi An is the most photogenic place in Vietnam. It is the combination of the architecture, the colour palette and all the lit up lanterns that make this place pop!
Enjoy a drink at Thu Bon River
There are a ton of restaurants in Old Town that look over the water. It makes you feel like you’re in Europe with all the French music and boats floating across the water, that look like gondola rides from a far.
Where to Workout?
We went to a gym called Song Phom. It was basically an outdoor warehouse gym and pretty basic, but it did it’s job! Paid around $2CAD/PP. Be aware when you want to go, they close around 10am-2pm, for lunch and nap time..
Very different, I know! But worth the price.