Vietnam is one of our dearest destinations in South-East Asia. If you have been to Malacca and it didn’t meet your expectations – charming Hoi An is THE place to visit. It’s colorful, it’s vibrant, full of delicious food, restaurants with rooftops and countless cafes.
Hoi An is easily accessible from Da Nang airport – the car ride takes from 30 to 50 minutes, depending on traffic and location. Da Nang airport is connected to several international locations such as Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Bangkok, Siem Reap, Taipei and more. It’s also well connected to domestic destinations – most popular are flights to Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi (see tip #3). The city is most famous for Ancient Town, but many come to enjoy riverside views, uncongested beaches and local cuisine.
Besides all the vivid buildings, markets and lanterns, one of my favorite things about Hoi An is the abundance of rooftops. Many cafes, restaurants and bars have either rooftop terraces or balconies, and since buildings are of the same height, you get a unique view. It’s not necessarily overseeing the city that makes these views so special, it’s getting another perspective: suddenly, you see how everything functions around here. You see other rooftops filled with visitors, enjoying their affordable drinks and humorous conversations; most likely you see street vendors, trying to sell what they can to anyone passing by. You see dogs, who are searching for food and some company; you see boats that never stop moving – whether it’s a river tour or a restaurant delivery. And then you see all the lights, all the vibrancy this town embraces; its beautiful blue sky, its loud and busy streets.
Hoi An can function as both – city and beach destination. If you want to lie down on the sand sipping on a passion fruit juice or a coconut, the beach is very accessible and enjoyable.
Here are some tips for Hoi An visitors:
TIP #1: BANH MI
One of the most popular places to eat Bánh mì in Hoi An is Banh Mi Phuong. This stall is considered to be Hoi An’s (or, many say, Vietnam’s) best baguette vendor by countless reviewers. That’s why it’s often very busy and queues stretch far longer than the next shop. Variety of options, meaty sauce, bread freshly baked next door – I can certainly understand the excitement. We came for our Banh Mi in the morning hours when the line wasn’t long, but still had to wait to get our order. However, it wasn’t our favorite place in the city.
If you have time and the night market is open – try your luck and find the “Friendship Baguettes”. Not only were we big fans of their chicken Banh Mi, but also of the way they made it work. In a pure Vietnamese fashion they used a small electric motor, that could very well be a part of an old motorcycle. The motor was used to rotate the chicken over the grill and to heat the bread. These are the little things we love about Vietnam.
Check out this recipe of Bahn Mi homemade sandwich to try at home!
TIP #2: COFFEE
While there are tons of adorable coffee houses and cafes in Hoi An, our favorite was Faifo coffee (Fai-Fo is the old name of Hoi An). Generally, I prefer tea and disapprove of all kinds of iced coffee (UPDATE 2018: LOVE COFFEE), but their hazelnut frappuccino made me come back for it every day. The place is a bit pricy, but worth a visit. Take a moment to enjoy your coffee next to the open window facing the street or on the rooftop while savouring coconut cheesecake. We were lucky, so a basket of kittens was once included in our daily coffee routine. If you’d like to get away from the old town, try following Nguyen Duy Hieu street towards North-East. The further you go the more cafes you find!
TIP #3: FLIGHTS
If you are making your way to Hoi An through HCMC and Da Nang, take special care of your itinerary. Both cities have separate terminals for domestic and international flights. For example, when itinerary is Singapore – HCMC – Da Nang, airlines can’t check you in all the way to Da Nang. This is why you have to make sure you have enough time in Ho Chi Minh airport. Not only you need time to get your luggage, but also to go through immigration and get your visa. While citizens of some countries can spend certain amount of time visa-free or using e-visa, others need to get visa on arrival, which can take a long time. Make sure you approach your airline staff on arrival. They can be helpful with trying to prioritize your visa and making sure you make it to your connection.
TIP #4: STAY
While choosing your accommodation, consider skipping beach-front and old town and go a bit further instead. You might end up spending your vacation waking up to amazing views and enjoying tranquility and peace just a short bike ride from the city center. For our stay we chose the Corner Riverside Villa and we have no regrets. It might not be premium hotel with rooftop pool, MasterChef-breakfast and five-star service, but it’s run by a local family. Besides, it’s located right next to the river with mountains on the background. That made our stay pretty special.
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