During our 10-day trip to Vietnam we decided to spend 5 days in central Vietnam, where Hue and Hoi An are the main touristy spots: Hoi An is a romantic small city cruised by canals and famous for its lanterns.
WHAT TO DO IN HOI AN
Hoi An city centre
Walking around Hoi An is very pleasant, as the city really is beautiful. Many hostels and homestays have bikes for rent or free, so you can also bike around.
The special thing about their night market is the lanterns. You can buy them for very cheap, but we didn’t try to bargain so I’m not sure how much cheaper it could go. We bought 2 small/medium sized lanterns with drawings on them for $3,5 each. You can also find beautiful souvenir bowls, fridge magnets and street food.
The market is located near the city centre on some sort of small island, just across the bridges. The area is really pretty, not sure if it’s always like that or if we were lucky of going during Solar New Years, but there were so many lanterns lighting up the atmosphere, and even a live performance on a temporal stage that was built for those days.
Make a wish while releasing a paper lantern
One more thing we did in Hoi An at night was buying a paper lantern with a candle and releasing it on the water while making a wish for 2016. Like in the movies :3 It was cute and magical, although there are so many vendors (old and young) that it kind of ruins the atmosphere a little bit.
I had heard that Hoi An was a great place to take cheap cooking class, as mostly any restaurant offers some type of course. Cafe 43 offers a semi-private class with the owner’s daughter, who speaks English quite well. The class is in a small kitchen behind the restaurant and costs only $5 plus the menu price of whatever food you’re cooking. I took a private lesson for that price and learnt how to make fresh spring rolls and chicken lemongrass.
It’s hard to take notes, chop vegetables, and cook all at once, but she is very clear in her instructions. The food turned out really well, and she even called me a gifted person in rolling spring rolls because of my speed. My dad would be proud 🙂
Rent a motorbike and ride to the beach
Renting a motorbike is really cheap in Vietnam. We got it for half day from our homestay for about $3. It was Victor’s first time riding a motorbike (and I absolutely have no idea of driving anything), so we were a bit scared at first, but soon got a grip on it and had a lot of fun riding to the beach.
At the beach you will likely be asked to park your motorbike and pay for the parking. Don’t pay more than 10,000VND ($0,5). Our homestay had an uncle who owned one of the restaurants on the beachfront, so she told us to park with him and get a beach chair for free. We ordered a juice (for 4 times the normal price), but we got to relax at the beach without paying other extras. December was a bit chilli and windy so we couldn’t swim,but it was still nice to relax there.
On the way back we stopped by the Herb Island that’s between Hoi An city and the Beach. There are several organic restaurants and cooking classes here, but we just came by to see the sunset on the rice fields. It was a very special view that I loved.
HOW TO GET TO HUE & HOI AN
Vietnamese roads are not in the best condition and trips take much longer than they would in Europe, so I was recommended to take a plane to Hue’s airport. From Hue to Hoi An we took a morning bus (it was a sleeper bus!). This takes about 3h with a short stop in the middle and costs only $5. Buses can be booked in many of the tourist offices in Hue (south of the river) with at least 1 day in advance. Alternatively, weather and pocket permitting, book a private drive/tour on motorbike or car, so you can stop in some interesting sight points in between.
Hoi An’s specialty dish was my favorite: Com ga. Not because it was the most special (that would be Bun bo Hue for me), but because I could eat it every day. I actually ate it everyday for my last 4 days in Vietnam. The dish looks simple, but requires a long preparation, and most places serving com ga only serve that. The rice is yellow from saffron (like the Spanish Paella) and full of flavor.
At 40 VND, it was a cheap and great healthy meal that came also with a soup to complete the set. Most com ga places are in Hoi An’s centre, and many of them are touristy. We found one a bit further, and it was packed with locals every night, even a big family celebrating a birthday was there! The place is called An Hien and their phone number is 0905 504 063. Ate there 3 times in 2 days.