We have a winner for our favorite city in Southeast Asia (so far at least). With beautiful beaches, a river walk that rivals San Antonio, the best food in Vietnam, and an easy-going vibe, it was really difficult for us to leave Hoi An, even after lengthening our stay from three to six days.
It didn’t take us long to figure out how much we were going to like this place. A short stroll downtown from our guesthouse provided a cobblestone-street feel with narrow streets, friendly locals, and a really cool river walk area lined on either side with bars and restaurants. This was a welcome divergence from the endless trinket solicitors and human frogger we’d been thrown into in downtown Saigon.
Fresh off a nagging stomach bug, I was eager to dig into some local chow. We stopped at one of the restaurants on the river for dinner the first night, where Alison chomped on some delicious chicken pho and I scarfed down some of the best duck I’ve ever had in my life. All-in cost of $6.
We also had to check out Banh Mi Phuong, a sandwich shop made famous by Anthony Bourdain for having the “best banh mi sandwich in the world.” We were not disappointed.
After another 4 or 5 of the best meals we’ve ever had in our lives from restaurants not named Skyline Chili or Montgomery Inn, we realized that the food in Hoi An was something special and worth a splurge on a culinary class. Alison found the Green Bamboo cooking class run by Van, a charming Vietnamese woman married to a Swede (apparently she couldn’t marry a Vietnamese guy because she was too tall at 5’7”). A 10 course meal, great company, and full stomachs were the themes of the day. As great as our cooking class was in Chiang Mai, we’d have to give the nod to the Vietnamese here. All I can say is if we can bring just one of the 10 meals we made back to the States we’ll be eating it for a while. Biggest issue will be getting the right fresh ingredients.
Hoi An also offers some great beach options. We spent a day lounging at Cao Dai beach, about 3 km from town. The Cham islands also provide a few other beach and diving alternatives in the summer/ fall when the weather is better.
This is the place to go for custom made suits in Vietnam. There are literally hundreds of tailors in the city who will make suits on the cheap. We both had suits made at Peace Tailor and really enjoyed getting to know the family, even visiting their factory and sharing a meal together (which was delicious). Here we are with our suits and our tailor:
With all the great things this place has to offer, it’s not surprising Hoi An has become a popular retirement destination for the Vietnamese. Something tells me it won’t just be the Vietnamese looking to retire there over the next 30-40 years. I bet some expats will follow. And we wouldn’t hesitate to come back to this place.