A Short Guide to Hoi An

Hoi An

A Short Guide to Hoi An

A majestic and peaceful town in central Vietnam,  It is very easy to see why Hoi An attracts so many tourists and backpackers year after year.  Once a busy port town, Hoi An has now developed into an easygoing and relaxed destination with tons of character.  In my opinion, it’s an extremely beautiful town, with grand architecture and peaceful riverside settings.  Hoi An is one of Vietnam’s wealthiest town, down to a tourism boom in the 1990’s, transforming the town into a metropolitan, cultivated hot spot.

Picture of river in Hoi An

Hoi An

Where to Eat & Drink in Hoi An

After our visit to Hanoi, it was hard to think that the food in another destination would come close to the absolutely delicious food we ate in the capital, but Hoi An was definitely up there.  Often described as Vietnam’s culinary Mecca, Hoi An rightly takes its spot as another one of my favourite towns/cities for food in South East Asia.

Banh Mi

Banh Mi Phuong, 2B Phan Chau Trinh, Hoi An.

A Banh Mi is basically a baguette with a filling of your choice.  This may not sound all that, and I can understand I have hardly sold it with that opening sentence, however, there’s a reason why Hoi An is well famed for its trademark Banh Mi’s, which were brought to everyone’s  attention worldwide by American chef and TV personality, Anthony Bourdain.  If you are going to have the pleasure of tucking into a delicious Banh Mi, make sure you get yourself to the original Banh Mi cafe – Banh Mi Phuong, no other places should come into your mind!

There’s a small cart at the entrance of the cafe, which will more than likely be accompanied by a bit of a queue.  Once you eventually reach the front and place your order, all you have to do is pick from numbers 1-12 from the menu (shown below), then take a seat and they will bring your order over to you, then it’s all up to you to tuck in and get a taste of absolute heaven.  If I had to recommend one filling , it would be number 9 (pork and pate).  At only 20,000 Dong ($1) each, it was inevitable I was going back for seconds.

Hoi An Food - Banh Mi Phuong Menu

Banh Mi Phuong Menu

Hoi An Food - Pork And Pate Banh Mi

Pork And Pate Banh Mi

Bale Well

Bale Well, 45-51 Ð Tran Cao Van, Hoi An.

What can I say about Bale Well… There’s hardly words to describe this small family run restaurant, hidden down an alley in Hoi An.  We’d heard about this place on the grape vine before we got to Hoi An.  Once we eventually found the restaurant, we were slightly underwhelmed, at first glance we thought we’d stumbled across an average Vietnamese eatery.  Oh, how wrong we were.

Once we were seated, we were there ready and waiting for some menus to be handed to us, as you’d expect in a restaurant.  Well, it’s fair to say we were a tiny bit surprised when we were greated with streams of plates of different foods.  Bale Well is famous for it’s one dish on the menu, BBQ pork, served satay style, which you combine with fresh herbs, rice pancakes and rice paper wrappers to make a huge mouth watering wrap, which is then dipped into the sauce they provide.  The staff provided us with a demonstration to begin with, they could probably see we look slightly bewildered. The pork was smoky, the herbs were full of flavour, the rice pancakes were crispy and the sauce was the perfect blend of sweet and spicy, what more could you ask for?!

There’s many copycat places along the streets across the town, but don’t settle for second best, get yourself to Bale Well to have a taste of the original.

Hoi An Food - Bale Well

Bale Well Image Source

Beer

If there’s one thing South East Asia isn’t short of, its extremely cheap beer! Hoi An is no different, in fact this town was where we actually found the cheapest beer for our whole 6 months in Asia.  There are plenty of bars and restaurants which line the river running through the middle of the town, these are all great places to relax in the sun with a cold beer or to head there for a decent night out.

There was one place by the river, the place where we found the ridiculously cheap, but slightly disgusting beer.  The beer set us back an unbelievable 4000 ($0.18) Dong for a glass.  As I mentioned the beer was slightly disgusting, but when we were paying 4000 Dong each for a glass, could we really complain?  The cheap cheap beer was OK for a few glasses, but we definitely could not handle drinking it for the whole of our time in Hoi An.  Luckily, there are other beers available.  Most bars/restaurants sell bottles of Saigon or Tiger Larue, which are really nice beers, for around 10,000 Dong ($0.45), which is hardly breaking the bank.

Things to do/see in Hoi An

Hoi An Ancient Town

I mentioned earlier, Hoi An is a town full of character and I would really recommend exploring the old town while you’re there.  The old town is home to fascinating buildings made up of traditional Asian and Vietnamese architecture.  The Japanese Covered Bridge was my personal favourite.  Built in the 1950s by the Japanese community, in order to link them with the Chinese quarters.  The wooden bridge still stands robustly over the river after all these years.

If you want to explore the old town you can buy a set of 5 tickets (most buildings require tickets to enter) to enter a list of 23 historic sights.  The set of tickets will set you back 120,000 Dong ($5.40).

Japanese Covered Bridge in Hoi An old town

Japanese Covered Bridge

Cooking Class

With all this amazing tasting food in Hoi An, why not learn to cook some ay?  There’s an array of cooking classes across the town to choose from.  One of my top choices would definitely be the Bale Well cooking class.  What could be better than learning to cook some of the tastiest food in Vietnam!  There are also a number of other choices if you fancy a bit of variation.  Top rated cooking classes include; Green Bamboo Cooking School, Red Bridge Cooking School & Gioan Cooking Class.

Cua Dai Beach

When everyone thinks of South East Asia, they instantly think of golden sands and clear blue waters AKA beaches, don’t they?  Cua Dai isn’t by any means the most popular or well known beach in South East Asia, but it’s nice to cycle or ride a motorbike here for a relaxing day, doing absolutely nothing!

Have you been to Hoi An?  What did you think of the town? & more importantly, did you manage to try Bale Well and a Banh Mi??

 

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