What can I say about Hoi An except from that we actually loved it?!
Hoi An old town
The old town is made up of rows of streets which seem to all lead back to the market place in the centre.
The streets are all cobblestone and the shops and restaurants which line them have a distinct Vietnamese style. The river separates Hoi An from its neighbouring An Hoi but across the river the old town vibe continues.
You can buy a ticket ‘to the town’ where you get to go inside some of the old buildings and learn about the history of Hoi An. The ticket price is pretty cheap and it’s easily a half day worth of activities. You chose 5 out of the numerous buildings listed on your ticket but my favourite was seeing the traditional dancing and singing performed in the Hoi An arts and crafts centre at 3.15pm – it’s definitely worth seeing with the ticket!
When we arrived in Hoi An it was still raining pretty heavily so we wanted to do an indoor activity. When we got to our hostel we saw that we could take part in a cooking class with local Vietnamese women so set about looking for a class to take. After finding out the prices and menu for a few of the classes in restaurants along the river we noticed a ‘cooking class’ sign above one of the food stalls in the market place. We negotiated a price with the women in charge and arranged to make three dishes with her at her stall at 2pm.
The market was buzzing by the time we arrived for lunch! It was still heavily raining outside so lots of people were seeking shelter under the market place roof. There were a few people waiting for food at our stall but we were taken straight to the work table and began prepping the ingredients.
As we prepped we spoke with the women taking us for the cooking class. She was really friendly and worked as part of a team with the women in the near by stalls. When one stall was running low on one ingredient the other stalls would all offer their own to be used in the mean time. They were also all very conscious hygiene wise, washing everything before and after we used it.
Our cooking instructor quickly realised that I prefer eating food and watching people cook rather than actually prepping and cooking it myself so she kept giving the ingredients to Leah to work on. I in the mean time was given food to eat. We made three different dishes with vegan and meat eating variants (tofu and beef): Cau Lau, rice pancakes and an aubergines. It was really interesting to see how all the food was made and that it was all easily vegan!
The Cau Lau was a simple noodles dish with bean sprouts, grated carrot, tofu, coriander and a soy based sauce poured on top. The rice pancakes were made with rice flour and water mixed with diced spring onion. The mixture was then deep fried in a pan whilst the tofu and bean sprouts were added. The whole pancake was then flipped, folded and cut in half so that it was able to be easily wrapped inside rice paper to make a roll. The aubergine dish was really simple to make too. We simply sliced aubergine and deep fried them whilst we heated up a sauce of tomatoes, sugar, soy sauce and tomato ketchup- needless to say that the dish was very sweet!
We cooked so much food, we must’ve had enough for three lunches each but we ate every bite of it! It was a shame that all of the dishes were cooked with so much oil because they definitely didn’t need to be! I’ll be trying a slightly healthier version of the rice pancakes when we get home.
Food in Hoi An
We tried lots of good food whilst in Hoi An; pumpkin flower salad (so fresh tasting!), coconut cake (completely vegan – no eggs or milk was used in the batter) and tofu with lemongrass and chilli which was a particular favourite!
Running in Hoi An
Although it was raining really heavily our first two nights in the town I thought it would be a good idea to go for a run in the evening…
Within 10minutes of leaving the hostel I was completely soaked through. I also stupidly ran with my iPod in which stopped working as the rain picked up.
Hoi An isn’t a particularly nice place to run on your own in the dark. The streets aren’t well lit up and there’s lots of alleyways and empty shops that make me nervous when i pass them. I think that seeing the motorcycle taxis chase the guy from the bar the other night (explained below) made me feel a little more uneasy than I would have.
By the time I got back to the hostel I was completely drenched but relived to have made it back to the dorm ok.
Nights out in Hoi An
There seems to be only one place to go in Hoi An before midnight and one place for after- Easy Tiger followed by Why Not Bar. Easy tiger is over in An Hoi (a short walk from the heart of the old town) and was rammed full of travellers from 9pm onwards. The music, vibe and drinks prices were all good so there wasn’t really much more that was needed to have a good time. The only downside was that the music stopped at midnight and everyone was kicked out of the bar simultaneously.
Outside waiting were herds of motorcycle taxis ready to whisk people off to Why Not bar. The motorcycle taxis are not something I’d recommend anyone take in Hoi An- the drivers are aggressive and we saw a large group of them attack and then chase a western guy across the town after Easy Tiger had closed one night. If you argue against the inflated taxi fare they try to charge you it doesn’t end well…
Why Not bar is only a 15-20 minute walk away so a large group of us headed there for just before 1am. The walk gives you a chance to actually speak to everyone that you’ve been dancing with for the past few hours in the bar and I met some pretty cool people that night.
Why Not bar is apparently not tied to the curfew laws which force the other bars to close in the early hours so it’s able to remain open as long as it wants. As long as there’s a good stream of people in there spending money and dancing away they don’t mind staying open – we didn’t end up leaving until gone 4am!
Hoi An beach
The morning after our late night at Why Not bar Leah and I headed to the beach. We got in an actual taxi and 70,000 dong later we were at the beach. We had considered walking but the heat of the day coupled with our slight hangovers we thought better of it.
The beach was pretty empty when we arrived and stayed that way all day. There were a few little wooden shacks that sold food and drinks (which were really decent prices- vegetable fried rice was 45,000 and a coconut was 30,000), but other than that there was just the sand, sea and a few sun loungers dotted along the coast. Unfortunately we didn’t bring our phones or cameras so I can’t post a photo but it worth going to visit.
I even managed to fit in a little 6km run along the sand before lunch!