Hoi An, located on the Vietnamese central coast, is a charming place known for it’s beautiful beach resorts, it’s pedestrian friendly, well-preserved Ancient Town lined with beautiful stores showcasing handmade lanterns, wood carvings and ceramic goods made by the locals, and it’s vibrant culinary scene. It is also known for its custom tailors, who can make just about anything you can think of in a day from the beautiful silk made here in Vietnam.
Eat Like the Locals (and President Obama)
 
We arrived in time for lunch in Hoi An. Our guide grew up in Hoi An, so rather than go to a restaurant with a set menu, we asked her to take us to her favorite spot for local food. She took us to Banh mi Phuong, a place made famous first by Chef Anthony Bourdain visiting and then, President Obama for the Banh mi sandwich. Bourdain crowned this place as having the best Banh mi sandwich in Vietnam. The sandwich is a fusion of French influences because of their 100 year occupation in Vietnam, and traditional Vietnamese ingredients. From the French, the sandwich has the baguette, liver pate, jalapeno, and mayonnaise , and from the Vietnamese, you have coriander, cucumber, pickled carrots and white radish. DELICIOUS! We also tried Cao Lau noodles, a delicious combination of housemade noodles, pork, carrots, herbs and fried noodles with a soy based sauce. This is another dish famous in Hoi An and it was wonderful. We also tried delicate steamed dumplings with shrimp and pork called White Rose and fried wonton with shrimp, pork, pineapple and herbs as a topping. This was a fantastic way to learn about what culinary specialties a place has to offer and we enjoyed every minute of it.
 
For our first evening in Hoi An, we went to the Ancient Town for a stroll to have dinner and take in the Full Moon Lantern Festival. Every full moon on the Lunar Calendar calls for every shop and restaurant to hang street lanterns in full force around the three main streets that make up the Ancient Town. Hoi An’s Ancient town is a well preserved example of what a South East Asian trading port town looked like in the 15th to the 19th century. The architecture of the buildings in the Ancient Town reflects the fusion of cultures that influenced this part of Vietnam over the years, including Chinese, Japanese, French and other European countries. There is even a covered Japanese bridge crossing the river there and boats floating on the river with lanterns swaying overhead. The town is comprised of 1,107 timber frame buildings with brick and/or wooden walls. There is an open market each night and a ferry quay. We wandered the streets to take in all of the stunning lanterns in various colors, shapes and sizes that were everywhere. It was magical.
 
We went to dinner at a restaurant called The Chef, located in the Ancient Town. It is unique, as you enter a book shop on the first floor and take the stairs in the back to get to the rooftop of the restaurant located on the third floor. We sat under their lantern tree. The food was spectacular. After dinner we walked a bit more in the Ancient Town and returned to the hotel.
 
The next morning, our guide picked us up and took us to the dock where we transferred to a boat to take us on an ecological tour, which included a traditional fishing lesson (I even got on a local fisherman’s boat to learn how to cast the net) and a tour of the local people’s massive herb garden, which supplies the herbs for all the restaurants and the market for all of Hoi An. The local people made us lunch in a restaurant overlooking the herb garden. We also received a noodle making demonstration, which Tim participated in. I just knew he could cook! LOL!
We loved Hoi An. Such a charming place. We leave for the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City tomorrow, the largest city in Vietnam, located in the southern part of Vietnam. Talk to you tomorrow!