Vietnam days 16-18: falling in love with beautiful & quaint Hoi An

Hi pals! I’m excited to catch up with you guys as these last 3 days have been just lovely. After my motorbike trip through Central Vietnam, I settled into Hoi An, a quaint city on Vietnam’s central coast known for its picturesque ancient town and architecture. I have to say, Hoi An has been just amazing and is one of my favorite cities of my entire gap year so far! A big reason has been my super bomb hostel (Cheerful Hoi An Hostel) which has been wonderfully social yet relaxing.

So far in Vietnam, I have been moving very fast because it’s my last country and I want to make every day count. I’ve literally slept in a different bed every night for the last two weeks (except for Nihn Bihn which was 2 nights). It’s been sooo nice to finally slow down and enjoy this beautiful town. I feel like I’m back to my Cambodia days when I had all the time in the world and went super slow. Looking back, all I’ve done the last 3 days was sleep, eat, and go with the flow with whatever comes up at my hostel…and it’s made me very happy.

Day 16: catching up on life things + street food tour

Since I’ve been on the move in Vietnam, I had a brief list of life things to catch up on. I arrived in Hoi An the night before and figured I’d go through my list on my first day.

Hoi An is a small town, so bicycles are a popular option to get around. After spending so much time on the motorbike, it was a nice change to power my own movement on the bicycle. Although, muscle memory failed me and I forgot how to ride a bicycle on my first day. My hand kept going for a throttle that wasn’t there. 😛

First up, a haircut! My hair was so badly damaged from my last dying job as well as the SE Asia climate. My hostel host, Hien, recommended a salon and even translated for me. I was very happy with my cut and felt like a new person. The total cost…$6!

Side note – Hien has been sooo helpful and the reason why I feel so at home in Hoi An. She has a firecracker personality and we hit it off right away. We would end up spending a lot of time together the next few days. Get ready for more raving reviews about her and her hostel. 🙂

After my haircut, some shopping! I was sick of all my clothes and wanted some new outfits for my final weeks in Asia. Also, I lost one t-shirt in my last laundry load, which was like 20% of my wardrobe. 😛 I was able to negotiate down to 1/3 of their asking price – one of my prouder haggling accomplishments. New hair, new outfit, new me!

After a productive morning, I headed back to the hostel and enjoyed the air con…the heat in Hoi An was no joke. In the afternoon, Hien organized a street food tour for the hostel, and a group of us joined along. We grabbed our bicycles and visited a few street vendors around town – you know it’s authentic when you’re sitting on small plastic chairs on the street. 😉

The food was phenomenal! I loved the tour because I learned new dishes that I would never find on my own. There were enough similarities to Chinese cuisine where nothing was too obscure and I genuinely loved (almost) every bite. A few highlights:

White Rose Dumpling (Bánh Bao Bánh Vạc): Steamed dumplings filled with shrimp and pork and served topped with deep-fried shallots and chili sauce. Loved this dish as you don’t need to convince me to devour any dumplings. 🙂

Pork rice noodles (Cao Lầu): This is the #1 most popular dish in Hoi An. It’s a local noodle dish consisting of pork and noodles made from rice which has been soaked in lye water, giving them a unique texture. Personally, I wasn’t crazy about it as I’m not a huge fan of pork belly, but it’s definitely worth trying!

MY FAVORITE – Mini Pancake with Quail Eggs (Bánh Khọt Trứng Cút): A popular Vietnamese street food – mini deep-fried pancakes filled with quail egg, papaya salad, and a sweet & tangy sauce. This one was my #1 favorite!!

Beo cake (bánh bèo) – A popular street food served in small bowls. The bottom portion was a combination of rice flour and tapioca flour, giving it a firm pudding texture. The toppings included dried shrimp, crispy pork skin, and dipping sauce. These were interesting and got mixed responses in our group, but I loved it.

Then onto dessert! Hien picked some good ones. 🙂

Stuffed dessert pancake (Tiyaki) – Before we arrived at this spot, Hien said to us: “Next, we will eat fish with chocolate and cheese!” We were all like WHAT?! Turns out it was a fish-shaped cake filled with cheese, chocolate, or cream. So hilarious.

Black sesame soup – Looks intense, but the dish was light and sweet with a runny pudding consistency. I’m a big fan of black sesame and devoured it. 🙂

What a fun, informative, and delicious afternoon! Hien was so sweet for putting this together and didn’t even charge us for the tour. Have I mentioned how much I love her?

Day 17: lazy day + walking around Hoi An + beautiful lanterns at night

The next day was a chill one. Since I was busy running errands yesterday, my only plan today was to walk around and see more of Hoi An. My morning started off early with an iced coffee and some people-watching at a cafe. So happy to be around many good coffee shops in Hoi An.

Then, I took a walk around Old Town. It was still early morning, so the streets were pretty empty with just the local vendors starting to prepare for their day. It was a nice change from the town later on as it would become a popular tourist spot. I loved the Old Town’s quaint vibes with the chipped yellow buildings and flower pots lining the streets. The architecture had an interesting mix of eras and styles, from wooden Chinese temples, to colorful French colonial buildings, to ornate Vietnamese shophouses. The morning sun provided a beautiful glow.

The heat escalated quickly, so I camped out at the hostel all the way until evening. Time flew by as there was never a dull moment around there. Between hanging out with guests, chatting away with Hien, napping, and Netflix…it was the perfect relaxing day I needed.

Then, it was back out to town in the evening. I was eager to see Hoi An at night as it’s known for its abundance of beautiful lanterns. I strolled along the riverside and shopped around as I waited for the sunset. There was more traffic in the evening as it felt like all the tourists flocked to this part of town.

After dark, Hoi An became a whole new scene. There were lanterns EVERYWHERE – on the streets, shops, and the river. The most beautiful was seeing all the wooden row boats filled with lanterns on the river. It had a peaceful, romantic vibe – something I’ve never seen in SE Asia. Just wow.

I had such a nice time walking around. 🙂 I opted for a nice sit-down dinner at Morning Glory restaurant. It’s known as one of the best restaurants in Hoi An. It was very touristy, but the food was very good. It was nice to see familiar items on the menu from the street food tour yesterday. I went for a seafood noodle dish called Mì Quảng, so tasty.

On my way back to the hostel, I stumbled upon (read: snuck into) a talent show! It was held at a local school, and there were performances by kids/adults of all ages. It was very entertaining and I stayed for a bit. It felt very local as I was the only tourist there, but I blended in so people didn’t mind. 🙂

Side note – people have mistaken me for Vietnamese all the time. They’ll start speaking Vietnamese to me until I awkwardly request to switch to English. 🙂 It’s been really nice to blend in here for a variety of reasons.

Day 18: beach day + reunion & evening boat ride

The next morning, I slept in and had breakfast at the hostel. Then, I headed to the morning market to find a tailor. A strap on my romper broke, and I got it fixed for $1. 🙂 While I waited for the tailor, I walked around the market – I love markets in Asia and watching locals run their errands.

Some more walking around Old Town. 🙂

In the afternoon, I headed to the beach, about a 15-minute bike ride from my hostel. It was surprisingly very nice and exceeded my expectations. I rented a chair for a few hours and enjoyed the relaxing vibes.

Then, I took a bike ride at sunset. There was a small vegetable farm called Tra Que Vegetable Village – the peaceful countryside vibes were a nice break from bustling Hoi An.

I went home and cleaned up, and then Hien took a few of the guests out for dinner at a local spot. We had an amazing noodle dish that tasted like pho on crack. It was nice to all spend time together and enjoy this meal. 🙂

After dinner, I had a nice surprise. My two friends from Germany who I met in Nihn Bihn were in town, and we met up for an evening stroll! It was so heartwarming to see the girls again and catch up over the last few days. It’s been great to see the same faces in these towns, especially as most travelers are also heading north to south.

We decided to take a boat on the river. Our second rowboat together in Vietnam – I guess you can say it’s our thing. 🙂 The river at night was so peaceful, and we got a close-up of all the lanterns from the other boats. Also, unlike our Nihn Bihn boat, we weren’t beating in sweat. 😛 We each wrote down a wish on a box and released it into the river, which was a very beautiful ritual. The three of us agreed this was so lovely and a highlight of our time in Hoi An.

Afterward, we walked around the night market and did some shopping. Putting our haggling skills to the test.

I bought an electric hand fan. 😉 This will come in handy with the heat.

What a wonderful time in Hoi An. Originally, I was planning to spend only 3 days here, but after my 3 days, I don’t feel like I’m ready to leave and so I decided to extend another few days. There were only a few cities this year where I got “stuck,” and Hoi An is certainly one of them. I’m excited to continue the fun and see where the next few days take me. 🙂

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