Vietnam days 19-21: the rare feeling of “getting stuck” in Hoi An

After my lovely first few days in Hoi An, I decided to extend my stay for another 3 days, rounding the perfect week in this quaint town. There were only a handful of cities during my gap year where I got “stuck” and stayed much longer than expected – Pushkar, India and Kampot, Cambodia were some other cities that came to mind. I simply fell in love with Hoi An and I’m so glad I decided to spend a little more time here, especially after bopping around so much in Northern Vietnam.

Day 19: basket boat ride + cooking class

After spending the last few days going with the flow in Hoi An, I was ready for a more structured activity. My hostel host, Hien, recommended a Vietnamese cooking class. I’ve never done a cooking class before, but everything she recommended so far has been amazing, so I went for it.

Our class started off with shopping at the morning market for all the ingredients we’d cook with. I actually went to this market the day before, but it was nice to go with a local and see what prices we got. Our total grocery bill came out to $2 per person!

After the market, we headed for a fun activity…a basket boat ride! If you’re wondering what that is, it’s exactly what it sounds like – a massive basket serving as a boat. πŸ˜› This is a popular activity in Hoi An as it takes you through some pretty riverside views. Thank god for my handheld electric fan that I bought yesterday, as we were under the sun for about an hour.

Overall, this was super fun and my favorite activity of the day. I was expecting a quiet, leisurely boat ride, but in the true Southeast Asia fashion, there was Vietnamese house music blasting from huge speakers during the whole ride. There was a festive vibe as large groups of tourists around us treated this as a group party. The boat drivers also spun us around like we were on a spinning tea cup ride at an amusement park. I could see my friends in SF enjoying something like this. πŸ™‚

After the boat ride, we arrived at the venue for our cooking class – a gorgeous outdoor space right along the river. We started with making rice milk from scratch, including shelling the rice, grinding it, and processing it into milk.

Eventually, we turned the rice milk into rice paper. It was cool to see the entire process and eat the result.

We then headed to our cooking stations for the main event. They made the cooking class very straightforward as everything was measured out for us and the staff was constantly cleaning around us. We cooked 4 classic Vietnamese dishes: spring rolls, crispy pancakes, Vietnamese noodle salad, and pho.

The pho was my favorite – I’ve always wanted to try making this and it was especially rewarding to make the broth from scratch.

Overall, I’m happy with the day, but while this might sound obvious, I would recommend a cooking class only if you like cooking! I cook Asian food every day at home and very much see it as a chore, so frankly I did not really love the cooking portion. There were definitely moments when I was thinking, “can this be over?” πŸ˜› Nevertheless, it was a good experience, and I especially the enjoyed portions without the cooking!

After a full day, I relaxed at the hostel, and then I headed back out for dinner in town. I tried Madam Khanh (The Banh Mi Queen), aka the best bahn mi in Hoi An. I’ve had many banh mis in Vietnam, and this one was hands down the best one so far! The spot was very casual and local feeling too.

After dinner, some new friends from the cooking class reached out to meet at a bar. I headed over to meet everyone and hang out. Perfect end to the day. πŸ™‚

Day 20: spa day

The next day was a chill one. I woke up, headed to my regular coffee shop, ate breakfast at the hostel, hung out with guests, napped, coffee #2, lunch, and napped again. Something about Hoi An has made me so lazy, but I see it as a sign that I’m finally able to relax, which is good because that’s usually hard for me.

Later in the afternoon, I had something exciting planned…a spa day. πŸ™‚ One of the guests at the hostel recommended a half-day package at a spa. I’ve never done a long spa day before and was excited to try some new treatments.

I got a 90-minute massage, body scrub, facial, manicure, and pedicure – all for $44! It was sooo relaxing and just what I needed. At the start of my gap year, doing something like this would have been too indulgent for me, but I’ll be coming in under budget this year, so I’m in a “treat yourself” phase in Vietnam. πŸ™‚

They also offered complimentary pho. I felt silly slurping this while getting a pedicure, but I’ll take it. πŸ˜‰

Day 21: pottery class + last day in Hoi An

My last day in Hoi An! I wanted nothing more than to relax and spend time with the people I met. My morning looked a lot like yesterday – lots of relaxing, visiting my favorite coffee shop, and hanging out with whoever popped up at the hostel.

In the afternoon, I ventured out to Thanh Ha Pottery Village, which was recommended by one of the guests. It was a shop that sold hand-made pottery items and even gave free lessons. I made a small cup with them and bought an item in return.

I loved the bike ride to the pottery village. It was right along the riverside, and in the late afternoon, there was a beautiful glow. I’m so going to miss Hoi An. ❀

For dinner, Hien took me out for my last night! We ate at a barbecue spot and it was delicious. I loved spending some final one-on-one time with Hien. We developed a lovely friendship this past week and I’m going to miss her funny stories and talking about life together. ❀

I raved about Cheerful Hoi An Hostel in my last post, but I want to give another shoutout here. If you are in Hoi An, do yourself a favor and stay here!! Of all the places I stayed at this year, this was easily one of my favorites…its social atmosphere, clean rooms, peaceful location, and best of all – feeling like family with Hien. ❀

And that wraps up my amazing week in Hoi An. As much as I loved it here, I feel ready to move on. It was tough picking a day to leave – it’s always a balance of settling in one place versus seeing everything. But as with most decisions this year, it was one of those gut things where I just knew it was time to move on.

Up next, I’m saying goodbye to Central Vietnam and officially heading to the south!! πŸ™‚

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