Monday, August 4, 2014

The Ancient City and Delicious Cuisine of Hoi An

By Rob and Lina Eroh
Hoi An and Hue, both recognized by UNESCO for their historical and cultural significance, offer the casual visitor plenty of postcard perfect views, plus more delicious food than you can handle for just a few dollars. If you have limited time, travel to Hoi An, as it's best a place discovered over a few days. Those with five days on the central coast should try to stop at both Hoi An and Hue, as there's tons to see... and even more to eat!

We just walked around town  and admired the architecture of the old buildings. Though most are now restaurants or boutiques, they still retain the design from when they were built in the 15th to 19th centuries. Since receiving the UNESCO designation.Hoi An has essentially stopped modernizing and now capitalizes entirely on its past.

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If it's too hot to walk around, rent a bike and head to the beach, 5km away. It's a really pretty ride and the beach is clean, with plenty of shade. We spent our first day there, and were surprised with a pretty crazy sunset at the end.

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If you have more time to linger, you can also take your bike across the river to Cam Kim island. Take the local ferry across instead of paying for a tourist boat and get lost amidst the rice paddies and boat building shops. Real Vietnam is right here, only 10 minutes away from touristy Hoi An, and it makes for a nice few hours of cycling Hoian.

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Most people agree that Hoi An has the best food in all of Vietnam. I can tell you that we agree, even though we never really ate at a restaurant. The beauty of this town is that you can spend a few dollars on the street and have the most amazing meals ever.

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The banh mi (sandwiches) are better than anywhere else in the country, with thick bread that actually has a crunch. The local specialty of cau lau, sliced pork over thick wheat noodles, is out of this world, at least according to Rob. The banh vac, or "white rose" shrimp dumplings, are delicious, and almost everywhere offers glasses of bia hoi (draft beer) for $0.12-0.50! You really can't go wrong.

The only restaurant we ate in was the iconic Cargo Club on the main street. We split a continental breakfast, which featured the best croissant in SE Asia. That's not saying much, but it was a LOT better than anywhere else. We ate all of our dinners at the stalls that pop up by the river, on the other side of the Japanese Bridge. Entrees ranged from $1-2, and everything was delicious.

The liveliest spot for drinks is Before and Now, which offers "ladies night" specials of free cocktails at exactly 10:15pm. Random, but my gin fizz was really good and came with a fun straw. Our favorite place for drinks, however, wasn't a bar at all, but a boat on the river that at night became a hot spot for travelers. Here you can listen to live music, have great conversation, and have bowls of beer for $0.50!

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