Eating up and exploring Hoi An

We said our final farewell to south Vietnam yesterday morning. Although we have had absolutely amazing authentic Vietnamese food through our short time here so far, Mr. Chuckles suggested that we punctuate this with a breakfast at McDonald’s. Therefore, our last meal in Ho Chi Minh City took place at the Golden Arches. We actually very rarely have McDonald’s at home, but Mr. Chuckles has started a trend of eating at one in every international destination we visit. Coming soon, Mr. Chuckles’ blog: Travelling the McWorld.

Anyway, we have now moved northward in the country to begin our exploration of central Vietnam, which will be limited to Hoi An. Hoi An is a medium sized coastal city that was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. It is known for its exceptionally well preserved Old Town reflecting its role as a central trading port in the 15th to 19th centuries, featuring a mixture of indigenous and foreign-influenced architecture.

We arrived at the closest airport, in nearby major city Da Nang, after a short domestic flight with Vietnam Airlines. Hoi An is located about 30 kilometres from Da Nang and we were able to arrange a private transfer with Hura Cars. They were very professional and well-priced, so we will probably book our return trip with them as well.

Time to eat!

As usual, once we checked into our hotel, we immediately began our food journey. Our first quest was in search of lunch, which we successfully found at a little restaurant called Sông Hoài, located right behind the hotel. We knew this place would be good once we saw that there were only four items on the menu.

We selected the banh xeo rice pancakes and the ram cuon fried spring rolls with shrimp. Delicious! The owner did not speak any English but was incredibly friendly, showing us how to properly eat the pancakes, by rolling them in rice paper and fresh herbs.

One of the restaurant’s resident dogs

In the evening, we began our foodie exploration of Hoi An in earnest, with our third food tour of this trip. Again, we went with Urban Adventures, and this time were joined by four other travellers from Spain and Canada. Our guide, Lu, took us on a walk around Old Town to introduce us to the cuisine of central Vietnam.

Our guide in Ho Chi Minh City had previously summarized to us the main differences between the cuisine of the south, central, and north regions of Vietnam. Basically, food is usually sweet in the south; spicy in the central region; and salty in the north. I’m not sure that we really got a sense of the spice on this food tour, but the selections were incredible nonetheless.

Highlights included pork skewers wrapped in rice paper at a local market; banh mi at Banh Mi Phuong, made world famous by Anthony Bourdain during his visit to Hoi An; cao lau rice noodles with pork, a Hoi An specialty; and chicken rice, at our guide’s favourite street vendor.

Lights and lanterns

After being sufficiently fed, we took a short walk along the riverside of Old Town. The area is beautifully lit up with lanterns at night, a photographer’s dream.

We are spending a couple days in Hoi An. More food and sightseeing to come.