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open mind, empty stomach

travel, food, and fun

Hoi An is definitely a tourist town, but I LOVE it. Despite having an economy centered on visitors, there are a lot of local people here. It isn’t like Venice, with its Disney front and no one actual residents. Even the historic houses that you can tour have current occupants. There is an incredible balance between authentic life and commercial enterprise that is reminiscent of Kampot, Cambodia. In my opinion, things in Hoi An are even better with the French colonial architecture, amazing food scene, and rich history. Like Kampot, you can walk down the streets without being constantly harassed by motorbike drivers and vendors aren’t overly aggressive. Back to the food. Hoi An is the best food city I have encountered on this trip so far. You can get a delicious bowl of cao lau for under a dollar from a street vendor, have an upscale (and up-priced) modern Vietnamese meal from several restaurants along the river, or do anything in between. Being a foodie mecca, nearly every restaurant also offers cooking classes. The highlight of my time in Hoi An was the Morning Glory Cooking School. Morning Glory cooking school is located at the restaurant that shares it’s name. The instructor, chef and owner, Miss Vy also owns the Cargo Club and Mermaid restaurants. They are high end dining establishments and out of my price range, but CC also has a bakery that features amazing french pastries at affordable prices. I am not a fan of dessert and prefer savory over sweet, but found myself going to the CC bakery on a daily basis while in Hoi An and indulging in chocolatey decadence. Not only can you eat well for little money in Hoi An, you can also get your drink on at an incredibly low price. They have the cheapest beer I have ever come across. There are dozens of places along the river that have draft beer for a quarter; quarter beers on the riverside! If you walk a few blocks from the river, you can get a beer for 3000 dong, which is about 14 cents! At night the riverside is lit up and full of life until 10 pm. The only thing in Hoi An that is not cheap is lodging, it is the most expensive place to stay that I have come across this trip. Many of the low-end hotels are $20+ a night, but I was able to find a place with AC and wifi in a good location for $11/night. The name of the place is the Thanh Binh Hotel and it’s located on Le Loi Street.
Southeast Asia is notorious for ripoffs and locals taking advantage of tourists. I was having drinks with the lovely couple I spent my time in Can Tho with and they realized that they had lost their 32gb iPhone4. We determined that the phone must have been misplaced when we were enjoying dessert at the Cargo Club. We returned to the restaurant and walked towards where we had been sitting. The staff immediately approached us with a paper bag containing the missing electronic device. The phone is worth more than a month’s salary and in addition to returning it to the owner, the employees refused to accept a thank you tip. If you have any experience in SE Asia, you will appreciate the gravity of this gesture.
There are also beaches, mountains, and temples to explore near Hoi An. I spent four amazing days in this enchanting city and didn’t feel the need to venture far from the city center. Hoi An is full of charm and character and I consider it a must-visit for anyone traveling to Vietnam.

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