Top 10 Things To Do in Hoi An

1. Take in an amazing view and a delicious meal at Hoa Anh Dao Sakura Restaurant

http://www.hoiansakura.com/
Where? 119-121 Nguyễn Thái Học, Minh An, tp. Hội An
Why go? It’s one of the fancier restaurants in town, and it’s well worth it. That said, we ordered 6 dishes (including seafood), 3 beers and a cocktail, and got away for around AUD$60.00, which isn’t exactly going to break the bank, as far as fancy feeds go! And if you’re clever, you’ll ask for a seat in the rooftop courtyard, too – the best view in the city!
How long will you need? We were there for about 2 hours – perfect!
Cost? Depends how hungry you are – check out what we ate by following the link below, which cost us around AUD$60.00, and that should give you a good idea!
Read more:
Eat here: Hoa Anh Dao Sakura Restaurant, Hoi An, Vietnam

 

2. Support a good cause by drinking tea and coffee at the Reaching Out Tea House

 http://reachingoutvietnam.com/
Where? 131 Tran Phu Street, Hoi An, Vietnam
Why go? The beautiful space is serene and calm, made even more so by the request that guests communicate in whispers. The staff are all speech and hearing impaired, which makes not the smallest bit of difference in their service. If anything, it’s better than any other tea house I’ve ever visited; they were all so gracious, elegant and accommodating. And the tea and coffee variety is fantastic!
How long will you need? We stayed around an hour, but would have happily stayed longer if our tummies weren’t grumbling for dinner.
Cost? Varies a lot depending on what you order
Read more:
– Tea time: Reaching Out Tea House, Hoi An, Vietnam

 

3. Up your kitchen game at a Morning Glory cooking class

http://msvy-tastevietnam.com/cooking-classes/
Where? 3 Nguyen Hoang Street, An Hoi Islet, Hoi An
Why go? This is THE premier cooking school in Hoi An, and as far as I’m concerned, an absolute must! There are a few tours on offer, I’ve done the same one twice now (yes, I enjoyed it that much!): the Holiday Masterclass (including a trip to the market and a cooking lesson you’ll never forget).
How long will you need? This class runs from 8.30am – 1.30pm.
Cost? AUD$40.00 per person, which includes your market tour, cooking class, lunch, recipes and a little gift to take home.
Read more:
– Morning Glory Cooking Class, Hoi An, Vietnam

 

4. Cycle the islets of Hoi An with Heaven & Earth Bicycle Tours

 http://www.vietnam-bicycle.com/
Where? Meeting point for tours: 57 Ngo Quyen St. – An Hoi Islet, TP Hoi An
Why go? I don’t particularly enjoy bike riding and was talking into this by my sister; it’s one of the most uncomfortable but incredible things I’ve ever done. We got to see parts of this beautiful country we never would have had the opportunity to see otherwise, led by 2 local women who were some of the loveliest people I’ve ever met. It hurt like hell, but I’d do it again in a heart beat!
How long will you need? We took the REAL VIETNAM tour, running approximately 8am – 5pm.
Cost? Around AUD$60.00 per person, including water bottle and lunch
Read more:
– Cycling the islets of Hoi An, Vietnam with Heaven & Earth Tours

 

5. Stuff yourself silly with the city’s famous dish, cao lau

Where? All over Hoi An.
Why go? Ohh cao lau, where have you been all my life?! Thick, chewy noodles, the TASTIEST broth known to mankind, delicious slices of pork and fresh herbs/greens, topped with deep fried pieces of noodle. Magic.
How long will you need? Not long, if you eat as fast as I do when faced with something this good!
Cost? A few dollars.
Read more:
– Eat here: Miss Ly Cafe 22, Hoi An

 

6. Walk through the riverside night market and ogle the lanterns

Where? By the riverside, every night.
Why go? If you check out the #hoianlanterns hashtag on Instagram and don’t immediately feel the need to throw yourself into the middle of these perfect balls of light, there may be something wrong with you.
How long will you need? Spend the night walking around by the riverside – not only are there lanterns galore, but it turns into a market place with cheap souvenirs and delicious street food.
Cost? You can bring your own lantern home! The smallest ones cost around AUD$1.00 each – barter though, I ended up with 6 for $5, just because I asked!
Read more:
– Through my eyes: Hoi An’s lanterns, Vietnam

 

7. Take a trip out to My Son Sanctuary

 http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/949
Why go? My Son, dated from the 4th to 13th centuries AD, is the former capital of the Champa Kingdom. Set in stunning green, mountain surrounds in the Quang Nam Province near Hoi An, it houses the remains of the Cham temple towers. They’re incredibly old, insanely beautiful, and well worth taking the time to see.
How long will you need? We took a half day tour organised by a small local travel agent we found in Hoi An.
Cost? Honestly can’t remember, but I know it wasn’t much.
Read more:
– My Son Sanctuary, Hoi An, Vietnam

 

8. Stuff your face with all of the food at Bale Well

Where? 45 Tran Hung Dao Street, Hoi An
Why go? For a mere sum of AUD$6.00 per person, we got a bottle of water each and an all-you-can-stuff-your-face-with pile of fresh herbs and salad, peanut dipping sauce, stir fried veggies, rice paper, freshly fried spring rolls and BBQd meat on sticks. This is some of the best street food you’ll ever find.
How long will you need? Give yourself at least an hour!
Cost? AUD$6.00 per person will have you rolling out.
Read more:
– Eat here: Bale Well, Hoi An, Vietnam

 

9. Drink more tea at Cocobana Tea Rooms & Garden

 https://www.facebook.com/Cocobanatearoom/
Where? 16 Nguyen Thai Hoc St, Hoi An
Why go? Walk on in, and once you’ve breathed a sigh of relief at the air conditioning, you’ll be met with a wall of tea. Oh so much tea… oh so exciting! They have literally dozens of options to choose from, hot and cold, as well as a great coffee menu. And the best part? They’re all available to take home!
How long will you need? We spent about an hour there, but I’d happily stay longer – it’s just got that peaceful, homely atmosphere that you won’t want to leave.
Cost? Depends what you buy, but prices (particularly for take home tea) were very reasonable.
Read more:
– Tea time: Cocobana Tea Rooms & Garden, Hoi An, Vietnam

 

10. Just admire the perfection that is the colour yellow all around the city

Where? Everywhere you look
Why go? You’ll quickly notice that Hoi An’s theme is yellow. It’s everywhere, it’s warm and beautiful, and it completely defines the city. Everywhere you look, you see another perfect yellow wall, the same shade as the others, and yet somehow completely different…
Read more:
– Through my eyes: The Yellow City of Hoi An

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The New Orleans School of Cooking!

New Orleans School of Cooking
524 St. Louis St, New Orleans
http://www.neworleansschoolofcooking.com

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Now this was one hell of an experience! I’ve always wanted to visit New Orleans, one of the reasons for which being the food culture here; it’s like no other part of America, in that it is SO unique and specialised. The mix of nationalities that had a hand in creating this city all brought with them elements of their foods from back home, which leads to dishes that have no comparisons in other parts of the world, like gumbo and pralines.

We purchased tickets for one of the cooking demonstrations, for around AUD$30.00 each, and it started from the moment we walked through the doors. We were greeted, checked in and invited to look around their store before the class began: questions welcomed and encouraged!

Right on 2pm, the gorgeous Pat breezed into the store and welcomed us all. Up to the third floor we trekked and took our seats at the scattered round tables, set with cutlery, recipes, condiments and drinks (water and iced tea) on a checkered tablecloth. The stove was already well and truly alive with a few pots of stock and the beginnings of a gumbo bubbling away.

Pat was quite simply amazing. This gorgeous lady gave us a full and truly entertaining run down of the history of New Orleans, constantly bringing it back to the food and history’s impact on Louisiana cuisine, intermittently fluttering back to the stove to explain the steps to getting the andouille and chicken gumbo together. Once everything was in the pot, she left it to simmer and do its thing, moving fluidly onto the next recipe, creole chicken.

She threw together another classic recipe, explaining as she went, all the while still giving us historical information and fielding questions from some of her more eager students; now, this lady really knows her stuff, answering questions on everything from the smoke point of butter and oil versus lard to how long your creole sauce will keep for. Count yourself incredibly fortunate if you should find yourself in her kitchen!

Again, leaving the creole to simmer away, she moved onto the pralines, the most famous of New Orleanian sweets. I plan to attempt all of these recipes when I’m back home, so if you’re interested in recipes and seeing how I did recreating them, visit back here soon : )

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Then, like the seasoned professional she clearly is, Pat’s lunch party was on! We were served bowls of gumbo and plates of creole chicken on rice. Beer appeared on the tables, as well as second servings for those of us who couldn’t get enough (more gumbo for me, please!). And that food.. It was like being served warm bowls of hugs, seriously.. New Orleans food is true comfort food. It’s rich and full of flavour. It’s the food you wanna be eating when it’s cold, when you’ve had a shitty day at work, when you’re mentally and physically exhausted. It’s not difficult to put together, but there are layers of flavours that work in absolute perfect symphony. If you don’t like the food in New Orleans, then you just don’t like food! Amazing class run by an amazing woman; do yourself a favour and sign up when you visit!

Teaching with Laneway Learning – thanks for having me guys!

You know how they say that you should do something each day that scares you? I totally did yesterday… I taught my first class for Laneway Learning!

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I wrote about them a while ago when I took dad to a chocolate tasting class for Father’s Day – if you’re not familiar with Laneway Learning, start now! They’ve been around for a few years and you can learn with them not only in Melbourne, but also Sydney, Brisbane, Hobart, Adelaide and even Singapore! The team behind it decided to make use of CBD cafes after hours, by using them as a base to host a ragtag series of evening classes taught by ordinary people with extraordinary passions. These classes are amazing because they are super accessible (generally costing only $14) and anyone can teach, which means you have the chance to learn anything; upcoming classes include Making Sense of Food Labels, Vodka Alchemy, Balloon Artistry, A History of Digital Games, Classic Music 101 and Up-Cycled Jewellery. You can literally learn it all here!

Anyway, I got in touch with the lovely Lucie who encouraged me to take some of my recipes and turn them into a class, which ran last night – Quick & Easy Breads. The idea behind it was that we’ve gotten so conditioned to buying bread from supermarkets and bakeries, without giving any thought to doing it ourselves – bread is essentially flour plus a few other ingredients. It can be pretty cheap, fun and rewarding to DIY, and I wanted to put that out there. I know that a lot of people will shy away from the idea of baking their own bread because yeast can be scary, and not everyone has time to sit around and wait for dough to proof and rise and then knead and rise again and bake and blah blah blah. My class wasn’t about that traditional type of bread. I went with non-traditional, easy, cheat ways of making bread – fried flatbread, soda bread and Italian piadina bread.

That was the easy part. The hard part was the week before the class when it sank in that my humble little idea had sold out within a few hours of it being posted on the website and I’d be teaching something personal and important and special to me to a class of 20 odd adults who I didn’t know. I started to panic a little bit – I’m not the teacher, that’s my husband. And sister. And sister-in-law. And a few friends. But not me. What if they didn’t like the food? What if it wasn’t what they were expecting or wanting? What if I couldn’t answer all their questions? Worse yet, what if no one had any questions?

The morning after the night before, and I’m sure there were some people who didn’t like what we made. I’m sure I didn’t meet everyone’s expectations. I certainly couldn’t answer everyone’s questions, not that there were a heap of them. The equipment we had to work with wasn’t what I’d expected. It didn’t all go to plan. We had to rush through a bit of it. Nothing went drastically, horrifically wrong, but it certainly didn’t all go fairy-tale right. The things I was so scared of happening happened, and you know what? That was ok. I actually had a fun time being scared out of my wits and too far out of my comfort zone to be rescued. It was a great night and I can just about guarantee I learnt more than the “students” in my class did!

If any of those students are reading, I’m so sorry it didn’t all go to plan and thank you so much for sticking by me with my first-time teacher nerves! Will I teach there again? I hope so, if they’ll have me back! Should you consider putting your hand up to teach a group of strangers about something you’re passionate about? ABSOLUTELY!

Morning Glory Cooking Class, Hoi An, Vietnam

Morning Glory – cooking class
Reservations and class descriptions here or email morningglorycookingschool@gmail.com

This was hands down one of the most fun things I’ve done on my travels! On Monday, I wrote about the amazing breakfast we had before our class. Now it’s time to share the rest of the day! After checking out our options, Sibba and I decided on this class:

MASTERCLASS WITH BREAKFAST (8.00am-1pm)                                                           
Fun and interesting half day learning about Vietnamese food and the Hoi An way of life.
Highlights: All you can eat traditional Vietnamese breakfast served at The Market Restaurant. A guided tour of Hoi An’s colourful central market, followed by an interesting and informative tour of The Market Restaurant watching live cooking demonstrations with many food tastings. 2 hour hands on in-depth cooking class, lunch, recipes and Vietnamese cooking utensil to take home.
Cost: VND 675.000 – US$32

$30 seemed like a pretty damn good price considering all of the inclusions, so we emailed Morning Glory to reserve our spots. They were fantastic, emailing us straight back to confirm our booking, advising us that payment was required in cash (VND) on the day. Easy!

After breakfast, we set off to check out the market where all of the supplies for the restaurants were purchased, fresh daily, of course. It was really great to see it all with a local guide; it’s one thing to check out a local market, but it’s quite another to see it with someone who knows it inside out and can actually give you great information about what you’re seeing, and the way of life and prior events that lead to the sights you see on the day.

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After the market visit, we went back to the restaurant, which had been cleared after the breakfast service and was now setting up for lunch, I assumed. We had the chance to watch some of the chefs at work, making fresh rice noodles, white rose dumplings, and other delicious bits and pieces.

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Then came the good part – learning to cook!!! YAY!! The lady who took our class was wonderful – she was a sweet little thing who was all about cooking well enough to keep your husband happy, which was really entertaining for us western girls who expect our men to keep us happy!

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 Here’s what we learnt…

1. Prawn and cabbage parcels in home made cabbage broth. If you’d tried to tell me that cabbage broth could taste THAT good before this class, I’d have laughed at you. Now, I crave it.

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2. Next up was my favourite – banh xeo – Vietnamese pancake! I ate so many of these around Vietnam and was SO excited to actually try my hand at one! It came out surprisingly well and ended up being one of the better pancakes I had! Yay me! They were really light and flavourful – we actually found out that you can purchase packet banh xeo mixes from good Asian grocers, and to my delight I’ve actually found a place I can get them from back at home!

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3. An incredible green mango salad with marinated and barbecued chicken skewers. That tray of herbs and spices ALL went into our chicken marinades, just in different amounts depending on what we wanted to stand out more. I favoured the garlic, lemongrass, shallots and lime, personally. We used chicken thigh, and the result was a phenomenally succulent, juicy piece of chicken – the light and tangy salad was the perfect accompaniment for the intense flavours of the chicken.

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We ate our soup and banh xeo immediately after making it, but we actually all got to sit down together in the restaurant to eat our salad and chicken, which was a really nice opportunity to chat to our fellow travellers and cooks! We met some really nice people, got to share our stories in travelling and cooking, and really loved the time to kick back and take it all in. Sib and I also each purchased the Morning Glory cook book, which has been getting a lot of love since getting home – one of the recipes to come later in the week!

Has anyone else any other cooking school recommendations?? I did another fantastic one in Bangkok with BaiPai, and am planning to do one in New Orleans in January – more suggestions would be VERY much appreciated, in any and every city!!!

Baipai Cooking School, Bangkok, Thailand

Baipai Cooking School, Bangkok, Thailand
http://www.baipai.com/

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Bangkok twice now, and I hope to go back many more times in the future. It’s an amazing and very underrated city, and there are a billion reasons why; places like this count for a few of them!

I came across this cooking school on a trip I took a few years ago with my best friend. We decided to take a girls trip to Phuket and Bangkok, and wanted to try some new and exciting things, like a Thai cooking class. I had just started working as a travel consultant a few months before the trip, and this school came highly recommended, so we decided to enrol and give it a go!

 

When the day came for our class, we were whisked away from our hotel in the middle of Bangkok in one of their complimentary shuttles. We were terrified; two young women in a big, unfamiliar city, and we were being ushered into an unmarked van to take us to a cooking school, in the middle of goodness only knew where. After 15 minutes or so of driving through a whole lot of back streets and abandoned alleyways, we started to panic a little… we finally arrived at what looked like one of those compounds run by a Mexican drug cartel in a bad movie – enormous, high, concealing gates, that took some effort to slide open. We had no idea what to expect, but it certainly wasn’t the garden paradise that sprawled out before us behind the gates!

We climbed out of the van, and looked around in pure amazement at the beautiful gardens, ponds, water features and cushioned rooms overlooking it all.. it was stunning! We were invited in, given a cup of tea while we waited for the other participants, and relaxed for a few minutes. Then, the fun started!

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

We were each given our own set of recipe cards, and briefly run through the dishes we were to make. It was completely hands on, we did everything from chop our own onions to mix our own curry paste! The ladies were fantastic, explained everything incredibly well and made sure everyone was laughing and having a great time while we were learning their tricks.

Two of the four dishes we cooked are below: Masaman curry (with curry paste made from scratch!) and stir fried chicken with crispy Thai basil leaves on rice. We also did an amazing pomelo salad and home made rice crackers with toppings.  It was also lovely to sit down and eat with everyone, getting to know some fellow travellers and food fanatics!

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

 

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

At 2,200 THB (or approximately AUD $75.00) for a 4 hour course (including take home recipes), I thought it was pretty good value. They were small classes – we only had ten people in ours – so we got plenty of attention and help and time to ask questions. The recipes were also simple enough that I’ve been able to re-create them at home with no problems, which is always a concern when doing these classes! I’d definitely recommend this class to anyone visiting Bangkok with an interest in Thai food; it’s a really fun morning or afternoon out with like minded people, lovely hosts, and incredible food!