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

Through my eyes: Faces of Hanoi

TGIF! Let’s go back to Vietnam for today…

We were walking through an utterly chaotic marketplace (think motorbikes, squealing children and rampant chickens all battling it out on the streets), and noticed these guys set up in the middle of it all. Cooking, eating and smoking, while I was fearing for my safety (motorbikes don’t really care whether they ride on the road or the footpath), they couldn’t have been more relaxed… They seemed to be having as much fun watching the chaos unfold around them as I was.
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I really didn’t see much graffiti or street art in Vietnam, so this caught my eye straight away. It was around lunch time, and there was a decent crowd gathered around the little plastic stools and baskets filled with herbs and assorted sauces. We stopped for a banh mi – how could we not?!
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While the night market was being set up by the hard working Vietnamese women (simultaneously swatting away cheeky children), the men called happy hour and gathered on corners for beers and a gossip session. Coming from a culture where the work is divided relatively evenly between the sexes, this was a big reminder to me that not all women are fortunate enough to not be expected to work, raise a family, cook, clean, and do whatever else needs to be done…
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This photo is not an uncommon sight on the streets of Hanoi. For the most part, it’s the women run the street food stalls, and when they’re not serving up something delicious, they’re either chatting animatedly with their companions, or staring off into space.  It’s hot, humid, and there are more motorbikes on the roads than you’d think possible, stirring up all sorts of dust and pollution. These women work hard in conditions that aren’t always comfortable. They’re pretty amazing 🙂img_7109

Top 10 Things To Do in Hanoi

1. Shop at the Dong Xuan Weekend Night Market

Where? Dong Xuan and Hang Chieu Streets, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Why go? Fantastic street food, crazy-cheap shopping, and the bat-sh#t crazy atmosphere that makes Asian street markets so much fun!
How long will you need? Get there around 7pm, and stay until you’re shopped out.
Cost? Everything is pretty cheap, but be prepared to barter so you’re not getting ripped off.
Read more:
– Dong Xuan Night Market, Hanoi, Vietnam

 

2. Visit the “Hanoi Hilton” – Hoa Lo Prison

Where? 1 Hoả Lò, Trần Hưng Đạo, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Why go? The prison was originally built by the French in the 1880s to imprison Vietnamese political prisoners, but when the French eventually left Vietnam in 1954 after their defeat at Dien Bien Phu, the prison was taken over by the North Vietnamese Army who used it to house, interrogate and torture American prisoners of war. It was the American prisoners who sarcastically nicknames the prison the “Hanoi Hilton,” in honour of the horrible conditions they faced in there. While it is obviously well known that the Americans suffered just as horribly to the Vietnamese as the Vietnamese did to the French, the exhibits in the museum focus mainly on the torment suffered by the Vietnamese under French control. And they are truly horrific.
How long will you need? 1-2 hours.
Cost? Around AUD$1.50 per person
Read more:
– Hoa Lo Prison – the “Hanoi Hilton”

 

3. Stroll the through beautiful grounds of the Temple of Literature

Where? 58 Quốc Tử Giám, Văn Miếu, Đống Đa, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Why go? The Temple of Literature in Hanoi is dedicated to Confucius , and was the site of Vietnam’s first university, dating back to 1076. Back then, only those of noble birth were admitted, but the mid-1400s brought about a new age, where gifted students from around the country were allowed. Now, it’s a stunning public space where you’ll walk around with a slack jaw and constant camera clicking…
How long will you need? 2 hours
Cost? Around AUD$1.20 per person
Read more:
– Photo essay: The Temple of Literature, Hanoi, Vietnam

 

4. Ignore the overcautious and pretentious travelers and eat street food!

Why go? It’s not dirty or gross, it’s not going to make you sick, it’s not something to turn your nose up at. The food being made by the sweet little old ladies on the back of a motorbike cart is some of the best food in the city, so drop the ego and get eating!
Cost? It’s cheap – the spread about cost us about AUD$6.00 each, and we got nowhere near finishing it!
Read more:
– Eating the city: Hanoi, Vietnam

 

5. Eat ice cream and people watch by the banks of Hoan Kiem Lake

Where? Literally in the middle of the city, you can’t miss it.
Why go? Hoan Kiem Lake is the centre of the city, and the place where so many social events are held; at any time of the day or night, you’ll see people gathering for a picnic, to study, to practice tai chi, or just for a bit of a gossip session. When the heat starts to get to you, grab an ice cream, park yourself in the shade of the trees that circle the lake, and just take it all in…
How long will you need? As long as you want 🙂
Cost? Ice cream is pretty cheap, and the view is free!
Read more:
– Hoan Kiem Lake & Tortoise Tower, Hanoi, Vietnam

 

6. Get educated on the Vietnamese point of view at the Vietnam Military History Museum

Where? 28A Điện Biên Phủ, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Why go? The grounds are piled with discarded planes and bomb shells, the buildings full of photos and more pieces of history. It’s a sombre atmosphere, and you can’t help feeling enormous respect for this small but courageous nation of underdogs. While you could never understand what they have been through, you start to understand just why they’re so fiercely proud and patriotic, and it’s a great way to take in a serious history lesson.
How long will you need? We were there for a few hours.
Cost? Around AUD$1.20 per person
Read more:
The Vietnam Military History Museum, Hanoi, Vietnam

 

7. Take a day trip out to Ha Long Bay

Why go? It’s not hard to see why Ha Long Bay was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994. The bay includes, I believe, almost 2000 islands and islets, and is just breathtakingly beautiful, especially when you’re floating through it on a boat, without a single care in the world…
How long will you need? All day long for a day trip, but if you have a few nights to spare, you can spend a few nights on the water.
Cost? We took a day trip with Intrepid, which was amazing – cost around AUD$120.00 per person (though I believe that’s done up a little now), and worth every cent.
Read more:
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
– Thiên Cung Cave, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

 

8. Indulge in one of the city’s favourite dishes, bún chà

Where? Literally everywhere from the street corners to the markets.
Why go? Vermicelli noodles. Meat. Peanuts. Spring onion. And a delicious sauce to pour over the top. Like you need any more convincing!
Cost? You can get a bowl for a few dollars almost anywhere in the city!
Read more:
– Eat here: Bún Chà Nem Cua Bê, Hanoi, Vietnam

 

9. Take in the patriotism and national pride at the Hi Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum

http://www.baotanghochiminh.vn/tabid/528/default.aspx
Where? 19 Ngách 158/193 Ngọc Hà, Đội Cấn, Ba Đình, Hà Nội, Vietnam
Why go? Ho Chi Minh (or Uncle Ho, to the Vietnamese) fought for Vietnamese independence, bringing the North and South together under one rule. He was a popular man, and his mausoleum brings in hundreds of visitors every day, mostly locals actually, paying their respects. But the tourists come in by the bus load too, often making their way on to the museum, like I did. The museum is quite big, and incredibly interesting – it actually makes history interesting, for those of you who aren’t history nerds like me 🙂
How long will you need? 2-3 hours.
Cost? Around AUD$1.00 per person
Read more:
– Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum & Museum, Hanoi, Vietnam

 

10. Finish the day with a drink up on Café Nola’s umbrella-covered rooftop

Where? 89 Mã Mây, Quan Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Why go? Rooftop bar. Great cocktails at cheap prices. Delicious food to nibble on. And they have the cutest collection of umbrellas dangling above you. Best way ever to finish a big day in Hanoi!
How long will you need? Spend a long afternoon there, trust me 🙂
Cost? Cheap enough that I don’t remember!
Read more:
Eat (& drink!) here: Nola, Hanoi, Vietnam

Top 5 Things To Do in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

1. Get shopping & eating at the Ben Thanh Night Market

Where? Intersection of Le Loi, Ham Nghi, Tran Hung Dao Avenues and Le Lai Street
Why go? Amazing food and crazy atmosphere – there’s a really big mix of tourists and locals, too.
How long will you need? Don’t bother getting there before 7pm for the night market – then, stay all night!
Cost? Food and trinkets are all super cheap
Read more:
– Ben Thanh Night Market, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

 

2. Take a day trip to head out and crawl through the Cu Chi Tunnels

Where? There are heaps of providers for these tours, but I’ve done it with Buffalo Tours twice now, and wouldn’t go with anyone else!
Why go? The Cu Chi Tunnels are an absolutely enormous network of interconnecting tunnels underground in the Cu Chi region of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). The tunnels were used by the Viet Cong soldiers in the 1960s as communication and supply routes, as well as hiding spots and living quarters, which the area above ground was being bombed and razed. And seeing it first hand can’t even come close to reading about it.
How long will you need? The tour I did was a half day (morning)
Cost?  Private tour for US$52.00 per person, or small group tour for US$40.00 per person
Read more:
– TBT: Crawling through the Cu Chi Tunnels in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

 

3. Take in an incredible view of the city from EON51 Café at the Bitexco Financial Tower

http://eon51.com/cafe-eon/
Where? 36 Ho Tung Mau Street, Ben Nghe ward, District 1
Why go? Because the view is incredible, but it’s much cheaper to buy drinks at the café than it is for a ticket at the viewing platform!
How long will you need? An hour or so – it’s a great break from the heat and craziness in the city below.
Cost? We paid around AUD$18.00 for a fresh coconut and a fresh mango juice
Read more:
– View from the top: EON 51 at Bitexco Financial Tower, Saigon, Vietnam

 

4. Ignore the stuffy tourists and eat the street food!

Why go? So many people will turn their noses up at the idea of eating street food in South East Asia; those people need to get their heads checked, because some of the best food in the city comes from the street!
Cost? Everything is cheap, which means you can stuff yourself silly!
Read more:
– Eating the city: Saigon, Vietnam

 

5. Join the locals and slow down with some coffee, bird song and people watching at Tao Dan Park bird café

Where? 110Bis, Nguyễn Du, Bến Thành, District 1
Why go? Each morning, from around 6am until around 8 or 9am, a corner of the park becomes a meeting place for men around 30 – 50 years of age, and their pet birds. Which makes it the most peaceful space set among beautiful gardens and full of birdsong.
How long will you need? Get there early and stay until the crowds start to drift off
Cost? So cheap I can’t even remember!!
Read more:
– Tea time: Tao Dan Park Bird Cafe, Saigon, Vietnam

 

 

Eating the city: Hoi An, Vietnam

There is a truly ridiculous amount of great food in Hoi An, and as with most of South East Asia, the best of it is on the streets. Add these dishes to your “to eat” list when you visit…

White rose dumplings.
A shrimp-filled dumpling, wrapped in thin, translucent dough and shaped to look like a rose. Also usually served with a delicious sweet dipping sauce and sprinkled with fried shallots. This is a classic, served everywhere, and we didn’t eat a bad version.
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Cao lau.
Where have you been all my life?! A dish synonymous with Hoi An (the only city you’ll find it made in), it’s the perfect bowl of chewy noodles, fresh green herbs, tasty pork, crunchy fried noodles, and easily the most flavourful broth I’ve ever tasted. Again, we tried several bowls of this – you can’t get a bad version.
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Banh Mi.
They’re all over the country, and they’re all delicious. We found them to be the perfect breakfast, costing us only a few dollars for some crispy shelled, pillowy soft baguettes stuffed with BBQ pork and all the fixings. Take a stroll down the street in the morning and pick one up as you walk in to town.
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Pandan coconut sweets.
Every time we walked past this lady’s cart, we stopped so I could get one. Gelatinous, gooey, pandany coconutty goodness, they were the ultimate sweet fix in such a hot climate. But they’re sticky as hell, so bring some anti-bacterial gel with you, or you’ll stick to everything you touch for the rest of the day!
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Street food feasts.
There are a few places that’ll help you out here, but my hands down favourite is Bale Well. I wrote about it a few years ago when my sister and I visited, and it was one of the first places on my list to go back to. Rice paper to wrap, freshly fried spring rolls, pork skewers, kimchi-style pickled veg, a mountain of fresh greens, banh xeo, bowls of dipping sauce, and a drink each set us back all of about AUD$12.00. And we were utterly and completely stuffed by the end of it. Don’t be put off by it’s location down a dark alleyway – this is the best cheap feast in the city!
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Through my eyes: walking through Hanoi, Vietnam

Melbourne’s been sweltering. And I’m not a summer person. I don’t like extreme heat or humidity.

Unless I’m in Vietnam…

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Parts of Hanoi are tourist-friendly “big city,” while other parts, like the produce markets, are still so simple and local. There’s such a huge mix of people – tourists and locals, students and manual labourers, restaurant workers and street food vendors, and they all somehow fit together in perfect harmony…

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Photo essay: The Temple of Literature, Hanoi, Vietnam

The Temple of Literature in Hanoi is dedicated to Confucius , and was the site of Vietnam’s first university, dating back to 1076. Back then, only those of noble birth were admitted, but the mid-1400s brought about a new age, where gifted students from around the country were allowed.

Stunning, breath taking, awe-inspiring… none of these quite do it justice, nor do my photos. But hopefully they’re enough to pique your interest and encourage a visit if you ever find yourself in Hanoi 🙂

 

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