Hoi An, Vietnam travel tips

A tour group mecca, Hoi An, Vietnam has a glut of tourist offerings. It’s a great place to wander the streets, gawk at tacky shops, and pick up some custom made clothes.

Read on for travel tips.

Where we ate:

  • Mermaid Restaurant – One of the older restaurants in Hue, they’ve gotten a little lazy and beholden to to the tour groups, which they aren’t quite big enough to handle. We’re not sure what all the fuss over the “white rose” dumplings is all about, there are better dumplings in this world. The restaurant is fine for Old Town, nothing special: MEH
  • For You 4U – Across the river from Hoi An on the An Hoi peninsula, this restaurant had a nice view of the riverfront and offered local specialties with presentation flair for bucks cheaper than across the river. Nice cau lau, papaya salad, and stuffed crabs: YEH
  • Hai Scout Cafe – They have a nice outdoor courtyard for taking a break over drinks, which are nice enough. Free WiFi: YEH
  • Cau Lau street vendor, alley off of D Phan Chu Trinh between Le Loi and Hai Ba Trung – We were in Hoi An bit off season, so street food was hard to find. This place served up very tasty and rock-bottom priced cau lau, sauced wide wheat noodles and fried noodles with pork. The alley where they set up chairs may have a few R.O.U.S.s, which isn’t the vendor’s fault, but may interrupt your meal: YEH
  • Friends eat street food cau lau, Hoi An, Vietnam
    Friends eat street food cau lau, Hoi An, Vietnam | Photo by Lauren Girardin
  • Before + Now Bar – Just like a bar in America, they play the music so loud it’s difficult to have a conversation, which is weird since everyone is there to talk. Still, a nice place to have a beer or four with new friends: YEH
  • Cafe 43 – Way out of the Old Town, but easily reachable from many of the backpacker hotels. The food was excellent, the chili chicken, though very white, had a serious kick, and the papaya salad was fresh. Their combo meals are a great value: YEH
  • Papaya salad and chili chicken at Cafe 43, Hoi An, Vietnam
    Papaya salad and chili chicken at Cafe 43 | Photo by Lauren Girardin
  • Cargo – Since we were celebrating Thanksgiving, we stuck with their Western menu. By ordering a pumpkin soup, stuffed chicken breast with mashed potatoes, and baked brie with cranberry compote, we created a close approximation to the traditional dinner. The food was excellent: YEH

Where we stayed:

  • Hotel Nguyen Phuong – Hotels in Hoi An are overpriced and don’t always deliver on what they promise. This one was fine and not as overpriced as the rest: YEH

What we saw:

  • Central Market – As you wander around this half food, half souvenir market you’ll hear this appalling sales pitch constantly, “You buy from me? Everything here same-same. I poor. Help me. Buy from me?” Still, it’s a good place to pick up some cooking utensils and other tchotchkes. Bargain hard, they start too high.: YEH
  • Fish heads, fish heads, dried and weird fish heads at Hoi An's Central Market
    Fish heads, fish heads, dried and weird fish heads at Hoi An’s Central Market | Photo by Lauren Girardin
  • Cao Minh Cloth Shop, 126 Tran Phu – Hoi An is the town in Vietnam for custom tailoring. Lauren had some black business pants custom tailored for a good price. Unfortunately, since we’ve been losing weight, we didn’t get more made since we don’t know what size we’ll be when we get home: YEH
  • Red Bridge Cooking Class from Hai Scout Cafe – Though the class size was a bit larger than ideal from a cooking class, the Red Bridge folks have their class down perfectly so you get hands on experience at your own stove. Their technique was better than their recipes: YEH
  • Hai Cafe cooking class, Hoi An, Vietnam
    Hai Cafe cooking class, Hoi An, Vietnam | Photo by Lauren Girardin
  • Cloth Shop Golden Silk Lua Vang, 109 Tran Phu – They made Todd a nice “Chinese style” cotton shirt and several silk ties. We should have looked harder for pre-made ties: YEH
  • Tuoi Ngoc, 103 D Tran Phu – One of the many shops selling Chinese lanterns of all sizes, shapes, and colors, they happened to have exactly the one we were looking for for the ridiculously low price of $5. If they hadn’t they could have made it in one day: YEH
  • Japanese Bridge – It barely seemed like a site, mostly because it was impossible to appreciate the architecture or setting with the large busload of tour groups packing the tiny bridge: MEH