1. Hoi An market
Rise early and immerse yourself in Hoi An life at the local market. Marvel as noodles are stretched, fish is gutted and carcases, perched precariously on the back of bikes, wobble past. From jack fruit and durian to dragon fruit and morning glory, the choice is endless. My number one spot for people watching and seeing life float by.
Grab a bicycle (free from most hotels and home stays) and weave the couple of miles past thirsty bison, paddy fields and farmland to An Bang Beach. Park up at a cafe who’ll watch your bike for a few pence (and throw in a much needed free bottle of water), then admire the view. Fishermen in coracles battle the ferocious waves while barman tout for your trade.
Take a pew and watch the beautifully talented ladies at Bong Hong Trang make Hoi An signature the white rose dumpling. Delicious with a cold local beer to cut through the pork, shrimp and salty fish sauce. Apparently it’s one of only two restaurants which knows the secret recipe and make the delicacy for hundreds of others across the town.
Morning Glory is on the pricy side for Vietnam, but worth the cash for some top-notch food and a lovely, air conned restaurant. Brave the queues and you’ll be rewarded with Hoi An sausage, stir-fried morning glory, fresh Vietnamese salads and flavourful noodle soups. A treat.
Take home a little of Hoi An by joining an eco tour and learning how to rustle up some of the region’s classic dishes. Starting at the market to gather fresh produce, the tour then floats down Thu Bon River, watching fishermen haul in their catch. Next stop’s a coracle, paddling through the mangroves to the cookery school. Their super talented chefs will guide you through some of Vietnam’s classics – fresh spring rolls, papaya salad and pork in a clay pot – giving you all the tools you need to whip up a storm back home.
No visit to Hoi An is complete without a trip to the tailor. Bring a photo of what you want, then watch as the experts get to work with their measuring tapes, helping you choose fabrics and recommending the best cut. Leave a couple of days for your suit to be turned round and choose your tailor carefully. We used Bill and Ben who were friendly, efficient and fair.
7. My Son
Bump by bus to the My Son, the 70+ Cham temples situated in the lush jungle valley an hour of so from Hoi An. Marvel at the beautiful, crumbling architecture and learn how the site was destroyed in the Vietnam War. A real highlight, especially if you choose to float back by boat down the river and back to town.
This cracking bann mi café just outside the old town was made famous by Anthony Bourdain when it featured on No Reservations. Fresh, crusty bread, tender pork with crisp salad and spicy sauce make this a winner. We grabbed plain, freshly baked banh mi from their baker next door a couple of times too. Just perfect.