Exploring Vietnam – Hoi An

Hoi An, the most charming ancient town in Vietnam, strikes everybody with its elegant architecture, fascinating culture reserves and stunning scenic views; words cannot do justice here. Every corner in Hoi An is a book about history and culture – the yellow-bronze wall painting that mixed with dark green discoloration due to years of raining season, the narrow curved street that made of the human hand-polished stones and rocks, the heritage Chinese Assembles with shiny golden Guan Gong ( A Cantonese Traditional worship) – this is a place that resonates some of the most unforgettable old memories in your mind, something that is so beautiful and precious, you just want to cherish in your deep memory and don’t want to easily share with anyone – it is the first crush about your classmate when you were a teenager, it is the first kiss with your high school sweetheart, it is the laughing and tears from your parents at your graduation ceremony, it is the first smile of your baby girl. In Hoi An, all the old beautiful moments are coming back to you, make you smile, or fill your eyes with tears.

We started our Hoi An journey in the early morning, when most of the shops just start opening, but the Hoi An market is already full of local people for their daily grocery shopping. This is a type of market you don’t see in Europe or North American – it is busy, noisy, chaotic yet vibrant and exciting in the same time. You can find all kinds of food and crafts vendors in this place, the floors are their display counters; everything is so fresh that you can see the morning dew on green leaves. The inside part of Hoi An market is the Hoi An food court, Anthony Bourdon enjoyed a bowl of Hoi An’s specialty noodle – Cao Lau here. There are a lot of more options than you can think, white rose (Banh Bao Banh Vac) and Hoi An Chicken Rice (Gom Ga) are two of the most popular local eats.

We decided to follow Anthony Bourdon (Since I am a big fan of Parts Unknown) and eat at one of the most popular and crowded Banh Mi place – Banh Mi Phuong. You won’t miss it since there is always a long line outside of this tiny place. Anthony said this place has the best Banh Mi in Vietnam, and people would agree with it. After a half-hour waiting, we finally get what we want: a combo Banh Mi with assorted meats and a grilled pork Banh Mi with mixed sauces, of course, together with two diet cokes. How good was the Banh Mi? Hmmm, I don’t think I can clearly describe it since my tongue was so busy to enjoy every amazing flavors that it can catch, as a result, we finished our Banh Mi in five minutes, and wish our stomachs are big enough to have another one.

On our way to the Japanese bridge, it started drizzling a little bit, and we decided to explore a nice-looking coffee shop (Hoachampa café market) to enjoy some indoor time. The owner of this coffee shop, definitely possessed tremendous passion about coffee, seems to be able to answer any question about coffee. We ordered two cups of latte with the darkest beans in the stores, and they turned out to be the best coffee we ever had in Vietnam! The coffee slightly mixed with steamed condensed milk on top, has a complex aroma – dark, flowery and buttery. The rich bitterness combined so well with sweetness from the light foamy condensed milk, everything reached a harmonic balance!

After a relaxing retreat in the coffee shop, we started walking along the canal to look for more surprises. The streets near Japanese bridge are full of colorful lantern shops and silk shops, we haven’t even explored enough, the sky already gets dark – just as every happy moment, time flies before you can catch it.  The gorgeous moment comes to the night of Hoi An once all the lanterns are light up; this peaceful ancient town turn into a mysterious dream land instantly – it looks like thousands of colorful flowers are floating in the air, so amazing that you are afraid deep breathing will wake you up from such a charming dream. Just as every tourist couple would do, we took a boat tour and released two wish lamps into the water to prey for good luck. The canal is as smooth as a mirror, with the decorations of both lanterns from the land and the stars from the sky, topped by hundreds of colorful wish lamps floating around – this is as far as what I can imagine about paradise.

We settled in HOME HOI AN restaurant near the canal for dinner. Hoi An Cao Lau Noodle, marinated pork and green salad, Bahn Xeo (Vietnamese style savory crepes) … we ordered everything we can think about for local must-try food.  The Hoi An specialty noodle (Cao Lau) is my favorite, it made with flours and water drawn from an ancient Cham wells around Hoi An, and the noodle has to pre-soak in lye (a type of wood ash) solution to achieve its unique texture and flavor. Different from other type of Vietnamese noodle, it has a special chewy texture and refreshing sweet smell, served together with thinly sliced pork, fresh mint, basil and cilantro, creating a long lasting pleasure for your tongues.

On the way back to our hotel, we were getting a little emotional – having spent such a wonderful day in Hoi An, we are not sure if we would be able to see another place that would give us the same amazing experience.  No matter what, we know Hoi An will always be one of the most unforgettable memories in our life.

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