Hoi An overview and travel notes

We enjoyed the return to sultry tropical heat in Hoi An after our cool down in Dalat.

Hoi An is an entire village in central Vietnam that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its centuries-old, fascinating mix of architecture.

It was once a port town that hosted traders from neighboring Asian and Southeast Asian countries to more distant destinations such as Holland, Portugal, France, Britain and even America.

Chinese and Japanese traders spent significant time in the town – four months a year while they would wait for favorable winds to escort their ships back home. As such, Chinese and Japanese aesthetics can still be seen in some of the town’s architecture today.

We’d heard the place can get pretty crowded with tourists, but that the beautiful buildings were worth a visit.

As Lonely Planet puts it, “More so than with other towns, the tourist economy is both a boon and a bane to little Hoi An. Without it, the alluring houses of the Old Town would have crumbled into the river years ago. With it, the face of the Old Town has been preserved but its people and purpose have changed beyond recognition…. (I)t’s so often choked with visitors that it feels more like a movie set than an authentic town.”

Having set our expectations before we arrived, we could take and enjoy it for what it was – a beautifully picturesque but somewhat-Disneyland-feeling representation of a historic Vietnamese port town that just happened to be located at what used to be a Vietnamese port town. A previous post has some photos of the town.

Food and accommodation notes

Hoi An also provided the best food we experienced in all of Vietnam. We had local specialties at Miss Ly Cafeteria 22 (thanks Pirmin for the recommendation 🙂 ) that were outstanding! “White rose” – delicate, delicious rice paper dumplings with succulent shrimp inside – and “cao lau” – satisfyingly thick noodles mixed with greens, bean sprouts and bacon-like slices of crispy pork – were the two local dishes we tried there. Genuine cao lau noodles can apparently only be found in Hoi An as they are specially made with local water that apparently gives them a distinct taste. All I know is that the combination of flavors and especially textures in the dish at Cafeteria 22 were amazing!

We also indulged in what for us has become total comfort food on this trip with some pretty darn good Indian fare at Shree Ganesh. The German-owned but Italian-themed Casa Verde had espresso and home-made ice cream that made my day.

After our experience in Dalat, we booked ahead at the TripAdvisor recommended Hai Au hotel (at this point we’ve pretty much given up using Lonely Planet for hotels – TripAdvisor tends to have much wider selection, more up-to-date reviews, and, very helpfully, photo documentation from guests). A bit on the pricey side at 35 dollars a night, it was a step up from our hotel in Dalat, with decent rooms, super fast wifi, a very nice breakfast buffet included in the price, and super friendly staff.

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White roses – delicate and delicious

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Super tasty cao lau

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Fragrant fish cooked in a banana leaf – also good although not as amazing as the local specialties. 🙂

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