23 May 2012

Hoi An, I LOVE LOVE you!


Hoi An, Vietnam reminds me of Sevilla, Spain.  Maybe it's the yellow color of all the buildings, maybe it's that most buildings are two floors or less, or the bougainvillea that grows there, or the small, quaintness of the town that's obviously oozing charm, or the fact that it's such a laid-back town and is probably the most laid-back town in all of Vietnam, maybe it's the sidewalk cafes, or the small walkways between buildings, or the hands down best food in all of Vietnam, or the tight-knit community... or perhaps it's the candlel-lit floating flowers in the waterway during the full moon, and a place where even babies roam around on the streets, or that it's just... serene.  It really does have the best of everything that Vietnam has to offer. 

Two things that Hoi An specializes in that if you ever go, you MUST try them!  I wouldn't steer you wrong!  White rose and Cao Lau (pronounced "cow lao").  White rose is basically a shrimp dumpling with rice paper (I think) bunched up to look like a rose.  I tried it in several places in the city, but only one was AMAZING - a restaurant called Old Garden.  If you want directions to it, I could probably point you there, but it's off a little walkway.  Their sauce is basically a perfect combination of sweet and sour like rice vinegar meets something sweet like plum, and then they garnish with fried onions and garlic making a nice crunchy contrast to the softness of the dumplings.  Cao Lau is like pho, but not.  Noodles are thicker, I find it has more flavor than pho, plus has roasted pork with fried wontons or pork on top of it along with lots of veggies.  No restaurant in particular that I can recommend for Cao Lau, but give a few places a try...  

For Westerners looking for something other than Asian food for once, this is a good stop.  Two recommendations: Cargo Club and Mango Room.  Luckily, they're next door to each other.  They aren't exactly backpacker budget friendly, but I really didn't care.  Cargo Club is a French Patisserie and has amazing chocolate croissant in the morning along with a great lunch menu filled with things like mustard roasted chicken on baguette, croque monsieur, and big, mixed green salads.  Man!  I miss that food!!  Other place, the Mango Room.  It's quite innovative with a combination of Vietnamese, Latin American, and European flavors and has super delicious, fresh drinks.  A must go to on your trip to Hoi An.

Another thing Hoi An is filled with and famous for, custom-made clothing at bargain pricing.  Want that Marc Jacobs dress that costs $800?  You can likely get it for $75 custom-made to your body, specs, colors, fabric, etc.  Anything and everything your heart desires can be made.  While I would have loved to had some great dresses made, I really didn't want to get them (likely, not backpacker friendly when I wad it up into my backpack and trek through monsoon season) and would have had to send them home (I don't like delayed gratification nor do I know when I'll even go home).  So I opted for something I couldn't find in all of Asia, basic shorts and skirt that fit my bum.  In this one-size-fits-all part of the world, I couldn't find anything that fit the lower half of my body - curvaceous bum and long legs are not same-same in this neck of the woods!  I spent $30 on the shorts and $25 on the skirt.  Normally, that would be a lot of money to spend when you can get things like that in any street market in Bangkok for $3-$9, but I figured I would have spent that at a place like Forever 21 AND they have been indispensable ever since.  They fit perfectly, I love the quality fabric, they go with everything, backpack friendly, machine washable, and most of all, they fit. Bonus, the company keeps your measurements on file for 5 years so you can contact them with pictures and such and have clothes shipped to you.  

By far, my favorite door photo I've taken so far

Abandoned building I couldn't help but love the many peeling layers of paint
THIS is what reminds me of Sevilla, the small little walkways that are "streets"

This guy must LOVE his song birds!!

Yep, even these people text and drive

Gotta love the vintage scooter!

Chillaxin' and watching the world go by
Yep, even fields being grown in the middle of the town
Getting set up for business

Oddly, not a gas station...?
Tour boats
Morning gossip?


Luckily, this town if full of bicycles and very few motorcycles.  It really created a more harmonious and relaxed atmosphere.  The town is so small that it really is the best way to get around besides your own two feet!

Traditional attire

Off to school!


I'm sure many of you have now noticed, I LOVE MARKETPLACES!!!!  Even in the early morning, the place is teeming with life, no one is chasing after tourists to buy since it's mostly locals who are there buying in bulk.  People are coming and going, the place is crowded, the tarps above are too low for someone my height so there's a lot of ducking, it's just so colorful (!!!!), most vendors don't speak English so if you have a question they either smile and nod, shoosh you away, or some will let you try whatever you're pointing at (and then expect you to buy), and there are all sorts of strange food smells and you can always tell what part of the market you're in either by smell or sound.  I'm always fascinated with all the different produce these countries have that we don't have in the States.  I love to stop, stare and figure it out as it's unlikely that I'll run into again.  Another thing why I love the market is that you can see any culture of people in their element.  They have friends that are vendors and exchange friendly chit-chat, early morning vendors are eating their breakfast and some even sleep, all are trying to make sure their product looks fresh and presentable by constantly rearranging once something has been sold, spraying water over the produce to keep it cool and fresh, babies are either playing or sleeping in the background somewhere, and all the unfamiliar pre-made foods are displayed for locals to take home for lunch or dinner later... most of which Westerners never see on a menu.  Locals only.

I like to think of this one as the three wise women

Morning breakfast...

Haven't quite figured out what those eggs are in the middle.  Saw some with what looks like dirt around them too...?

This man rocks!  I can only imagine how heavy this cart is!  And then
maneuvering it through the tiny walkways of the market!  Total rock star.

I think nearly any dish can be made with the ingredients in this picture.

Mm, yum, pig spine and tail... ?

Fruit that looks like an apple & tomato in front - it's a water apple.  Quite delicious!
Death is imminent... I probably had one of these for dinner that night.

Morning breakfast over duck for sale

Poultry section of the market.  Life duck or chicken anyone?

Street vendor outside of the market


I have to admit, I think the beach in Hoi An is my favorite so far (though I'm sure it might change considering I haven't been to Thailand's or Cambodia's beaches yet!).  It was small, had few people, water is beautiful and warm, quaint, and is a bicycle ride from town.  Absolute heaven to spend a day here!


Not sure what these boats are called, but up close they look like sturdy kiddie pools


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