Hoi An ~ A Place to Shop and Eat.

My first impression of this town was cheesy. In one direction were tourists, in the other were the hawkers selling trinkets or sugary donuts. I heard the gentle, instrumental muzak version of “My Way” playing. Strangely, I kept hearing it as I continued walking. There are actually posted loudspeakers dedicated to playing contemporary easy listening hits as if to encourage the mall atmosphere this town as acquired. It’s not wholly without charm. There are fascinating old houses, a lovely Japanese bridge, swinging, glowing lanterns across the street and a friendly, but completely commercial vibe. There are 400 custom tailor shops and perhaps just as many restaurants. With so many tourists, that much competition is possible. But, it is totally overwhelming. There are signs posted outside many stores and restaurants proclaiming wonderful reviews on TripAdvisor. And they are probably all correct. The tailors are probably all talented, and the restaurants are probably all tasty; but how do you choose?

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I went to BeBe tailors (11 Hoang Dieu) because they had lots of great reviews and I liked their storefront. After lots of cajoling by my helper, Hoa, I chose a 3 pc. suit, 6 shirts, tie, 2 jeans and a pair of trousers. It was all fully measured to fit and cost 690$. After shipping airmail and CC surcharge it came to a total of 823$. I checked Banana Republic and you can get a suit and only 5 shirts for the same price (but not tailored) so I felt it was a good deal. There were many fittings and re-fittings, so make sure you have at least three days in Hoi An to get exactly what you want. I was too concentrated on seams and crotch length to remember to take a picture, but I felt satisfied with the results.

I learned quickly that all the restaurants serve the same three special dishes as well as others offerings. But, they are:

1) Banh Bao (white roses) A delicate little dish of prawns wrapped in boiled rice flour. It’s a nice, simple appetizer.

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2) Hoanh Thanh Chien (fried wontons) They are fried flat with a smidgen of meat inside, topped with shrimp, crab, and salsa.

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3) Cao Lau (noodle with pork) This is a fragrant, delicious dish. Wide, slightly hard noodles are mixed with pork, croutons, fresh herbs and some salad. I ate this dish at several different establishments, and they were all similar and flavorful.

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I stayed at the Sunflower Hotel (276 Cua Dai) which is a converted hotel into hostel. They have a pool with good sundeck, free billiard table, free water, free breakfast and clean facilities. It’s a bit of a walk from the hostel into the town, but you’re also closer to the beach here.

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Hoi An ~ Bale Well

I had searched a few times for this place, and couldn’t find it. Then, as always, when wandering lost on my last night, I found it. Lonely Planet recommended it, and with good cause. It’s an outdoor seating, BBQ/family style gem. They offer a SET (as in, only thing you can order) menu for 125,000 dong (6$). It includes a large salad, marinated vegetables, fried spring rolls, two kinds of pork, fried pancakes, rice paper for wrapping and the special sauce. The nice ladies who work the place will help you build a few of your wraps until you can try. Basically, you just put a splash of all the ingredients on the table into the little, clear rice paper wraps, roll, dip and eat. I had been underwhelmed with the amount of street/authentic local food in this tourist haven. This was a place where everyone comes. Your fingers are greasy, beer is condensating, stomach is full and then they bring you a little chocolate or mango mousse with a dollop of whipped cream. The chairs aren’t comfortable enough to make this a place to chill for a long time and hang, but it serves a delicious purpose.

Best restaurant in Hoi An. (51 Tran Hung Dao)

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Selling Candles in Hoi An

 

They were happy to take a picture because they thought I would buy a candle. The little girl ran up to me after I turned around and pulled my pants to offer her cute face as a selling point. You just can’t buy every time someone shouts, “Buy something!” And for me, if it’s not edible, I don’t usually buy anything.

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The next group wasn’t so pleased.

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