Since returning to the states, the number one question people seem to ask is: “What was your favorite place?” It’s an impossible question to answer and it makes me sound like a liar- because my answer changes with my mood. But if I had to pick a favorite stop today, it might be Hoi An, Vietnam.
I love getting comfortable enough in a city that the roads start to look familiar. (Not that it seems to keep me from getting lost…) I love being somewhere long enough to have favorites: A favorite sandwich stand, a favorite breakfast spot, a favorite umbrella vendor. Hoi An was one of a handful of places that I stayed in for more than three days. I was here for a little less than a week- but it was just long enough to fall in love.
Hoi An doesn’t have a checklist. The guidebook doesn’t provide a detailed section of places to go and things to see. I think this is a huge reason that it became one of my favorite spots. After a pretty quick pace for about a month in a half, this deliciously, low-key stop was exactly what I needed. Now this is not to say that I don’t love a good checklist… I have visited (and loved) many places that require making a plan in the morning, and being careful not to stray too far, lest you miss one of the national treasures. However, it’s a nice change of pace to stop somewhere where the only thing you are meant to do is “soak it in”.
In my travels over the last decade or so, I have probably seen about a dozen National Palaces, but show me a picture of one and there is a good chance I couldn’t tell you which country it belonged to. After a while, temples, cathedrals, palaces… they all start to blur. But I will always remember the tree at the end of the street that marked our favorite Banh Mi Sandwich find in Hoi An. I will always remember the route we took every morning from our hostel to our breakfast spot, and I will always remember the motorbike ride from town to the beach.
Since the guidebook isn’t going to list it out for you, hear are a few of the “Highlights of Hoi An, According to Mindy”
Considering my list is limited to a beach, a sandwich stall, and shopping (my only real purchases in 3 1/2 months, I will note) you can wrap your mind around just how much there was “to do” in Hoi An… and yet, it’s at the very top of my list. Here are a few pictures of one of my favorite towns. No national palaces or historical landmarks- just alluring, charming Hoi An.
A few notes since my visit in early 2013:
Several storms have hit Cua Dai Beach over the last few years, taking much of the beautiful white sand with them and leaving the beach a bit barren. An Bang Beach is another excellent option for spending a lazy day at the beach. This beach was more of the “locals” beach in 2013, and had a much more authentic Vietnamese feel. With Cua Dai attracting fewer visitors these days, I have read that An Bang has is catering more to tourists than it did in 2013.
In late 2013, Banh Mi Phuong moved from the little street stand it had called home for almost 20 years to a more permanent location near the entrance to the city’s main local market. You can find it by the market entrance on: Hoang Dieu Street in Hoi An, or just ask anyone where to get the best Banh Mi in Vietnam. They will point you in the right direction!
As for the tailor shops… you can’t miss them.
In 2013, I quit my job and bought a one-way ticket to Thailand. After four months of backpacking I returned to the States and fell in love with a guy whose job sent us straight back to Asia. Nothing has gone according to plan... and it's been absolutely magical.
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