Hoi An is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in view of the density of temples, pagodas, ancient homes, as well as the influence from Chinese and Japanese merchants. It is my favourite place in Vietnam for its quaint riverside appeal, its traditional architecture, the special dish Cao lầu that cant be found anywhere else in Vietnam, and the scooter day trip to My Son.
We found our accommodation by the recommendation on Wikitravel. “Mrs. Flower” (39 Thai Phien St) is a middle aged lady with an empty nest, and rents out her rooms to travellers. She is pleasant, keeps her house clean and tidy, and offers various other services like tailoring, motorbike/bicycle rental and tourist information. Best of all it the price of the room/bike rental was the cheapest out of our whole Vietnam trip. Disappointingly, tailoring was much better done at the shops along the main stretch.
The old town’s oriental charm is best seen at dusk with candles drifting along the river and glowing lanterns hanging from heritage buildings. Enter at mid day to utilize the museum tickets included in the entrance fee while the sun is at its worst. See the Japanese bridge which you don’t need to enter to appreciate. Have dinner at makeshift roadside stalls, then proceed to the bars overlooking the river for cheap ice cold beer.
The famous Bánh mì Phượng a.k.a Madam Phuong Banh Mi was worth running through the rain for. Toppings were generous and freshly prepared, and staff were pleasant. However it has since shifted to a different location with WiFi and is probably more commercialised. Cao lầu the most wonderful thing you will eat here, think fat, udon like noodles in thick broth topped with barbeque pork slices, fried pork rind, peanuts, rice crackers, scallions and served with lime or chili jam. Have been reminiscing and trying to find it else where but to no avail.
You absolutely must take a scooter trip to My Son. It takes approximately 1 hour to ride there leisurely from Hoi An, passing through some small farms alongside a river, a railway track, requiring some skilful manoeuvring through traffic, and ending up in an ancient city. Of course you could always hop on a shared minivan, but where’s the fun in that? Mỹ Sơn was a site of religious ceremony for kings of the ruling dynasties of Champa, as well as a burial place for Cham royalty and national heroes and dates back to the 4th century.