Planning your trip to Vietnam? Head to this post first to read about some things to keep in mind as you prepare + see our overall itinerary!
Hội An, Vietnam was probably our favorite place in the country! This city (a UNESCO site) is on the central coast of the country and is one of few places that wasn’t destroyed during the war. It’s known for its beautiful lanterns and custom tailors, and is chockfull of delicious, fresh, healthy cuisine.
We stayed at the Little Riverside Hotel and it was one of my favorite places we stayed during our entire month long jaunt through Southeast Asia. The room was spacious, comfortable, and well decorated, and the entire hotel smelled like lemongrass. There was a nice rooftop pool, a good included breakfast, and the Wifi was strong enough for me to work and take calls. There seemed to be very few hotels actually within the old town, but we wanted to be as close as possible, and this was less than a 10 minute walk to all the action. I would definitely recommend this place!
The first thing we did in Hoi An was book a bike tour with Billy via Airbnb Experience (although I’m going to link his website here instead), and it turned out to be such a fun day. It was only Ryan and I so it ended up being a private tour, and Billy was such a fun, charismatic, knowledgeable guide. On the tour we:
We covered a lot of ground and since Hoi An’s Old Town is quite touristy, it was nice to get out and explore different parts of the city.
That evening we met back up with Billy again for a food tour in the center of the city. Vietnamese food ended up being one of my favorite cuisines and this tour did not disappoint. We tried all the typical dishes from a local’s favorite vendors:
I’m not going to lie – most of the places we ate at for the rest of the trip revolved around these spots. We went back to Bánh Mì Phượng multiple times (I got cao lau there once and loved it!), and we also went to Bale Well for ban xeo which was out of this world. We did do a nicer dinner on the river at The Hoianian one night, too—it was nice to experience the cute town and the food was good, but overall it wasn’t anything to write home about. Stick to the street food and you won’t be disappointed!
The private cooking class we did at Kumquat BBQ was one of my favorite things we did! I love Vietnamese cuisine and I love cooking, so seeing how some of my favorite dishes come together was so fun. Kumquat BBQ is a small restaurant and cooking school attached to the chef’s house right across from Tra Que Vegetable Village, which is the organic farm that we visited on the bike tour. We opted for the private cooking class so that we can pick all of our own dishes: fried pork spring rolls, beef & onion salad (my FAV–even Ryan loved it and if you know him you know his pure hatred for onions lol), beef pho, and lemongrass chicken. It was super hands on and it was incredible to see how many fresh VEGGIES they pack into all of their food! Even the spring rolls which are totally fried are loaded up with carrots, onions, mushrooms, scallions, etc.etc.etc. The owner was even nice enough to come pick us up at our hotel, saving us having to deal with the logistics of getting a taxi.
THIS!!!! This was the best part of Hoi An, which is known for its quality tailors. Apparently this actually came to be during the war because Hoi An was a more neutral spot, being located in the center of the country, and many American soldiers would get their clothes made.
The streets are lined with tailors, and of course it’s hard to know who’s really the best. Our friend Billy recommended and introduced us to the women at Minh Nhi Family Tailor and they did not disappoint. Ryan got a custom suit made (around $150) and I got a maxi dress, 2 pairs of perfectly fitted linen shorts (shorts never fit me), and a white button down with a fun pocket. If we had more time and room in our suitcase, I would’ve gotten so much more. It was so fun to get stuff made exactly for me and the cost was so good. When you plan your trip to Hoi An, go prepared! Have ideas of what you want and leave room in your luggage. They’ll turn clothes around FAST–but give yourself around 3 days. For us it only took a day, but then we went back and had to make some tweaks to get everything perfectly fitted.
I admit I got more than one massage during our few days here. I went to Five Senses because it was near our hotel and had incredible reviews and it did NOT disappoint. My hour long full body massage was around $20, it was top notch and everyone was so friendly.
We had a lot of beach time planned for later in our Southeast Asian adventure, so we didn’t go out of our way to spend a lot of time on the beach, but we did check out The DeckHouse at An Bang Beach one afternoon. Our hotel provided shuttles and taxis were easy and affordable, too. We have friends that actually opted to stay by the beach instead of closer to the city, so if you’re looking for a beach vacation definitely look into it.
On Friday morning, it was time to take off on our next adventure: an all day journey on the back of a motorbike headed to Hue, which is a smaller (and much less touristy) city about 2.5 hours north by car.
Several friends recommended going by motorbike to experience the beautiful Hai Van Pass and omg, it did not disappoint. Truly SUCH a fun day.
We went with Easy Riders and the whole day was fun and seamless: Ryan and I each rode on the back of a motorbike and they made strapping our luggage onto the back look like a no-brainer. (We thought our relatively heavy carry on Away suitcases and backpacks stuffed to the brim with our electronics would overwhelm them, but the drivers were completely unfazed).
Our first stop was Marble Mountain which is 5 marble mountains complete with caves and Buddhist temples and it was truly stunning.
We saw the Dragon Bridge in Da Nang, which was basically just built for tourists like us to look at.
We stopped at many lookout points along the Hai Van Pass, which is the stretch of road between Hoi An and Hue (now I think there’s a much faster highway, but this is considered the scenic route for tourists).
We stopped at a traditional fishing village, and then stopped for lunch on the water which was OUT of this world. (Two crabs, 6 fried oysters, chicken, rice, and drinks cost us $18 total. What?!).
We rolled up to our hotel in Hue after ~8 hours of traveling, incredibly filthy from riding on the back of a motorbike but happy and exhausted.
Like I mentioned, Hue is much smaller and way less touristy. Many people told us it’s worth a visit to see the Imperial City, but that we don’t need more than a day here. They were absolutely right. I’m glad we went though, because it was a totally different vibe that Hanoi and Hoi An, and felt way more local.
We stayed at the Senna Hue which, for about $60/night, was full blown luxury. While I prefer more boutiquey hotels, the Senna Hue was totally comfortable and, well, it was too inexpensive to even complain.
Hanh Pancake was a popular restaurant we went for local cuisine.
Ta Vet is a popular place to get drinks – we didn’t sit down at this exact spot, but it was on Pub Street which is a pedestrian road where all the locals go to drink and party. It was nice to be on a pedestrian-only road after a few weeks of chaos in Vietnam haha. They were also giving out tons of free beer that you could drink in the street, which made Ryan happy.
Mason Trang was down a little alley and it was literally someone’s house. I found it on Google Maps and while the food was a bit greasy, it was a really cool experience and felt like a real gem.
We went to Bánh khoái Hồng Mai for lunch after our tour of the Imperial City and it was delicious. They had a set menu for a good price which takes the decision fatigue out of it, and let us try a bit of everything.
Tan was the cutest coffee shop ever. They had western coffee and lattes (it was hard to find coffee that wasn’t Vietnamese coffee, served with sweetened condensed milk) and super cute teas and mocktail-like drinks.
And of course the main thing to do in Hue is to check out the Imperial City! We took this Airbnb experience tour with Matthew, who was great at giving us all the history in a digestible way.
Overall I’m so happy with the way we did Hoi An and Hue—we had the perfect amount of time in both places (and I definitely hope to go back to Hoi An one day… with an empty suitcase in tow).