In February, Bridgette and I got to spend a week on Hoi An, Vietnam, visiting the family of Bridge’s worldschooling bestie. It was our first time in Hoi An, and we absolutely loved it!
Hoi An felt vastly different than Hanoi. There’s less hustle and bustle all around, and it felt like a sleepier part of Vietnam, which suited us just fine. Our friends, the Kemps, graciously hosted us in their home, allowing us to get a small taste of being a local there.
We went to Hoi An without a slew of planned activities, as the main intention was really for Bridgette and Ruby to spend some quality time together. Being best friends while being thousands of miles apart for most of the year is not easy. I’m actually quite proud of the two girls for their efforts in maintaining their friendship despite the distance. Still, nothing beats face to face time with your bestie, so this trip was really special for them. When we got out of our Uber upon arrival to Ruby’s neighborhood, she came running out to greet us with such glee and excitement that I think the entire neighborhood was shaken! 🙂
Our week in Hoi An ended up having a perfect balance of activities and chill-at-home time for everyone. Honestly, the girls could’ve stayed home the entire week with one another and be absolutely content. But, I figured we traveled over seven thousand miles for this trip to a whole new country….might as well explore it a bit right? 🙂
Here are some of our favorite activities in Hoi An:
1. Old Town– while this was the certainly the tourist-centric part of Hoi An, we quite liked its charm! During our week there, we probably went to Old Town every other day. There are lots of touristy shops, which weren’t quite our jam, but some were still fun to browse through. With a ton of cafes and restaurants to choose from, there’s no shortage of good food in Old Town. It is especially fun to visit in the evening, when all the hanging lanterns are lit, and even the river is filled with floating lanterns like the scene straight out of Tangled!
2. Vietnam Cooking Class–we took a full day cooking class with Green Bamboo, and it was fantastic! The day began at the wet market, where we learned about ingredients commonly used for Vietnamese cooking. Together with our instructor, Van, we went around buying fresh ingredients for all the delicious dishes we would be making.
Maneuvering through a crowded wet market in Vietnam as a large group is no easy feat, so afterwards, we had to take a small break for some delicious Vietnamese coffee. 🙂
The actual cooking took place in Van’s lovely home, and yes, her kitchen was big enough to accommodate our group of 15! The prepping part did feel a little crowded (elbow to elbow), but everyone was very easy going so we just made it work. We probably spent the first 2 hours on food prep (chopping, dicing, slicing, etc.). Each person picked a different dish, so there were a whole lot of ingredients that needed to be prepped! Bridge chose to make pho, which required the most prep work of all, so she was a little busy bee for quite some time!
When all the ingredients were prepped, it was time to get cooking! There were 2 stove tops on the kitchen island, so two people were able to cook at one time. Under the watchful eye and helpful guidance of Van, we took turns at the stove top to cook our chosen dish while everyone else cheered us on. After each dish was cooked, it was passed around the island for everyone to try. Since there were so many dishes to be tried, the smaller portions worked out well, but it did take a few hours to get through everyone in such a large group, so by the end of it all, we were all pretty exhausted.
Bridgette’s pho was saved for the very end since it took several hours to simmer the broth, and for that very last dish, we got to enjoy it at the dining table. It was delicious, but unfortunately, we were all a little too full to truly enjoy it. 😦
3. Hoi An Food Tour– one evening, we joined a food tour to try the “ins” of the best local food joints in Old Town Hoi An. It was a walking tour where our guide led us around Old Town to try the best Banh Mi, White Rose, Banh Xeo, and Chicken Rice, amongst other things. It was fun to meet other tourists on the same tour and to try the food together, but most of the food certainly didn’t feel like “the best” that we’ve eaten in Hoi An, except for the Chicken Rice which was indeed the VERY BEST we’ve had.
4. Tailor Shops–one of the things Hoi An is known for are their many tailor shops around town. You can get custom suits, dresses, or entire outfits made-to-order in just a day or two. Having known this prior to our arrival in Hoi An, Bridgette had already proclaimed this as a “must-do” on our trip. She and Ruby designed their own dresses, and took their sketches to a highly rated tailor shop that we found on Tripadvisor, name Future Clothes Shop. The owner, Quyen, was remarkably welcoming, and loved that the girls came with their own unique designs. She helped the girls in selecting the right fabric, had them measured accurately, and then asked us to return the next day for a fitting. The whole process was quite fun for the girls, and the dresses turned out great! We didn’t bargain, because we really liked Quyen, and the prices she quoted felt reasonable (USD $20/dress).
5. Clover’s Farm School–because the Kemps were staying in Hoi An for several months, they had enrolled Ruby into a local farm retreat school name Clover’s Farm several times a week. When we were visiting, Ruby was keen on bringing Bridgette to school with her, so it was very cool that the girls got several days of local schooling together! Many of the kids at Clover’s Farm were either worldschoolers as well, or kids of local expats, so English was still the primary language there. It was a very small school with some formal lessons, but mostly a free environment for the kids to play in nature. We happened to be in Hoi An right before their Chinese New Year (aka Tết) which is a really big deal there, so the girls got to learn a lot about the Vietnamese culture in celebrating Tết.
6. Thanh Ha Pottery Village–this would probably be at the very lowest on our list because the whole village was kind of confusing. Upon arrival, you don’t really know where to go. We entered the village from where we thought was the main entrance, and found most of the village houses deserted. The first one that we came across that was occupied had a local family, and though they did not speak one word of English, they were very friendly in trying to get us to go in. We paid a small fee for the girls to create their own pottery vases from an old fashion pottery wheel there, and that was fun for them. However, because we couldn’t communicate with the family at all, they gave us the vases before the vases were dry, which didn’t hold up well. So, I would suggest going for the experience if you’re keen on trying a pottery wheel, but manage your expectations on the final take home product.
7. Day trip to My Son–we hired a driver to take us to My Son for a day. The drive was about 1 hour 15 minutes each way, which was not bad at all. En route to My Son, the driver stopped at this local restaurant for our lunch, and we had one of the most delicious Pho Ga (Chicken Noodles) ever!
We went on a cloudy weekday, so My Son was very quiet. We spent some time in the museum, reading up on My Son’s history, and then hiked through the lush grounds to view the ruins.
And that concludes our awesome week in Hoi An! We definitely want to go back again one day, and perhaps make our way to Southern Vietnam next time!