In late April and early May of 2016, Eila and I spent three weeks in Vietnam and Cambodia. It was our first time in either country, and to say that it blew us away — in all facets — would be an understatement. If you’ve been to either country, then you know. If you haven’t, then let us help show you the way. Our flight path led us from Hamburg to Dubai to Saigon (also know as Ho Chi Minh City). Our initial stay in Saigon was short lived, as we would return for a few days at the end of the trip. So after a quick dinner and a few hours of sleep near Saigon’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport, we flew north early the next morning to Hoi An.
Hoi An is located along Vietnam’s central coast, and it’s a town that seems to be trapped in the past — in a good way. The architecture in the old town is a mix of Vietnamese, French, Chinese, and Japanese styles. Small canals, historic bridges, and wooden architecture all contribute to making it a wonderful example of a traditional Asian trading port.
It’s also important to mention that Hoi An is a culinary paradise. We feasted on all kinds of delicious food during our stay. Bánh bao bánh vạc, otherwise known as “White Rose” dumplings, were definitely a highlight, but we also enjoyed an incredible seafood salad with glass noodles, bánh xèo (savory fried pancakes), various papaya salads, and steamed bao buns with pork belly. If you have the chance to visit Hoi An and you love food, here are three restaurants that you shouldn’t skip:
On our last day in Hoi An, we took part in a Vietnamese cooking class through My Grandma’s Home Cooking. The class included a trip to the local market in the early morning. Mornings aren’t my favorite, so I decided to skip the market and sleep in, but Eila went and had a fantastic time.
After the market tour, we met back up and boarded a small boat with a handful of other people. The class itself took place at the guide’s family home on a small island on the river delta. We first learned how to grind rice flour the old-fashioned way, and then we each had a chance at making actual rice paper over a small fire.
For the main part of the cooking class, we made bánh xèo, grilled pork satay, green papaya salad, and a traditional fish stew from Hoi An. For only about 25€ each, it was a great introduction to Vietnamese cooking and a worthwhile investment if you’re new to Vietnamese cuisine.