Five days in Hoi An

I spent five fun and relaxing days in Hoi An from Dec 24-29. The days were spent wandering around taking pictures while snacking on various mysterious but good and super cheap street food, eating excellent meals with friends, and playing pool until the wee hours of the morning.

Photo: Cute kid Photo: Market Photo: Hoi An Photo: Gold teeth

Hoi An is a great little town to have had as my intro to Vietnam. Its one downside may be that it’s very touristy — anywhere you go you have shopkeepers saying “hey friend, come look my store” or “you buy something!” and motorcycle taxi drivers saying “motorbike?” or “where you go”. I usually try to smile and shake my head or say no thanks but after hearing these things a few hundred times a day I just started ignoring them which also works but feels a bit rude.

I have been trying to start taking more pictures of people, but in a touristy place like this the people who make for the best photo ops know that’s the case and have turned it into a full-time job: all over town there are various grizzled old folks sitting there looking colorful waiting for someone with a camera to walk by, then asking for money once a picture has been taken. (e.g. this guy with gold teeth; he didn’t actually smoke the cigarette, it was just a prop.)

I’m not sure I want to encourage the practice of paying for photos so after the first couple people asked me for money I started avoiding anyone who might be one of these pro photo subjects. Hopefully less touristy places won’t have as many of them.

Fortunately Vietnamese parents seem to love it when you take pictures of their kids — I actually feel bad sometimes when I pass a child with my camera in hand and don’t ask to take a picture; will they think I don’t think their kid is cute enough?

On Christmas Day we did a cooking course which was really fun. We made:

  • crispy fried shrimp
  • vegetable spring rolls
  • fish soup
  • grilled fish in banana leaves

The fish soup was fantastic; I’m looking forward to making it again. We also learned how to make a tomato rose.

Photo: Cooking course Photo: Cooking course Photo: First course Photo: Fish soup

In the evenings I hung out with Roger, Marjorie and a Kiwi couple they had met earlier in the trip. Our favorite places to eat were Cafe des Amis and Tam Tam Cafe. I still can’t get over how cheap the food is — I’m sure you could eat happily and healthily for less than $2/day, and multi-course meals in nice restaurants are only $6-8. It’s actually difficult to spend $10 on a meal.

About three or four nights I ended up playing pool at Tam Tam for hours, which I loved. I have only been playing a few times a year for the last few years so my play has been inconsistent lately but I was on fire this week — I think the only guy who beat me more than once was Chef Thi from the cooking course, and he has been playing there every day for 11 years. (He said only one guy ever beat him, and that was because he cleared the table in one turn after the break.) I managed to beat Thi once, and came close a few other times. We buddied up for doubles one night and were so dominant that I was afraid these 4 guys from New York were going to start breaking things. (like me)

Good times, good times.

One morning after about an hour of sleep we did a trip to some old ruins at My Son about 35 km away. Unfortunately I was too tired to try to learn much about what we were seeing. I was glad to have gotten there before the hordes of tourists though.

On the 29th we flew to Ho Chi Minh City, a.k.a. Saigon, where we will spend New Years Eve.

Roger and Marjorie have also written about our time in Hoi An in their blog.

More photos in Hoi An

(posted Jan 4, back-dated for the weblog archive)

4 Responses to “Five days in Hoi An”

  1. ger Says:

    Can I just say how pleased I am that one of the ads that shows up on the gold teeth photo is for “Hip Hop Grills”?

  2. koalie Says:

    Well done! re: pool

    Your photos are amazing.

  3. ger Says:

    Thanks! :)

  4. jarofsugar Says:

    I am desperately looking for the Grilled Fish in Banana Leaves recipe from the cooking course. Could you please contact me by emailing at my username at Many thanks. I took this cooking class in 1997, don’t know what happended to my recipe.

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