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Alice Jakowitsch and Angie Gaebler are best friends. They know better than anyone that good company equals great travel, and on a recent trip to Vietnam they explored the very best of Hoi An.
If you too are planning a Vietnam holiday, here are the top spots they hung out - and you should too.
1. The deets
If you like your tourist spots a little less touristy than most, Hoi An grips onto tradition with a firm determination.
Good looks and charisma
Of course, with its striking good looks, a riverside setting on lantern lit water and more wealth than your average Vietnamese township, it’s not like the tourists don’t flock here - they come in droves - but they haven’t, as yet, hindered Hoi An’s peaceful charm. Elegant and graceful, this former port remains unburdened by tourism. Void of high rises, cheap gimmicks are ignored in favour of crooked architecture and time-worn aesthetics. The traditional yellow buildings are still yellow and the restaurants spill chaotically onto the streets, unhindered by traffic. The narrow roads look little different from their 17th century heyday. It’s a time warp; a fusion of traditional and the transitional.
2. The treats
The Nam Hai Hoi An Hotel. Hai indeed! Hello and how do you do. This is refined hotel luxury at its most inviting.
Somewhere to lay your head
Shall we start with the villas? All 100 of them. Pristinely scattered across 35 hectares of lush green landscape, fronting the beach and graced with traditional Vietnamese ascents, they’re inspired by classical garden houses. Boasting private tropical gardens and outdoor rain showers. Oh and there's a butler assigned to every pool villa. Feeling like your Feng Shui is a little out of whack? No bother, call the butler and he’ll rearrange the way your bed curtains are draped.
Luxe amenities come in the shape of three swimming pools, a spa, tennis court and a library. Pick out a book and take it to the beach, it’s only a 30-second saunter away. And with three unique dining venues, your taste buds are also in for a treat. Come sundown descend onto The Bar (aptly named don’t you think? They don’t mince their words at The Nam Hai). With a creative list of cocktails, its elevated position affords stunning views across lush water gardens.
3. The eats
The whole of Hoi An is an incredible menu of flavour.
First things first though - staying hydrated. Nuoc mia will keep you in fine form. Made from sugar cane, you’ll easily spot nuoc mia carts dotted across the township because they’re typically covered in garish neon lights. The stall owners crush sugarcane stalks using a hand-cranked machine and then add kumquat juice, a sprinkle of salt and lots of ice.
There aren’t enough words allocated for this article to list all the ‘must-eats’ in Hoi An, but stand outs include street food at Central Market (Nguyen Hue and Tran Phu Streets) which dishes out everything from white rose dumplings to Cao Lau, a local speciality composed of Cao Lầu noodles, barbecue pork, pork crackling, bean sprouts, lettuce, herbs and stock.
And a spoonful of sugar...
And then there’s Xi Ma – a dessert of black sesame seeds, sugar, pennywort and, wait for it, Chinese medicine. Is that a pudding or a potion? Either way, it’s X-rated food porn. Make your way to Nguyen Truong To Street and you’ll find a stall that’s been serving bowls of this gloopy elixir for almost one hundred years. They make just enough to sell out every day, so get there early.
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