Exploring Vietnam: One Day At A Time | Day 3 to 5 At Hoi An

Day 3 in Hoi An started at a much slower pace. We woke up quite early and decided to explore the Ancient Town in the morning, take some good photos, and enjoy a hearty breakfast before starting our office work.

A short bike ride brought us to Chợ Hội An (Hoi An market), situated in the heart of the old town. This local market sells everything from fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers to fish and poultry. Notably, Lonely Planet has marked it as a ‘food paradise’. Witnessing the slow unfolding of daily life here was fascinating, with people chatting, enjoying breakfast, selling goods, and often calling out to tourists to buy souvenirs!

After wandering around the market, we headed straight to Namto House Coffee for a caffeine fix. One sip of the Cà phê sữa đá (Vietnamese iced coffee) and my day was made! 

[Coffee for 2 at Namto House: 90,000 VND (290 INR approx)]

We sat there for quite some time, discussing an interesting observation we had made over the last couple of days. Most cafes in Hoi An have seating arrangements where people face the street instead of each other.

Imagine being on a coffee date, but instead of looking at each other, both of you are sipping your coffee and enjoying the street view – interesting, right?

Finishing our coffee, we headed to Bánh Mì Sum, one of the most popular food carts in Hoi An, known for its traditional Vietnamese baguettes. Almost like a sandwich, my bánh mì was loaded with shredded chicken, grilled pork, eggs, and vegetables, all topped with delicious sauces. Sourav opted for a vegetarian bánh mì, filled with cheese, chili, and vegetables. It was the perfect breakfast we had been craving!

[Bánh Mì for 2: 70,000 VND (230 INR approx)]

It was nearly noon in Hoi An, and my work calls were about to start. Sourav dropped me off at our homestay and headed to the beach for a ride. He returned a couple of hours later with a fresh coconut, which was our lunch that day!

Around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, darkness began to set in, accompanied by the sound of thunder. Within half an hour, it started raining heavily.

I wrapped up my work and waited for the rain to stop, but there were no signs of a pause. Standing on the balcony, I watched the neighborhood getting drenched as the narrow lane turned into a tiny stream. It rained throughout the evening, making it impossible to go out, so we turned it into a perfect Netflix-and-chill evening! We tried to order food on Grab but couldn’t find anything decent near our place, except for one Indian restaurant. With no other options, we ordered rice and daal – and enjoyed a comfort meal.

Day 3 in Hoi An was indeed slow, and peaceful.

After the heavy downpour, the weather had become more pleasant, and the next morning was comparatively soothing. It was day 4 in Hoi An, and as usual, we began with a morning ride to the Ancient Town in search of some good coffee. Our destination was Hoi An Roastery, hailed as ‘one of the best coffee shops in Hoi An’ on Google. Nestled in one of the ochre-colored lanes, it offered a charming space to momentarily escape the hustle and bustle of Hoi An in the morning. With a variety of coffee options, Hoi An Roastery seemed like a haven for true coffee aficionados. I ordered a coconut cream coffee while Sourav opted for a Vietnamese iced coffee. We lingered there for a while, and I kicked off my Wednesday hustle while savoring my coffee.

[Coffee for 2 at Hoi An Roastery: 115,000 VND (375 INR approx)]

The clouds and the sun continued to play hide and seek, and as a light drizzle began, we opted to retreat to our homestay for a peaceful work session. Along the way, we made a pit stop at Cafe Tuấn for a quick lunch. With bowls of beef phở and vegetable noodles warming our stomachs, we felt happily satiated and ready to dive into our tasks until evening. The plan was to venture out in the evening and immerse ourselves in the enchanting Lantern Festival in Hoi An.

[Lunch at Cafe Tuấn: 190,000 VND (620 INR approx)]

Experiencing the magic of the Lantern Festival in Hoi An:

Attending the Lantern Festival was a bucket list experience for me, and when we planned our trip to explore Vietnam, I made sure we would be in town during that time of the month. The festival, occurring on the 14th day of the lunar month, held even more significance this time as it coincided with Buddha’s birthday, known as Buddha Purnima in India. Celebrated in and around the ancient town, particularly in areas near the Hoai River, the Japanese Covered Bridge, and the Hoi Bridge, the festival transformed Hoi An Ancient Town into a breathtaking spectacle. It’s difficult for me to express in words how beautiful the town became as it shone brightly with lanterns, while the harmonious melodies of local musicians danced on the breeze.

Hoi An lantern festival

History of the Hoi An Lantern Festival:

The history of the Hoi An Lantern Festival traces back to the 16th and 17th centuries when Hoi An flourished as a bustling trading post. Chinese and Japanese settlers brought with them lanterns, which they hung in front of their doors as a nostalgic reminder of their homelands.

Over time, lantern-making became a cherished tradition among local families, incorporated into their festivities and celebrations. Vietnamese locals also adopted the practice of hanging lanterns, believing it would bring good fortune and happiness. These colorful lanterns gradually became synonymous with Hoi An’s identity.

Around 1988, local authorities decided to formalize the lantern festival, scheduling it for the full moon day of each month. During the festival, residents are encouraged to replace electric lights with the warm, enchanting glow of lanterns, adding to the magical ambiance of the ancient town.

When we parked our bike, we realized it was more crowded than on previous days. Walking down one of the lanes, we saw that locals had gathered inside a temple, with the fragrance of incense filling the air. I really wanted to take a boat ride and perform the ritual of floating a paper lantern on the river, so we booked our tickets (costing 150,000 VND per person, approximately 490 INR). Floating on the river, surrounded by tiny lanterns and with the moon shining bright, felt surreal. After the 25-minute boat ride, we headed for dinner. Every restaurant had a wait time of at least 15 to 20 minutes, so we opted for a less crowded place. Walking along the alley by the river, we discovered a small, family-run restaurant with a table for two and immediately walked in.

It was a really tiny place, with just four tables. Apart from us, another Indian family was dining inside, so Sourav and I shared a smile! The menu had a wide variety of local dishes, but I opted for the seafood hotpot and he asked for a tofu and mushroom hotpot, and of course, we had to get fresh coconuts too! Soon, two steamy bowls were served to us, and we didn’t waste any time and started to binge!

[Meal for 2: 250,000 VND (820 INR approx)]

Post-dinner, we decided to take a walk, as the night was still alive. Live music filled the air at every restaurant we passed, ranging from pop to jazz and local tunes. For a while, it felt like someone had sprinkled magic over Hoi An on that night.

Day 5 started with lots of sunshine, and Sourav wanted to get coffee from Chu An, one of the most popular cafes in the Ancient Town. Without wasting much time, we took a ride and then walked to get our coconut coffee. Chu An is located right next to the river, and while Sourav fiddled with his phone and enjoyed his coffee, I watched the town slowly come back to life, after a crazy hangover from the previous night!

After we had coffee, we stepped out for a walk. The mornings there were so different from the evenings, it was sometimes difficult to relate! As we walked, we saw an old lady selling clay toys and playing a piece of soothing music. It felt as if we were drawn to her, and the next moment, Sourav was playing a similar tune! The lady was actually selling tiny clay animals and birds, each with a hollow interior, so one could blow air to generate a flute-like tune. We bought a dragon flute from her for 20,000 VND (approximately 50 INR).

old lady selling clay toys in hoi an

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