Hoi An Roastery Cafe Review Hoi An

review cafe hoi an roastery

Best for: Vietnamese coffee, International coffee, cakes, lunch, solo coffee outings

The beautiful lantern filled ancient town of Hoi An in Vietnam is somewhere that holds  a special place in my heart. It was a place that I had been desperate to visit for long time and when I went there on my solo travels in Asia Last year, I loved it even more than I’d expected to- in fact I loved it so much that I stayed twice the length of time that I’d originally intended. So, what makes Hoi An so special?

What I loved moved about Hoi An was its sheer beauty. Narrow lanes, covered in colourful hanging lanterns, with a little river running through the centre of it. There’s no denying that the town is touristy but having said this, it somehow manages to maintain its authenticity. I loved tucking into a big bowl of noodles at the bustling Central Market in the day, perusing the night market in the evenings and of course exploring the many wonderful cafes that Hoi An has to offer.

There are a lot of places to get your caffeine fix in Hoi An and out of all them, Hoi An Roastery was my favourite.  It’s actually a local cafe chain and they have six locations in the town but my favourite one was their original location by the Japanese bridge. I came here most days to  read my book and enjoy a Ca Phe Sua Da or an egg coffee.

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review cafe an hoi roastery an hoi

review cafe an hoi roasters an hoi

The Decor

What I loved about Hoi An Roastery was the way that it managed to look really contemporary yet still in keeping with Hoi An’s traditional buildings. All of the cafes locations are all really spacious, light and open plan. That means that even if it rains- and when I was in Vietnam it rained a lot- it still felt like I was outside in the hustle and bustle of the towns streets even if I sat inside. Each and every one of the cafes locations offers a different scenic view of Hoi An. The cafe by the Japanese Bridge was my favourite for people watching but I also loved the upstairs balcony on the one by temple and the views over the river from its riverside location too.

The Menu

Hoi An Roastery specialises in great coffee- in fact they source their own beans from nearby in Dalat, roast them in Hoi An and they have the best range of coffees around. While I would always advise to stick to the more traditional Vietnamese coffees (because once you get a taste for Vietnamese condensed milk coffee there is no going back), they also do fantastic espresso based coffees, great for travellers missing a taste of home. They also offer a section of sandwiches, traditional Vietnamese dishes and cakes. My advice- get the banana bread.

I’m not going to sit back and pretend these are the cheapest cafes in Hoi An- the little street side stalls frequented by the locals will always be your best bet, Hoi An Roastery’s cafes are however, still fairly cheap and as a chain, it beats Starbucks anytime.

How To Order Coffee In Vietnam

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Vietnam coffee guide: From Hanoi to Hue, How to order coffee like a pro in Vietnam (and where to get it from)

Whenever people ask me what my favourite destination I’ve travelled to so far is, I struggle but I usually come to the same answer: Vietnam, and that’s mainly for the coffee.

When I turned up to Hanoi in October as part of my first solo backpacking trip, it was an assault on the senses. Hanoi’s old quarter is a labyrinth of crazy chaotic roads, motorbikes coming at you from all directions, women selling eels at the side of the road, little alleyways with mismatched shops and street side restaurants with people perched on low seats slurping bowls of pho.

I was captivated straight away and couldn’t stop walking around with a huge grin on my face, although the traffic did take a little getting used to. (I spent the first evening eating a bowl of cereal for dinner because I couldn’t cross the junction to get to the restaurants).

However the one place I found solace in the city chaos was in the coffee shops. Coffee in Vietnam is as big as tea in England and wow, the coffee was good. There are so many different ways to have coffee in Vietnam and I couldn’t wait to try them all. What’s best is that coffee in the country is so dangerously cheap, (Costing around 20,000 dong or 66p) so it wont even make a dent in your budget.

Heres my guide to how to order coffee in Vietnam

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Egg coffee at Cafe Pho Co, Hanoi

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Egg coffee (Ca Phe Trung)

I will always remember my first coffee in Hanoi. It was an egg coffee or (Ca Phe Trung) at Cafe Pho Co. I’d read about this cafe and its trademark coffee in my Lonely Planet guide and finding it was a real adventure. Located by the Hoan Kiem lake the entrance to this hidden gem is entered via a silk shop that I only found by putting its location into google maps.

At first I wasnt sure if I was in the right place and as I walked in to the shop I was almost run over by a man on a motorbike who came racing past me out of the door. Welcome to the craziness that is Vietnam! I  kept walking through a narrow corridor and then sure enough the shop opened up into a beautiful cafe courtyard with a winding stair case going up several floors. I wandered up to the top floor where I was met with breathtaking views of the lake and I attempted to order my first egg coffee, with my very limited Vietnamese.

If you love coffee then you have to try egg coffee in Vietnam. I had no idea what to expect but I absolutely loved it.  This drink is particularly popular in Northern Vietnam and the consistency of the drink is that of a wet meringue but it has a sweet yet deep coffee taste that makes it totally addictive.

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Traditonal ‘Phin’ coffee at breakfast

Hot Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk (Ca Phe Sua nong: Translates as Coffee, Milk, hot)

I first got addicted to condensed milk in drinks in Thailand where it is used to sweeten the ashy coloured Thai milk tea, but Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk is something else. This is the most common way to have coffee and I go served this numerous times in restaurants, hostels and cafes.

The coffee is filtered through a Phin (picture above) which is placed on top of a cup that already layer of condensed milk in it. When the coffee has filtered through, simply mix it with the milk. If you’re not keen on milk then you can ask for this black (ca phe den nong: This translates as coffee, black, hot). This will come sweetened. I tried ordering this without any sugar once (when I was trying to be healthy) but it’s just not nice. Vietnamese coffee isn’t like at home and the pure coffee is bitter and sour rather than smooth and sweet like an espresso.IMG_1476.jpg

Iced Vietnamese coffee (White: Ca Phe Sua Da) or (Black: Ca Phe Den Da)

Iced Vietnamese coffee is another really popular drink served in cafes. In fact one day I went to a little roadside cafe filled with locals and no menu and simply asked for coffee and this is what I got. This iced drink is served in a tall cup with the condensed milk already added, so it is lighter in colour. It usually comes with a free glass of iced tea (Something sold for next to nothing in most restaurants too).

If you don’t want milk then order it black (Ca Phe Den Da: Den being black and da iced). This comes with some sugar added, you can usually choose how much e.g medium sweet. Again I wouldn’t recommend having it without any sugar in, it just isn’t nice.

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Iced coconut coffees at Hoi An Roastery, Hoi An
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Cafe Nola, Hanoi

Coconut Iced Coffee

Out of all of the towns in Vietnam, the enchanting riverside town of Hoi An is the coffee capital and one of the best drinks that I had there was a coconut Iced coffee. This fantastically decadent drink is made from a mix of coffee, thick coconut milk and condensed milk. It’s really more of a dessert than a drink and sitting out in the sun with one of these, well you can’t really beat that. The best places that I had these were at two local Hoi An coffee chains: Hoi An Roastery and Cocobox. All of their cafes are fantastic places to people watch with extensive menus serving everything from local coffee, tea to all the basics like Lattes and cappuccino

Espresso based coffee

Sometimes when you’re travelling for a while all you want is a normal coffee just like at home. There are plenty of places that you can satisfy your caffeine craving in Vietnam. If you’re after somewhere a little more culturally enriching than Starbucks then I recommend the Highlands coffee chain. This Vietnamese coffee chain has locations all over the country from Ho Chi Minh city to Hue and Hanoi. They have both the traditional Phin filter coffees and espresso based coffees such an Americanos, lattes and cappuccinos.

If you don’t have dairy then don’t worry as soya milk is very popular in Vietnam so it shouldn’t be an issue. I really loved this place because they give you a little phone that rings when your order is ready, it’s usually full of younger locals and they have great wi-fi. I sheltered in one of these cafes when I got caught in a typhoon in Hue.

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Goc Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City

So that’s it: Now you’re already to go to Vietnam and order some coffee for yourself. I hope this post has inspired you to dive straight into the country’s fantastic coffee culture. Vietnam is a country that runs on coffee, they produce it, they drink it and they value it and as fast paced, hectic and chaotic a country it might be, sitting in a cafe waiting for the coffee to filter through a phin, that’s when Vietnam slows down.

Why not step inside some of Vietnams best cafes and read my cafe reviews here.

 

 

Checking into paradise: The One Resort

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If you’re walking down the white sand beach of Saracen Bay, Koh Rong Sanloem, Cambodia, then there’s one resort that will catch your eye. Right on the beachfront, overlooking the ocean, is a stylishly unimposing resort with an air of superiority to it. What strikes you first is the infinity pool. Turquoise blue, facing out into the horizon of the empty sea and looking so inviting you’d do anything to be one of those people hanging on to its edge, cocktail in hand, gazing out at the ocean.

The One Resort is one of the most exclusive hotels on the tiny paradise that is Koh Rong Sanloem, a serene and relatively untouched Cambodian island on the gulf of Thailand. With it’s pool, luxury beach bungalows, exceptional service and gourmet food,  it’s not hard to see why The One Resort is the premier hotel on the bay.

Complimentary welcome drink in hand, we’re walked to our luxury bungalow where we’ll spend the night. The room is spacious and elevated off the sand, giving it a sense of grandeur. It’s in keeping with the island enough that you can kid yourself you’re a beach bum, but it has enough luxuries and comforts to make sure you don’t look like one.

Back in the main building, there’s never a chance to forget that you’re on an island. Whatever you do, it is always accompanied by views of the ocean. The in house restaurant is one of the best on the island, serving up a wide range of freshly made dishes, from local Cambodian cuisine to handmade artisan pizzas, all served with panoramic ocean views. The cocktail menu is exquisite, but by no means purse friendly.

Don’t visit The One Resort for a productive sightseeing day. Don’t visit the island for a productive day really. Koh Rong Sanloem is a place to enjoy pure and utter isolation and escape from every day life, and what better place to do that than in the confines of the most luxurious resort on the island?

On windy days, expect a long walk back to catch your ferry. The resort has it’s own boat but this will not operate if the sea is rough. The long walk is the price to have to pay for the isolation that comes from staying at the far end of the beach.

Fancy your own trip to paradise?

Rooms start from 85 USD per night:  http://theone-resort.com/en/home/

One Week In Cambodia Travel Guide

IMG_5723I didn’t really know what to expect from Cambodia before I went. I didn’t know much about the country, about the people or about the food. To make it even more intriguing, Cambodia causes quite a divide between travellers between those that really love it to those that really hate it. There’s no denying that it’s one of the poorer countries in the region. Years of oppression and genocide have set it back a lot of years and it is much less developed in comparison to neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam. It’s poverty means that it is more a more dangerous country. As a traveller you do have to exercise more caution. Everything takes a little more planning. Despite its poverty, Cambodia is one of the more expensive countries to travel in as tourist prices are in US dollars and not the local currency, Cambodian Riel.

As my trip around Asia drew to an end, fitting in Cambodia was a bit of a squeeze into the last week of my trip. One week is nowhere near enough to see this diverse and untamed country but it was enough time for me to fall in love with its craziness and  rugged beauty and to make me want to go back.

Here’s my guide on how to have the best week ever in Cambodia.

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Booming, intriguing, chaotic, Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh is where you will enter from Vietnam, and makes a good place to start your adventure. Welcome to the city where cows roam the street, where your tuk tuk drives down the wrong side of the road and where street food bears more resemblance to an anatomy lesson than to dinner. More so than any other place in Cambodia, Phnom Penh is haunted by its horrific past. Most tuk tuk drivers make their money from ferrying tourists between the sombre killing fields and to the well preserved S-21 prison. Examples of extreme poverty can be seen everywhere. Children who should be learning in school are playing on the streets. Many families are still torn apart from the Khmer Rouge regime, yet to be united.  However as it remembers it past, Phnom Penh continues to grow. Huge skyscrapers, shopping malls, hotels and apartment blocks are springing up. Increased tourism is bringing money and Phnom Penh is starting to change.

  • Spend a couple of night soaking up the craziness of the city. There’s plenty of hostels to choose from but I would really recommend staying In Mad Monkey Hostel. It’s around Seven USD a night and is very central: great for meeting people. The staff here will help you organise everything from day trips to buses.
  • The best way to visit The Killing Fields and S-21 is by hiring a tuk tuk driver for the day. I paid 15 USD and shared the cost with another girl. Make sure you clear a whole day to visit both of these.
  • If you’re travelling alone, and particularly if you’re female, it’s not advisable to wander around the city alone. Think about booking onto a walking tour to see the modern city from the perspective of a local. I paid Three USD for my sunset walking tour organised through the hostel which was fascinating.

The Islands

If you have more time then head down to Kampot, a sleepy city in the South, known for its colonial buildings, pepper plantations and laid back vibe.  If you haven’t got the time,  and if the beach is calling then it’s time to head down to Sihanoukville. The only way really to get there from Phnom Penh is by bus. Don’t risk it and take the public bus, they’re not safe and there’s plenty of horror stories online. Pay the bit extra and book a bus with a private bus company. The Ibis and the Mekong Express are both reputable companies and you can book these online at bookmebus.com, through a travel agent or via your hostel. The journey takes about 6 hours.

Sihanoukville in itself is nothing more than a pit stop to get to the Cambodian islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem.  Located on the gulf of Thailand, these islands are shockingly lush and beautiful with long stretches of white sand and secluded beaches. Some say they bear resemblance to the Thailand islands before they became so popular. The two islands has somewhat of a cult following behind them and many people absolutely love one but hate the other and vice versa.

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Koh Rong is the bigger of the two islands and the one I went to first. It’s known as the party island and it lives up to its reputation. By day the island has a low-key vibe. Little bars and cafes line the small of beach at the harbour, the ‘town centre’ of Koh Rong. The island has become a little oasis for hippies and for backpackers that have just stopped. It’s got a friendly atmosphere to it but even by day the accumulation of bars along the seafront indicates that alcohol is very much at the centre of this island.

If partying isn’t really your thing then you may want to head straight to Koh Rong Sanloem. Alternatively you can stay on one of the quite beaches on Koh Rong, located the other side from the strip. Most of these are private beaches with one resort. Make sure to check with the hotel or hostel how to get there though. These beaches are accessible by boat only and hailing a taxi boat on arrival can be expensive. You’re usually looking at about 30 USD. One way.

There are two daily crossings between koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem. The times vary but you can book these at the port. This was by no way a pleasant journey and by no means really a cheap one either. I paid around 7 USD for my hour-long endurance in what was essentially a supply boat, but this is the only option. Expect a choppy, unenjoyable and vaguely terrifying journey. It will be worth it when you get there. IMG_3467.JPGIMG_3072IMG_3061.JPGIMG_3476.JPGIMG_3115

Koh Rong Sanloem was my favourite of the two islands. It’s a serene, tranquil, beautiful little paradise. It’s the kind of island that you’d dream about going to if you were having a nervous breakdown. Even on the main beach, Saracen Bay, there are limited resorts and even more limited wi-fi. You’ll arrive at one end of this crescent-shaped bay and the 3 Kilometre white sand beach will stretch out in front of you. I stayed for two nights here but I could have stayed much longer. The same as with Koh Rong, if you are looking for complete and utter isolation then you can opt to stay on another beach further around the coast but again, make sure to work out how to get there. Unlike in Koh Rong, there aren’t even many expensive taxi boats to hail down. The boat from Koh Rong may be able to drop you at your beach but you need to pre-arrange this.

Saracen bay in itself is beautiful and quiet anyway so I would probably suggest making your life easier and staying there. Accommodation starts from cheapest near the pier, getting more expensive and high-end as you progress up the bay. The Beach Island Resort is a great budget option and will make you feel like you’re playing a part in a desert island movie. I’d heard great reviews online about this little place, offering beach bungalows and dorms right on the beachfront, and it didn’t disappoint.

For night two, I wanted a little luxury. I’d been walking down the beach, past all the fancy hotels and I was  jealous. Right at the end, the resort that really caught my eye was a particularly plush looking one with a beachfront infinity pool and luxury bungalows called The One Resort. I decided I had to live it up for one night. Look out for my guide: Checking in to paradise, for more information on this.

By now you should have a bit of a tan and your week in Cambodia is nearing an end which means there’s only one place left to go: Siem Reap. It would be criminal to visit Cambodia and not visit Angkor Wat, the symbol of the country and one of the great wonders of the world.

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Located just outside of Siem Reap, the temples of Angkor are vast, romantic and captivating. Over a thousand years old, they once made up the largest city in the world. Now they are overgrown and crumbling, but even more impressive. Even in the largest Angkor Wat temple, it is spookily tranquil. Trees grow through brickwork, crumbling corridors come out at little shrines, colossal staircases open onto captivating views. It would take days to see all of the temples that once made up this city but if you’ve only got one day then you can still get a good sense of the scale and significance of the place.

The best way to visit the temples is by hiring a tuk tuk driver for the day. Ask your accommodation to book one or hail one down yourself and negotiate a price. You’re usually looking at 15-20 USD for the day. My driver took me on a small tour to the most popular temples. Unless you plan on watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat, it’s a good idea to do the tour backwards, ending with the most impressive main temple. I started off visiting smaller temples, Ta Keo and Ta Phrom before heading on to Bayon. This was probably my favourite temple, in which the crumbling pillars are adorned with colossal faces that give the place a slightly macabre feeling to it.

I headed to Angkor Wat last. The long walkway to this temple is a spectacle in itself and the sense of anticipation build in me as I walked there. Outside, the scale of the temple is massive and it’s presence feels ominous. Inside it is serene and mysterious. For one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world, it doesn’t feel like it once you get inside. It is  silent apart from the odd whisper and with buddha statues, monks giving blessings, crumbling pillars and the smell of burning incense, it’s hard to not feel spiritually enlightened. The temple runs on four floors with a steep and difficult climb to the top-level. This is supposed to illustrate that reaching the heavens is not easy.  The views over the grounds are worth the arduous climb.

I felt quite overwhelmed when I left Angkor Wat. I think it’s hard to come to a place as impressive and significant as it is and not reflect.  Angkor Wat is the national symbol. It is even featured on its flag. In recent years, Cambodia has faced unbelievable suffering, poverty and hardship but these temples pre date that and remain preserved today, fighting to survive as the jungle tries to reclaim them and pull them into oblivion. These Temples are an example of the strength that Cambodia and its people have shown and an example of how throughout time, oppression and genocide,  Cambodia’s faith remains at its core.

 

  • Got more time?

Head up to the quirky and low-key city of Battambang in Northern Cambodia.

Time to move on?  Siem Reap is one of the easiest places to cross into Thailand from, with regular buses going to Bangkok.

 

Why Hoi An Is My Favourite Place Ever

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When I was planning my Vietnam trip, Hoi An was the place I was looking forward to most. Everyone that had ever been to Vietnam had said it was their favourite city and I couldn’t wait to walk around the dreamy, lantern filled streets. Sadly,  I didn’t account for the typhoon that hit central Vietnam while I was there, which meant I had to go straight from North to South of the country.  A week later I heard Hoi An had cleared up and although it meant going completely out of my way, flying from Ho Chi Minh to Hoi An, so that I could then fly back to Ho Chi Minh to go to Cambodia a week later, I decided that I couldn’t miss it.

It’s sunset when I eventually arrive in Hoi An and the sky is a beautiful shade of pink. When I get to the waterfront Hoi An takes my breath away.

Lanterns everywhere light up this little city. Their colours reflect in the river that runs through this Unesco world heritage site and in the background someone’s playing the guitar. I feel like I’ve walked straight onto a movie set. On the river are little long tail boats taking people down the water, on which little coloured lanterns lit by candle are floating. In the centre street vendors are selling sweet banana crepes at the night market and high-end restaurants and low-key bars are filling up with people.

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IMG_2350.JPG Hoi An’s old town is a Unesco world heritage site. It’s free to explore but if you want to visit the museums and five ancient houses then you need to buy an entrance ticket costing 120,000 VND.IMG_2354IMG_2355.JPG

There’s nothing that symbolises Hoi An better than Lanterns. originally the locals, started to hang them as they believed that they bring happiness, health and good luck if they have them outside of the house. Now lanterns have become an iconic landmark for tourists and the crowds pile into the night market every evening to take photos and to watch them being hand-made.

Even the bigger ones fold up pretty compactly, making them easy to transport back home. Or fancy trying your hand at making your own? Try one of the many popular lantern making classes.

 

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One of the best things to do in Hoi An is people watch, and there’s no shortage of places to do that from. The centre of the city is car free meaning it’s the easiest of places to wander around. Hoi An boasts many museums that paint an interesting depiction of life in the city, back in the past. As well as being fascinating in themselves, most of these museums offer great views over the city streets from their balcony’s and windows.

 

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Although distinctively Vietnamese, Hoi An’s strong foreign influence can be easily spotted throughout the city. If visiting the city it’s impossible to miss the beautiful and ornate Japanese covered bridge as well as it’s many Chinese temples such as Cam Pho and Quan Cong.

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Hoi An’s location in Vietnam and it’s proximity to the river mean that it’s prone to flooding. However the water clears up pretty quickly when this happens. Hoi An was flood free when I visited until the day that I left. I got down to near the waterfront and couldn’t understand why everything suddenly felt different and I felt complete lost with where abouts I was.

When I walked down a little, I realised what had been one of the central streets was now the waterfront and the front two streets had been engulfed by water. The locals are pretty resilient when it comes to dealing with this, and boats take the places of bicycle’s on the streets. Still, the economic cost of loss of trade can be massive for the cafes and restaurants on the river front.

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Hoi An has countless places to eat, from fancy restaurants and wine bars, to cheap dishes at The Central Market and snacks from street vendors. More than anything, Hoi An is a place to satisfy your sweet tooth.  Spending some time in one of the many cafes and dessert eateries and bakeries is a must do.

Make sure to try the vegan coconut milk coffee at one of the Hoi An Roastery cafes and a raw pressed juice at Cocobox when you need to detox from the sugar.  The ‘Watermelon Men’ one is so refreshing. You also have to visit the Cargo Club to try their infamous desserts. The mango cheesecake is insane. It goes without saying that visiting Vietnam without trying a banana crepe topped with condensed milk at the night market is a crime. They make the perfect post cocktail snack.

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Hoi An fun fact number one: There are over 100,000 bicycles on the roads in the city. So although you don’t need to watch out for cars in the old town, take care not to get run over by bicycles while snapping your pics.

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If you’ve got the time then why not take one of the boat rides down the river once the sun goes down? There’s plenty of people offering these and they won’t set you back much money for a half an hour or so.

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If you walk around Hoi An at night, you may see local people burning fires outside of their houses. Many families burn ghost money made from paper and other paper items in vats, believing that it will pass to deceased relatives and be deposited for themselves in the afterlife. In Hoi An this act has a romantic and dreamy connotation to it.

 

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Hoi An’s Central Market is the best place to grab something to eat, with most meals costing just 30,000 VND. The local specialities that you must try are; Cao Lau, chewy noodles in a flavoursome sauce, usually served with pork and fresh greens and White Rose shrimp dumplings which are delicate, light and flavoursome.

You also can’t visit Vietnam without trying a Banh Mi, and Hoi An is the perfect place to have one. A tribute to Vietnam’s French influence, these soft baguettes are sliced open and filled with delicious fillings like pork or pate, and then topped with fresh herbs, veg and sauces. They can be picked up from a street vendor at any hour of the day. Opinions are divided between where the best Banh Mi is: Banh Mi Phuong or Madam Khanh. So I guess you just have to try both.

 

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Hoi An translates as ‘peaceful meeting place’ and it’s fair to say that it would be hard to come to the city and feel stressed. If you’re feeling inspired to visit, (how can you not?), then the best way to get there is by flight into Danang city airport and then by bus or taxi from the airport to Hoi An’s centre. The journey takes around 40 minutes. Wondering where to go next? Head North to the imperial city of Hue or South to the beaches of Nha Trang.

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Life on a desert island: The ultimate Halong Bay experience

IMG_1271IMG_1017IMG_2765IMG_2125IMG_1024 IMG_1022.PNG I’m still half asleep as I blink open my eyes in the morning. It still feels like night but the sun is starting to rise and daylight is streaming in through the window.
I check my watch. It’s 5:30, the time our guide said to wake up if we wanted to witness the most spectacular sunrise. Considering we’d all been sat around a campfire just hours before, I hadn’t thought that a possibility. I peer around the room at the only other 15 people on this island but I am the only one awake: perks of the window side bed. Within minutes the sky has gone from grey to bright pink, and I watch the sunrise in solitude from the comfort of my bed.

I booked this tour a couple of days ago, unsure of anything apart  from the fact it would take us by boat to Lan Ha island, “the new halong bay.” Identical in every sense, apart from the tourist numbers.

The travel agent explained, ‘you get what you pay for’ when I booked my trip, so considering what I paid, it’s safe to say I was a little dubious. However within a few minutes of sailing from the port, we’re already in the depths of some postcard worthy islands and chatting away over lunch. I’d seen pictures of these islands but nothing could prepare me for the sheer beauty of them as we sailed through.

Our first stop was kayaking, off a little cluster of wooden boards nailed together in the centre of the ocean but called a ‘fishing village’. We were given no instructions apart from to follow our guide, before we were pushed off into kayaks within a matter of minutes and set off sailing into the heart of these islands.

The islands are immense and block out the sun as we sail though and the two of us in the kayak can’t help but stop rowing and just sit for a moment. Of course, no suprise, we’re back of the group. We come to a rock, no higher than my head, and seeing the last of our groups kayaks glide underneath, we follow. Inside this cave it is eerie, yet beautiful and the sun at the end of this cave, that seems to go on for ever, gives the impression of moonlight on the water. When we emerge the scene is even more beautiful, and remote than the last.

I don’t think any of us had given much thought to where we were spending the night. Our guide said we were staying on Cat Ong, a private island situated opposite popular Cat Ba Island, a watersports hub. Like I said, I was forever sceptical.

The sun was already almost down when we arrived at the island. To my suprise, it really was a private island. There was a little stretch of sand, with small bungalows and a larger main building to eat in. Apart from that it was free of infrastructure, wifi and phone signal.  It’s fair to say we all felt like we were in a adventure movie.

After a late evening chatting and drinking a lot of beers around be campfire, watching sunrise the next morning and then falling sleep again, it was breakfast of banana pancakes and condensed milk coffee.

Key, our guide said that we could either sunbathe or choose to go on a short and easy hike to the viewpoint.
I chose the latter. About an hour later, after literally climbing up semi vertical rocks as sharp as knifes and walking through some very questionable looking paths, we finally arrive at the viewpoint. When I got my breathe back, the view was spectacular. From this point we could see all across the island and over the sea on to Cat Ba Island. With its tall hotels and it’s infrastructure, it looked like a world away from our little sanctuary, hidden from civilisation.

Want your own desert island experience? Book this trip with Ocean tours, Vietnam. Prices start from 99 USD.