ceF in vietnam – part 8
hoi an

October 31st, 2010 · 42 Comments

i flew into denang and have been in hoi an for nearly a week now and i must tell you that i’d been particularly looking forward to coming here ever since bourdain mentioned his love affair with this small city awhile back. it’s well located on both a river and a beach and you’d be hard pressed to find anyplace more charming.

luckily due to an agreement during the american war, this old city escaped unscathed from any active fighting keeping the ancient buildings intact. over the years due to dwindling trade the village had slid into decline but thankfully hoi an was resurrected about 15 years ago as a big tourist destination and in 1999 received unesco world heritage status. granted i’ve seen more white people here than in any other portion of my journey, yet somehow despite all the tourists and the countless souvenir shops all hawking the "same same but different" stuff, hoi an has retained an elegance that somehow combines the very old with the very new and still holds tight to all its beauty and authenticity.

i spend my days wandering about always hitting the market first to have breakfast and to revel in the simple yet highly aesthetic nature of these people. it’s a gritty kind of beauty but it draws me in. hoi an is small, with narrow streets so there are no cars allowed within parts of the ‘old city’ although motorbikes are allowed 3 days a week. you can feel the french influence in the architecture and it’s often compared to new orleans. but there is no mistaking where you are. this is vietnam...

my first two weeks here i managed to buy nothing at all. i’m traveling light and armed with michael’s measurements my only intention was to pick up a bespoke suit for him while in hoi an, a city well known for its plethora of tailor shops. the plan was to buy just one suit that i would be able to bring back with me in my modest bag.

and then i went fucking crazy. cause you know… you can take the jew out of nyc, but you can’t take the nyc out of the jew. and people, let me tell you. i have been SHOPPING. and it’s been SO MUCH FUN. you pick the fabrics and there are thousands, you pick the style, they tailor fit it to your body – and it’s pretty inexpensive… like, troi oi. i have died and gone to heaven. still though, in the midst of an exhausting shopping frenzy it’s a bit disconcerting when you ask how much that silk dress will be and the answer is 800,000. because that just really sounds like a lot to me. it’s 40 dollars.

i’m buying a cheap suitcase as well…

food. i’m supposed to be talking about food… but really, most of my food is bought on the street and i eat for one dollar when i’m feeling hungry and as much as i love the food here and could wax poetically (or try) about the herbs and the flavors, it is not the food i will remember…

it’s the colors of vietnam…

 it’s the juxtaposition of the old and the new colliding…

but mostly it’s the people of vietnam that take my breath away. and each photo has a story…

i wish you could have seen this… the woman on the left is 90 and her face was so beautiful…

the saleswoman

the paper recycler

the live chicken lady

the wine distributor

the tailors


the salt lady

but alas, a woman’s got to eat and so here are some highlights… each of these was bought on the street and comes with a glass of hot tea

beef with tomato, some kind of sausage on a fried egg served with a perfect baguette, table salad and dipping broth… 85 cents

this was a damn fine breakfast

it came from here. they’re packed up and gone by about 9am.

 a dish from hoi an, cao lau – 75 cents

made here at the market

and this woman by the river

served me this grilled pork. you roll it yourself with first a layer of dry rice paper, then fresh rice paper, the meat and the salad and then dip and eat… 1 dollar

dinner: com ga – chicken with rice and shredded pawpaw with fresh herbs and a broth with chunks of liver – really good – 1 dollar

which came from here…

bun bo – like pho but a richer broth.  my market breakfast – 75 cents

which came from here

closer pick of the market stall  – i believe that’s a pile of pork…

bahn mi – pate and pickled vegetables with herbs a bit of mayo and some sliced pork on a fresh baguette – 50 cents. i eat these often. i forgot to take a picture but they look like a sandwich. a really really good sandwich.

more to come… i need to hit the streets


Tags: asian · travel

42 responses so far ↓

  • 1 homegrown countrygirl // Nov 1, 2010 at 6:20 am

    Still enjoying your Vietnam stories and photos… thanks so much for sharing!!!

  • 2 laura // Nov 1, 2010 at 7:13 am

    just keeps getting better. Thank you!

  • 3 Tim Johanson // Nov 1, 2010 at 7:17 am

    The street food looks incredible. Way better than a dirty water hotdog that costs at least 2x as much. So when am i going to meet you? This Michael guy can’t be all that wonderful and hell, i can cook too! By the way, i agree with you. It’s always about the people.

  • 4 CeeElCee // Nov 1, 2010 at 8:10 am

    Your fearlessness never ceases to amaze me! Thanks for sharing this amazing experience so that the more timid travelers among us can enjoy it vicariously.

    p.s. I’m a 42 regular.

  • 5 Serena // Nov 1, 2010 at 8:12 am

    I just found you via Ruhlman and I must tell you, this is ONE FUN RIDE. I’m all caught up now and looking forward to 9! Thanks!

  • 6 claudia // Nov 1, 2010 at 9:23 am

    tim, the michael guy? beyond wonderful… (sorry)

  • 7 ethel // Nov 1, 2010 at 11:39 am

    You made my day with the new blog. Love all the photo’s, faces, colors, food and best of all your writing . Save some shopping for Hanoi from what I read you will shop til you drop.
    It’s all troi oi !!!!!!

  • 8 The Italian Dish // Nov 1, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    I sure am enjoying your posts!

  • 9 yveala // Nov 1, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    i’m speechless..going back to look at photos again..keep them coming.
    (and…have fun and spend – it’s only money!)

  • 10 Charles in RI // Nov 1, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    Damn fine trip you’re on. A friend of mine turned me on to your site and I am loving it. Pics are cool but your writing style is pretty fun to read. Thanks for sharing.

  • 11 AN // Nov 1, 2010 at 11:08 pm


  • 12 claudia // Nov 1, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    (oh wadda difference one letter can make…)

  • 13 Lesley // Nov 2, 2010 at 7:45 am

    It was my dream as a fat child to have someone tailor clothes for me as my only options for several years were awful jumpers. Ah, the early 80s. I am so jealous. Those fabrics!

  • 14 Chris // Nov 2, 2010 at 8:52 am

    (hee hee)

  • 15 Sue // Nov 3, 2010 at 3:18 am

    Oh the food/people/culture photo’s are amazing….hungry now :)

  • 16 Mark (just some random chef guy) // Nov 4, 2010 at 1:26 am

    Hey this is cool. Vietnam has been on my list since Anthony Bourdain turned me on to the concept. Brave of you to go out on your own and to eat all the food. Stay well. Write more.

  • 17 Ryan @ Macarons // Nov 4, 2010 at 10:16 am

    0.75 for a dish? Maybe I need to move to Vietnam to be able to afford my eating habbits :)
    Looks like a very enjoyable trip!


  • 18 Peter // Nov 5, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    I can’t wait to see which fabric you chose for MY suit.

  • 19 yveala // Nov 6, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    where oh where are you?? impatiently waiting for more…

  • 20 ethel // Nov 6, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    Get out of the silk shops and blog. Need to know more.

  • 21 michael pardus // Nov 8, 2010 at 7:45 am

    Hi, baby. Welcome home…I have some E-Mail etiquette tips for one of your readers:

    “If you would not say it to someone’s face, don’t say it in a private e-mail. If you wouldn’t say it to someone in front of a group at a party, don’t post it on a public space”.

    Can’t wait to see you tonight!

  • 22 Rachel (S[d]OC) // Nov 8, 2010 at 9:39 am

    My husband would have a field day with those tailors. Wow!

    Can’t believe all of the food. Just incredible.

  • 23 becky and the beanstock // Nov 8, 2010 at 11:44 am

    Just stunning — the vibrant colors, the food, everything. Such an incredible adventure you’ve been on, and I feel lucky to be living it vicariously through you. Thank you, thank you! And welcome back too.

  • 24 Robert // Nov 9, 2010 at 6:09 am

    By now you are stateside.

    Still , I bet they didnt let you leave without wanting to keep you there.

    Our gain………. Welcome home.

  • 25 Jack // Nov 9, 2010 at 8:25 am

    Great photos! Very nice that you took this adventure and shared so much of it. I wish your blogs were more frequent, but they seem to get even more amazing with every hiatus, if that’s possible. Glad you made it home safe and satisfied.

  • 26 lo // Nov 11, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Oh, Wow. I’ve spent the last hour gazing upon your posts from Vietnam (sometimes it pays to be late — and then, to just soak in all the loveliness at one time)… and you’ve left me simply speechless. So much beauty and mystery. And wow.

    Thanks, as always, for sharing the wealth. And welcome back.

  • 27 Tim Johanson // Nov 12, 2010 at 5:32 am

    Ok MP. I hear you but I am intrigued enough that I may have said it in front of you anyway. But nicely.

  • 28 Cindy in NYC // Nov 12, 2010 at 8:11 am

    Yo Tim. Hang it up man. Nice or not. Chill. Granted the blog author is cool and pretty but she is TAKEN. Get it?

  • 29 michael pardus // Nov 14, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    Cindy, thanks for pointing out the obvious.

    Tim, really? At a party, you would really walk up to a couple you’d never met face to face, look the guy up and down, look at the woman and say “He doesn’t look THAT great, why don’t you come with me?” You’d really do that? Wow…..

  • 30 Sam // Nov 23, 2010 at 11:52 am

    Beautiful posts and pictures. Are you going to Cambodia? There is some wonderful food there — especially the central market in Phnom Penh and a restaurant which is run by a children’s charity.

  • 31 max jacobson // Nov 30, 2010 at 1:06 am

    I had a very similar experience in Hoi An. Check out my Vietnam part 1 and 2 on my Website to compare notes. Hoi An rocks. Max

  • 32 laura // Dec 22, 2010 at 11:46 am

    I hope all is well. Miss you a lot. Auguroni for the holidays and the coming year.

  • 33 Caitlin // Jan 10, 2011 at 8:06 am

    Nice pix! Makes me want to go back to lovely Hoi An.

  • 34 Lou Moretti // Feb 2, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Fantastic account of your trip. I’d not thought about going until I read this. I guess you’re my Bourdain!

  • 35 laura // Apr 11, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    I really miss reading you and seeing your photos. Just hoping all is well with you in your world.

  • 36 NotCathy // Jun 1, 2011 at 12:14 am

    I love the photo of the foods.. Looks yummy! I am glad that you had a wonderful experienced on your trip.. Looking forward to see more of your new post!

  • 37 tracy // Sep 22, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    Picture is awesome.
    Seems like a perfect trip.
    Next time I travel, but also write something to share.

  • 38 Tom L. // Sep 27, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    WHERE HAVE YOU GONE? That and please come back, ok?

  • 39 Kelsey (Happyolks) // Oct 21, 2011 at 5:28 am

    This was so wonderful to stumble upon from 101cookbooks. I traveled alone through Hoi An last fall; rarely have I encountered another who has visited this beautiful coastal town. I had no idea that Bourdain travelled there, but it makes sense, a bit off the mainstream map. It rained through my entire visit, but the poncho a woman gave me on the street never wore out. This is lovely, thanks for all the happy memories.

  • 40 Amy @ Chef Basket // Nov 25, 2011 at 10:09 am

    I was in Vietnam for the first time last year and it was truly a memorable vacation. The food, the people and the scenery were just beautiful.

  • 41 laura // Dec 31, 2011 at 1:11 am

    Miss you and wish you all the best for 2012.

  • 42 democommie // Oct 31, 2013 at 12:22 pm


    Boy, it’s been a while since I’ve been here, way too long.

    I’m happy to hear that you’re having a nice time in Vietnam and wish you all the best.

    My brother is married to a Vietnamese lady, Ms. Thu, who makes wonder pho and spring rolls that are perfect. I’m sure that she does a lot of other good stuff but I’m only around them for family events that are packed with upwards of 40 people most of the time.

    Anthony Bourdain said, in one of his books, that the food in Vietnam was as good as it gets. He also said that the only place that he was ever afraid to eat in was Cambodia.

    Safe travels.

  • 43 oakley sunglasses sale // Sep 28, 2015 at 1:02 am

    Hello, I enjoy reading all of your article. I like to write a little comment to support you.

  • 44 true religion womens halle mid rise super skinny leather pant // Oct 1, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    I’m still learning from you, as I’m making my way to the top as well. I definitely liked reading all that is posted on your site.Keep the tips coming. I liked it!

  • 45 ray ban outlet // Oct 3, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    http://rb.goshop.us.com/Cheap Ray Bans

  • 46 cheap ray bans // Oct 8, 2015 at 9:39 am

    http://ok.sunglassesmall.us.com/Oakley Sunglasses

Leave a Comment