California surfer dude Chris Charney came to Vietnam three years ago, drawn to the Orient by his fascination with Eastern art. From flipping pizzas by candlelight above a motorbike shop to opening beloved beach Mexican joint Felina Cantina, Chris has come a long way in the past three years. Hailing from Ventura, California, Chris has brought his love for surfing and the outdoors to Vietnam, where he is often looking for the next big swell or a quiet beach to hang out on. You can also find him slinging tacos over at Felina Cantina most days of the week.
What are the five best things to do
with a visiting friend?
Hang out at Son Tra Beach
Son Tra beach is the best spot. It’s protected by a nature reserve so you can see monkeys, coral, fish, enjoy the nice beaches without too much hassle. It’s a nice, easy day trip from Hoi An by motorbike and one of my favorite things to do.
Surfing at Ngon Nuoc
The beach at Marble Mountains, Ngon Nuoc, is the best place to go if you’re looking to surf near Hoi An. They get some of the best swells I have seen in Vietnam and the beach is only about 15 minutes by motorbike towards Da Nang.
Cham Island Camping
We are lucky here in Hoi An because we are so close to the Cham Islands where it feels like a completely different world. It is perfect for a small getaway, with secluded beaches, jungle, wildlife, cool sea caves you can climb around in, and snorkeling off the beach — just make sure to bring your mosquito net if you’re staying the night.
Motorbike over the Hai Van Pass
Best done on a motorbike, I cant recommend ride over the Hai Van Pass enough. It has an amazing view of the surrounding landscape and just on the other side is a small fishing village where you can have a seafood lunch or dinner on the beach that is off the hook.
Hoi An Boat Ride
Take a ride with the old ladies on the boats in Old Town. It’s actually really romantic, especially during the full moon festival with all the lanterns in the water. If you’re on a date I recommend it for sure, and it’s only 100,000 VND for a 30 minute ride.
And here are my top five favorites around town!
Best restaurant: Seaweed Restaurant
The Vietnamese seafood at Seaweed Restaurant is off the hook. I’m always getting their vegetarian rice: a blend of veggies, tofu, and tomato sauce. They also do a nice fish that comes wrapped in a banana leaf. The service is slow but the food is worth the wait.
Best Bakery: Seven Sisters Bakery
I go there every morning for some bread or a croissant. The Seven Sisters Bakery has a nice array of sandwiches and pasties to choose from and it’s really close to my house, so I don’t have to go too far.
Best Pizza: Driftwood Pizza
Shout out to my buddy Simon at Driftwood Pizza who has the best calzone I’ve ever tasted. Basically a rolled up pizza, you get to choose four toppings (I usually get mushrooms, pepperoni, sausage, and pineapple). These things are so big you can hardly finish it in one sitting.
Any special finds?: Hoa’s Place
The best spring rolls I have ever had in Vietnam are at Hoa’s Place in Ngon Nuoc. A few other notable mentions are his mango pancakes, omelette, and seafood stir fry. Hoa has been such a good guy to me and really helped me find my footing here in Vietnam. Sometimes he still pulls out the old surf magazines from the pro event they had in front of his place in the 90s. This guy is a real trip.
Best Atmosphere: Dingo Deli
I can’t not mention Dingo Deli. Gordon and Michele did so much for me when I first arrived in Hoi An. They gave me their venue to teach art classes in the back when I first arrived, and I am forever grateful for that.
Finish this sentence:
You know you’ve been living in Vietnam a long time when…?