Having sold all her possessions in 2013, Claire Richmond has been living the nomad life that many of us only dream of. From simple homes to grand villas and mansions, Claire has spent time all over the world traveling as a house sitter, taking care of people’s homes and pets while they are away on vacation. ‘I’m not rich, I don’t have a trust fund, I didn’t win the lottery; I just shuffled some things in my life around to make this kind of lifestyle feasible.’ After years of nomadic travel that took her from London to Spain to Bangkok, Claire has decided put down roots in Hoi An after falling in love with its quaint charm and modest price tag. ‘Hoi An is the best you’re going to get in Southeast Asia — we have it all here.’
What are the five best things to do
with a visiting friend?
The Old Town – early morning
I think the best time to see the Old Town, to see it as it was hundreds of years ago without all the shops and tourists, is in the early morning. Get up and walk around town around 7 AM with a coffee and soak up the real Hoi An!
Do it yourself ride around the rice paddies
People are always going on about overpriced cycling tours here… I say don’t waste your time. Download the Map My Ride app and find a route around the paddies. It’s much more relaxing than shuffling around in a group of 20 or 30 and one of the best ways to see Hoi An at your own pace.
Central Market Food Stalls
We’re all so nervous about food safety here, but I throw caution to the wind when it comes to eating at the market. I would bring any friend to the Central Market’s covered eating area. It’s cheap and atmospheric, and you can get some of the best food in town for 20,000 or 30,000 VND.
Cocktails at Mango Mango
Without a doubt I would bring a friend to the Mango Mango happy hour, where they serve half-price cocktails with real alcohol (hooray!). They have some of the best-tasting drinks in town but if you’re planning to eat here you’ll need a bit of cash in your pocket.
The beaches in Hoi An have changed a lot in the past couple of years, but I still prefer Hidden Beach. If I’m going to spend a day in the sun with a friend, this lesser-known alternative to An Bang or Cua Dai would be my first choice.
And here are my top five favorites around town!
Best Coffee: Mia Coffee
Three years ago the only place you could get an espresso was Mia Coffee (not including Dingo Deli that has since evolved into deli, bakery, restaurant from simple coffee shop ed.). Now there are hundreds of places around town serving western coffee — but I still prefer Mia Coffee, my tried and true.
Best brunch: Hands down — Sunday brunch at the Victoria Resort.
For 650,000 VND you can enjoy one of the most delicious and well-presented buffets I have ever come across. The price includes unlimited beer and for $10 USD extra you can upgrade that to unlimited champagne.
Best Restaurant: Mix Greek Restaurant
My new favorite restaurant in Hoi An has to be MIX Greek Restaurant. Their moussaka is to die for and their portions are enormous. One could fill up on pita bread and dips alone. It’s modestly priced for the amount of food you get and they have wonderful cocktails.
Best Tailor: Sewing Bee (Hoi An Cloth Market)
I’m not one to frequent the tailors in Hoi An, as their service is always quite hit or miss (in my case it is more often a miss). Instead of having tailors make up my clothes from scratch, I bring them clothes that I already have and ask them to make a copy. I’ve had many pleasant experiences at the Sewing Bee, where the service is quick and fairly priced.
Best hair dresser: Ba Le Well
I’ll admit I’m a person of routine — when I find something I like, I stick to it. My husband and I have had our hair cut at Ba Le Well since we arrived in Hoi An three years ago. Nyuet has become our regular stylist and we are always very happy with her services. She is well versed in western hair styling and charges me 200,000 VND for a dry cut.
Finish this sentence:
You know you’ve been living in Vietnam a long time when…?