Hungry for breakfast, I arrived at Hoi An’s Central Market at 9am on a Saturday. I wasn’t sure what I was searching for but was certain I’d know it when I found it. Walking through the market, with the fresh produce and bustle of locals and tourists, I felt an overwhelming sense of calm.
This calm feeling quickly evaporated when my arm was seized by the vice-like grip of a young woman insisting I follow (or should I say be dragged) to her tailor shop. Resistance proved futile so I reluctantly went with it. Upon arrival, I was asked to please sit and look through her book of patterns, but I begged off, insisting I only had time to take a business card and would return should I have need of a tailor. After making my getaway from the kind, but persistent shopkeeper, I returned to my wanderings.
Tip: Don’t be like me! Don’t be afraid to stand your ground, smile, and walk in the opposite direction. Had I had my coffee that morning I’m certain I would have found the strength to do so myself.
The Central Market is made up of several blocks of covered and uncovered stalls, selling everything from spotted quail eggs to knock-off sunglasses, bed linens to fresh chicken feet, haberdashery to bicycle tires. There is something for everyone at this market, and prices that can’t be beat anywhere else in the city. The market is a favorite spot among many locals for meats and produce, but best to get there early for the freshest selection.
Souvenir stalls can be found in both the covered and uncovered portions of the market and are well stocked with coffee, silk scarves, and various other knick knacks. I recommend spending no less than an hour meandering the many stalls to get a good inventory of the place. Prices are cheap, but, as always, make sure you haggle the price down before purchasing. It is the Vietnamese way. A friendly haggling exchange with one stall owner reduced the quoted price of a box of (ever necessary) Oreos down by half.
Still on my search for sustenance, I followed my nose to a covered portion of the market filled with small food stalls. Certain that I had finally found what I was looking for, I sat down at a delicious looking stall selling banh cuon (steamed rolled or folded layers of thin rice cake filled with ground pork), and was rewarded with one of the tastiest meals I’ve had in Hoi An. This meal supported my theory that the best food in any city, can usually be found tucked away in a crowded market.
Satisfied after my meal, I walked away from the market, glad that I was leaving as the heat of the day rolled in. Carve a few morning hours out of your trip to visit the Central Market, and you will be rewarded with excellent local food, great shopping, and endless photo opportunities.
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