Nevertheless, Vietnamese culture remains distinct from Chinese culture as it has also absorbed cultural elements from neighbouring Hindu civilizations. The French colonization has also left a lasting impact on Vietnamese society, with baguettes and coffee remaining popular among locals.
How to get to Hoi An
The nearest airport is in Da Nang which has domestic connections to Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Hue and some international flights to Bangkok, Singapore Siem Reap, Cambodia and charter flights to China.
A taxi from Danang airport to Hoi An costs about US$22 using a taxi with a meter. This is one occasion where haggling to set a fixed price is cheaper than going by the meter. Air-conditioned Minibus-Taxis cost 5 US$ per person (there are no minibuses in airport, you should go first to the city). The ride takes about 45min.
Generally in Vietnam call by telephone and book a taxi with Mai Linh taxi as they are the most reliable and honest (this is their mission) – and pay meter charge.
A word of caution about flying Jetstar: they are frequently up to 8 hours late, many times arriving at Danang from Saigon at 2AM. If you arrive late, you should arrange an private airport transfer in advance.
Getting Around Hoi An
The centre of Hoi An is very small and pedestrianised, so you will be walking around most of the time. Motorbikes are only banned from the center of town during certain times of day, so keep an eye out for motorized kamikazes, even in the most narrow alleys. However, the city’s government does not allow motorbikes to enter the Old Town on the 14th and 15th of each lunar month. On those evenings, a lot of activities, including traditional games are held in all over the town.
To go to the beach or reach some of the more remote hotels, it is easy and cheap to hire a bicycle. Taxis can be found in the middle of Le Loi Street, over the river on An Hoi or called by phone. When busy, taxis may refuse your fare back to your hotel from town if it is too close, opting for larger fares. Arranging a shuttle from your hotel may be a better option although prices can be higher.
Motorbike taxis, of course, are always an option. You can also charter boats for about US$1/hour.
Traffic in Hoi An is minimal, so if you’ve been avoiding getting on a bike in the big cities, small towns and the surrounding countryside like Hoi An are ideal to get used to the road rules.
Entry to all historical sites in Hoi An is via a coupon system, where 90,000 dong (US$5) gets you a ticket that can be used to enter five attractions: one museum, one old house, one assembly hall, the handicraft workshop (and traditional music show) or the traditional theater, and either the Japanese Covered Bridge or the Quan Cong Temple. Tickets are sold at various entry points into the Old Town. The city requests that visitors dress “decently” while visiting sites in the Old Town, as in men wear a shirt and women don’t wear a bikini top, sleeveless blouse or skirt above the knees. Respect the local culture and remember that you are not on the beach.
Tra Que Village, (around 2 km from Hoi An centre is a little green village to discover the rural life in Hoian with cycling, cooking class, preparing soil, planting and watering vegetables, etc. Have fun being a Vietnamese farmer and take some nice photos. A great way to learn about local life.
Cooking lessons are offered at several restaurants around town. There are also several established cooking schools with good reputations including “Morning Glory” and “Red Bridge” who offer a variety of courses ranging in price from 16 – 55 USD.
Karma Waters in Hoi An Ancient Town is a unique vegan restaurant and Responsible Tourism operator. Focused on UNESCO culture tours and low impact tours and activities such as kayaking, cycling, hiking & sailing Karma Waters provides sustainable, authentic and real experiences and vegan cooking classes.
The Hoi An “Love of Life” Bicycle Tours, organized specially for you by local professional tour guides. Places visited are the serene Buddhist pagoda, a picturesque fishing village and so much more whilst cycling through luscious green rice fields where buffalos roam. You can experience the view of stunning beaches and poetic rivers.
Food in Hoi An is, high even by Vietnamese standards, cheap and tasty. In addition to the usual suspects, there are dishes that Hoi An is particularly famous for:
Cao lầu, a dish of rice noodles which are not quite as slippery as pho and a bit closer in texture to pasta. The secret is the water used to make it, and authentic cao lau uses only water from a special well in the city. The noodles are topped with slices of roast pork, dough fritters, and this being Vietnam, lots of fresh herbs and veggies.
White rose (banh bao vac), a type of shrimp dumpling. The translucence of the rice flour along with the color of the shrimp meat gives it the appearance of a white rose petal.
Banh Mi are available throughout Vietnam but the market in Hoi An is famous for having some of the best in the country. Bánh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich which is famous for being extremely hearty and relatively inexpensive. ingredients can include shredded barbecued pork, eggs, tofu, and seasoning which can be mild to intensely spicy.
The development of the bánh mi did not begin until the French colonized Vietnam, introducing people to the baguette, a type of long, thin, crusty French bread. The French colonists developed a sort of salad sandwich, taking advantage of locally available Vietnamese ingredients like fresh greens, pickled vegetables, and spicy chiles, and the early form of bánh mi was born. While the French have left Vietnam, the taste for bánh mi has stayed on.
There are many kinds of wonton dishes : fried wonton, wonton soup or wonton and noodle soup are a few examples.
Swallow’s nest is a unique and specilal food once eaten only by royalty or the very wealthy. Many dishes have been created from swallow’s nest but the most popular is swallow’s nest sweet soup. It’s considered to be very good for one’s health and many stories and legends describing its recuperative powers add to its allure.
Banh It La Gai
This cake is made from the black colored and sweet tasting Gai leaf and green bean. This cake is always offered to worship ancestors during the New Year or anniversaries of departed ancestors. It’s also thought of as a kind of medicine to help revive those suffering from hangovers.
Made from sticky rice, green bean and coconut, the cake is wrapped in banana leaf and then steamed.
If you are really very adventurous, you can walk to the Central Market, and have a local breakfast. Seating on stools, eating a bowl of Cao Lau with wooden chopsticks is an adventure.
There are several kinds of mangoes grown in Vietnam.The finest mangoes are xoai cat. This type of fruit has a bright yellow peel, a round shape, and weighs as much 0.5 kilograms. The meat is considered sweeter and more fragrant than that of other varieties.
The skin of this fruit is tough, thick and hairy. Its meat is transparent white and tender, and has a cool sweet taste in the mouth.
The fruit is a bit smaller than a tennis ball and has a dark violet rough skin. While lifting each segment of the transparent white meat to your mouth you can imagine the light and pure refreshment that leaves a little sour taste lingering in your mouth.
No better word than marvelous can be used to praise the tropical fruit with the name Vu Sua (milk from the breast). The shape of the star apple matches the name attached to it, as does its juice, which is fragrantly sweet and milky white like breast milk.
Durian fruit is five to six times larger than a Mango. Its skin is thick, rough, and covered with sharp thorns. With a gentle cut between the edges of the outer shell, you can easily open the fruit to expose the layers of bright yellow segments of meat that make the pulp look like it is covered with a thin layer of butter.
Those who have not enjoyed the fruit before may find it hard to eat. But once they have tried it, they are likely to seek it again.
Pineapple plants are widely grown in the country. The peak ripening time for this tropical fruit coincides with summer when the hours of sunshine are longer. People in southern Vietnam usually call this tropical fruit trai thom (fragrant fruit).
There are several kinds of regional polemo growing areas famous for their particular taste; each fruit is named after the locality where it is grown. The pomelo tastes like a sweet, mild grapefruit, though the typical pomelo is much larger in size than the grapefruit. It has very little, or none, of the common grapefruit’s bitterness.
The fruit is as small as the tip of a thumb. Inside the thin and light brown skin is the transparent white pulp, which covers a small glossy black seed. The thicker the pulp, the juicier, more fragrant, and crisp the pulp.
Longan is a protein rich fruit. It is usually used as a main ingredient, along with lotus seeds, to make sweet soup, which is considered a very good summer refreshment. The seedless longan, when dried, is also a very fine choice for connoisseurs.
Thieu is the name dedicated to a special kind of litchi grown in Hai Duong Province. The Thieu Litchi is a bit bigger than the longan. Unlike the skin of the longan, which is rather smooth, the dark red skin of the litchi is rough and rippled. The meat of the litchi is also transparent white, but it is thicker and juicier than that of a longan. The litchi seed is also smaller than the longan seed.
Bananas are not only a delicious fruit when ripe, but green bananas are also part of some dishes. Banana flower is mixed in delicious salads. Banana tree trunks, when young, can be eaten as a vegetable, and banana tree roots can be cooked with fish, or mixed in salads.
Several banana varieties grow all over the country. Tieu bananas are the most popular kind; they are small and smell sweet when ripe.
Papaya is sold all year round, especially in the south, and is not very expensive. In the south, one of the popular varieties of papaya is the one with red, thick pulp that has a fragrance but that does not contain much sugar. This species is grown in the Mekong Delta region and in the area close to the Cambodian border. Another species of papaya available in the south is the one with yellow or orange peel.
Vietnam has many kinds of persimmon. Persimmon can be either round or in the shape of a heart. Persimmon fruits are divided into two kinds: bitter and sweet. Bitter persimmon fruits are edible when they are green and hard, but is very sweet when the fruit is ripe. The fruit of sweet persimmon are always sweet, even when green and hard.
In Oriental medicine, persimmon is considered effective to reduce high blood pressure and relieve abdominal pain.
Sapodilla fruit is shaped like an egg and weighs from 10 to 200 grams. Its peel is brown with tiny cracks near the stalk. The pulp, which is brown and yellow, is very juicy and smells very sweet. There are two popular species of sapodilla grown in Vietnam: orange pulp and white-yellow pulp sapodilla. The pulp of the white-yellow sapodilla has taste of peach, banana, and apple.
In Vietnam, there are two kinds of custard apple: firm and soft. The pulp is white or light yellow and contains many black seeds.
When jackfruit are ripe, their pulp is yellow and sweet. There are several other species of jackfruits divided into two main groups: hard jackfruits with hard and crunchy flesh, and soft jackfruits with soft flesh and a lot of juice.
Dragon fruit weighs from 200 to 500 grams, and has pink or dark-red color. Its pulp is white and gelatinous and contains many seeds that taste like cactus, giving the fruit a sweet and sour taste.
Wildlife in Vietnam
Vietnam is home to species like bears, elephants, tigers and leopards. You can also see some smaller animals such as squirrels, monkeys and otters. Wildlife in Vietnam would be incomplete without mentioning the reptiles like snakes, crocodiles and lizard.
Other than that you can see the indigenous animals of Vietnam. Agile Gibbon, Asian Elephant, Banteng and Bengal monitor are the most renowned species of Vietnam. You can also see False gharial, Giant Muntjac and Green sea turtle widely in Vietnam.
Vietnam boasts of extensive range of evergreens including rain forests. Though, deforestation usually takes place, but it is not as often as in other countries of Southeast Asia.
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