If you are visiting Vietnam then the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hoi An ancient town should definitely be on your list, it’s hands down one of the nicest places in Vietnam, if not South East Asia, we’ve yet to meet anyone that didn’t love it and wished they had longer to explore.
Here’s our guide to everything we think you should know when visiting (including a lot of delicious vegan food).
As we’re on an indefinite journey travelling about to find, eat and write about the best vegan food in the world, we’ve been lucky enough to visit Hoi An twice since the Vegan Food Quest began and have spent a total of 6 weeks in this pretty slice of vegan heaven (and we still haven’t had our fill!).
There is an abundance of things to do, see and eat and how people cram it all into a 2 day visit is beyond us; if you have extra days in your Vietnam itinerary then add them on to spending time in Hoi An.
It’s probably fair to say we’re just a little bit in love with this place…
Things to do and see:
The Ancient Town (a UNESCO world heritage site)
Wander the pretty streets of Hoi An Ancient Town where buildings are adorned with lanterns, flowers bloom and you’ll get a glimpse of times gone by. Bargain with shop keepers (every second shop is selling some kind of souvenir), drink coffee in one of the many coffee houses or visit the old market for an assault on the senses (but expect to pay more for everything you buy there).
There are two beaches to visit in Hoi An, our favourite is An Bang probably just because we’ve spent more time there. It’s a white sandy beach, which is clean with relatively little hassle once you run the gauntlet of people renting beach beds and wanting to invite you into their restaurant. We recommend paying a couple of dollars to rent a sun bed just because there is no shade on the beach and no one likes to get sunstroke.
There are lifeguards on duty but don’t let this lull you into a false sense of security; there are rip tides and strong currents and it’s unlikely the lifeguards will save you if you get into trouble. Just use you common sense and don’t go too far off shore or swim when the waves are huge and crazy.
Our top tip for the beach is to turn right just before the main car park area and park your bike with one of the locals who have houses that back on to the beach. Not only will you avoid the aggressive car park attendants and their charges to park but you also won’t have to walk up the beach to avoid the crowds as you can cut through after parking your bike, straight onto the quiet end of the beach.
The UNESCO world heritage site of My Son
A visit to the ancient temple ruins at My Son is well worth the day trip from Hoi An, we rented a scooter and drove an hour and a half to get there but unless you are a) fearless, b) extremely experienced at riding a scooter (and fearless) or c) have a death wish, then it might just be better to take a tour which isn’t that much more expensive. It’s worth noting that we are none of the above, we just didn’t realise just how dangerous the journey was in parts (think busy roads with hurtling buses, lorries, cars, coaches speeding by you within inches).
Take lunch with you because there we didn’t see any good vegan eating spots on the way.
Get some new clothes made
Hoi An is famous for it’s tailors and practically every 2nd shop is dedicated to making you a made to measure outfit to take home with you. As long term travellers with bulging bags we were limited in what we could buy but our favourite tailor of choice fixed some of our clothes, copied some of our worn out items, made us a pair of smart shorts and a pair of yoga pants and we were really pleased with the results.
You can find our favourite tailors at ‘Vinh Lien Tailors’ on 323 Nguyen Duy Hieu.
I love yoga and have practiced it for many years in many different countries but never thought I would see the day that Paul signed up for a month of yoga with me; his new found passion for yoga and meditation is still rather surprising (and pleasing) to me and our month in Hoi An was the perfect place to continue our yoga adventure together.
The fact that we found possibly the loveliest yoga teacher in the world helped alot; Jyoti is both knowledgeable, passionate, talented and has a kind heart meaning we got to experience a month of yogic bliss at her classes.
She can be found at Annen (see review below) and we would strongly recommend that if you are in town pop along to experience her unique Sivananda classes…
Shop ethically, support a good cause and learn something new at Lifestart
The Lifestart Foundation is an inspiring not-for-profit organisation that helps disadvantaged Vietnamese people become self-sufficient. Their shop in the ancient town sells the products that the people they support have made and you might get to meet some of the people making their products in the workshop area.
They run free Vietnamese language classes (go and learn the local lingo!), responsible, ethical tours and workshops where you can learn lantern making and how to make (beautiful) hand painted cards.
They also stock the only natural vegan toiletries that we found in Hoi An so it’s a great place to stock up on shampoo, conditional and natural mosquito repellent.
Where to stay:
(14 Lưu Trọng Lư)
Jolie’s place has been extended since we first stayed here in 2014 and the new accommodation is really, really good. You can still get the feel of mixing with local Vietnamese people as the family is really friendly and the staff that work on reception (Vicky and Tiny) are possibly two of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. We were lucky enough to have ‘Mum’ (Jolie’s mother in law) cook a vegan lunch for us, it was spectacular and we were seriously honoured.
Owned by the family who run Jolie Homestay, this is a mid range hotel just a short distance from their homestay (so halfway between An Bang Beach and the old town). Very good service, a nice pool, free cooking classes and great vegan food if you tell them in advance.
Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort and Spa
Located on Cua Dia beach, the Victoria Hoi An Hotel and Spa (see our review here) is well located to visit Hoi An with a shuttle bus that takes you in every half an hour (takes approximately 15 minutes). They prepared a vegan set menu for us which had some of the best food we ate in Hoi An including an awesome pumpkin soup served in a bread bowl and a crispy tofu dish that was simple yet perfect.
Find top end vegan luxury at this sleek, chic beachside resort. Go to yoga and meditation in the morning then drink champagne at breakfast whilst enjoying quality vegan Vietnamese food. It’s right on the beach, there’s a gym, tennis court and vegan friendly spa to keep you busy if laying around in luxury isn’t your thing. A regular shuttle into Hoi An Ancient Town gives you the best of both worlds.
Fusion Maia Danang
All-inclusive spa treatments, healthy vegan superfoods and a chiilled vibe at this luxury beachfront resort near Danang. Hoi An is still easily accessible by taking the complimentary shuttle bus (takes about 40 minutes). Go here to be nurtured, filled with vegan food and be massaged and pampered to your heart’s content.
InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula
This multi award winning hotel is located in the beautiful location of ‘Monkey Bay’ and they offer a free shuttle bus into Hoi An (takes about an hour and 15 minutes). It holds the accolade for being the best resort in Vietnam and if you stay there you’ll know why it deserves this title; it’s quite simply wonderful.
The design, the peace, the nature, the staff, the spa; all are exceptional and the vegan food really is something to write home about; if you want a gourmet vegan meal to remember then book a table at their restaurant La Maison 1888 where 3 Michelin star chef, Pierre Gagniere has created a delightful menu, or if a laid back lunch on the beach is more your thing then head to ‘Barefoot’ and enjoy some delicious and creative vegan cuisine.
Here’s the lowdown of our stay at the InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula.
What and where to eat:
(50 Trần Cao Vân)
One of the best places to eat in town, the lovely folk at Minh Hien have been turning out vegan MSG free food for a long long time. Their restaurant is friendly (you can always meet other vegans and vegetarians there) and they have a really nice dog.
The food is great, all Vietnamese and includes local Hoi An specialities like White Rose and Cao Lau and you’ll find it hard to order something that you are disappointed with. We must have eaten everything on the menu at east once and we never get tired of it. They also sell fresh beer for 3,000 VND a glass (which works out at 13 cents or about 8 pence!).
Quan Chay An Nhu
(516 Hai Bà Trưng)
We love the ladies who run An Nhu and if you are lucky enough to be in town on the 1st or 15th day of the lunar calendar then you’ll get to try their legendary vegan chicken and rice dish. If not, then everything else is good, locals often rave about the hotpot (we do too) but the Banh Xeo and spring rolls are also phenomenal.
Tam Quang Minh
(33 Ly Thai to Street)
Cheap local vegan eatery where they have an extensive ‘Com Dia’ offering (buffet with lots of daily changing dishes including tofu, mock meat and veggies). They also have a menu where you can order a la carte.
(108 Thai Phien Street)
Local vegan restaurant recommended to us by our Vietnamese friend who says it’s her favourite vegan ‘com ga’ (vegan chicken rice) in town. It’s only served on the 1st and 15th day of the lunar calendar but it’s wonderful. There’s a menu full of other local Vietnamese food if you are visiting at other times (the soups are particularly good). Highly recommended by us.
Quan Chay Nhat Da
Our first visit here was great with huge portions and delicious food. Our second visit wasn’t quite as good as everything was a bit oily and felt full of MSG. If you go, the tomato tofu is the best dish, avoid the ‘chicken rice’ as there are much better places in town to get it.
Vegan Dessert Stall
(Tran Phu Street, opposite the Central Market)
An abundance of sticky sweet fired and glutinous rice sweet treats, all vegan and mostly delicious. The best are the donuts filled with sweet yellow beans and with icing sugar on the outside, the mango cake (no mango just peanuts and sugar inside) and the steamed, sweet crumpet like cakes.
Grilled banana, sticky rice stall near Jolie’s
(che lan viên / luu trong lu)
Vegan street food at it’s best with a nice dog who’s sometimes at the stall too. Sticky rice wrapped around a banana, wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled on coals before being chopped up and covered in coconut custards and sprinkled with crushed peanuts. Once eaten, seriously addicted.
(213 Nguyễn Duy Hiệu)
This long standing, basic vegan restaurant has a mix of western and Vietnamese dishes, it’s a bit hit and miss depending on what you order but they do the most amazing breaded ‘chicken’ on lemongrass skewers, a great vegan burger (you can order 5 of the patties as a separate dish) and some kick ass ginger tea. It’s quite pricey which is a downside and portions can be a little on the small side but still worth a visit.
(320 Nguyễn Duy Hiệu)
MSG free, homemade and some of the cleanest tasting food in Hoi An. This is food that makes you feel really good when you eat it. They also make their own soya milk with no sugar (a rare find in Hoi An). Order the tomato tofu and the eggplant (by which we mean aubergine) claypot, try the soups and local specialities and get plenty of free smiles from two of the loveliest people in Hoi An who run it.
(441 Cửa Đại)
When you fancy a bit of Indian food this is the place to go. We tried the other Indian (called Ganesh to name and shame) who claim to be friendly to vegans in their menu, but it turns out that they were, how shall we say, not friendly to vegans (us) after all…
So we headed to Namaste where the service was friendly, it was quieter so we didn’t have to wait and the food was delicious. The vegan options we tried were tasty with the tarka dahl and the pindichana (chickpeas) being our Vegan Food Quest favourites, but the other dishes we tried were good too.
(35 Nguyen Phuc Chu)
This is a nice upmarket cafe with great juices (the best we had in town) and a lovely vegan pumpkin soup with spinach tempura. Staff are friendly and speak great English so it’s easy to find out what is vegan from the menu.
Banh Mi Phuong
(2B Phan Chau Trinh)
Contender for the best vegan Banh Mi in Vietnam (it was a close call but they got pipped to the post by another, read about the winners here) if you’re in Hoi An, you have to eat here. They were made famous by Anthony Bourdain proclaiming that it was the best sandwich in the world and we’re happy they do a vegan version which seems to win the hearts of all who try it.
Visit Central Market and eat Banh Xeo like the locals
(Tran Quy Cap and Tran Phu streets)
Do battle with the many fruit sellers whilst trying to get a fair price for a fruity snack or head inside and find yourself something tasty from one of the vendors inside the food court area. If you take the entrance where the old well is behind you (on Tran Phu street) you can find a tasty banh xeo stall on your right hand side at the bottom. Just ask for ‘an chay’ and enjoy.
Drink vegan coffee
There are lots of great places to drink coffee in town where people roast their own beans (not in butter!) Read our post Is Vietnamese Coffee Vegan?!? to make sure you don’t accidentally get beans roasted in something non-vegan.
Two of our favourite places that have vegan coffee are Cafe 11, who also have soya milk (17 Nguyen Phuc Chu) and The Espresso Station (28/2 Trần Hưng Đạo) up a small alley way, very chilled and they serve awesome coffee.
We love Hoi An and we think you will too!
You can follow our vegan travel adventure as we ‘find, eat and write about the best vegan food in the world’ by signing up to our monthly newsletter and following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Or why don’t you come and stay with us in our very own Vegan Villa in Siem Reap, Cambodia where we can treat you to the best of vegan hospitality and share with you our favourite vegan spots in Temple Town; check out our listing on Airbnb and come and stay if you’re in the area!