Finding Hoi An’s Charm … By Bicycle

Our first night in Hoi An ended with Darling Man and I looking up train and bus timetables, trying to work out the fastest way to get out of town.

We were tired and miserable that night and Hoi An had NOT made a good first impression.

The next morning, however, our moods had improved. I was still keen to leave, but I’d booked a food tour of Hoi An on Monday morning and I didn’t want to miss it.

We decided to make the most of Sunday, which meant mounting a mission to eat the two dishes Hoi An is famous for – cao lau and mi Quang, one of my all-time favourite Vietnamese dishes.

But first we needed to sort out transport. Our fabulous guesthouse was a little out of town, too far for Miss M to walk and waaaay too far for us to carry her.

The guesthouse had bikes, free bikes. But no baby seats.

Darling Man decided to see if Miss M, at three-and-a-half, was old enough to ride local-style — perched on the luggage rack (on a folded-up towel).

Hoi An by bike

Fuzzy camera phone pic

She was!

And we were off!

We rode around the old part of town, where only pedestrians and cyclists are allowed.

Hoi An's Japanese bridge

We found a couple of great cao lau places.

cao lau

We found an organic vegetable village.

Vegetable village


We found the Anthony Bourdain-endorsed banh mi seller, who makes what the tv host calls “a symphony in a sandwich”.

Banh Mi Phuong

We went out to An Bang beach, the lesser-known of Hoi An’s beaches. Even though we didn’t have any money with us (or a camera), the locals allowed us to park our bikes on the promise of returning the next day to pay. We rode through the hottest part of the day to arrive at a deserted beach and then watched the beach fill up as locals turned out en mass to enjoy a sunset swim.

We found the best mi Quang place in town (as recommended by Lara of GranTourismo, who’d just spent three months in Hoi An).

Hoi An's best mi Quang place

Chatting with Mr Hai of Quan Hai

We used those free bikes to explore everywhere except for the “ancient town” part at night-time. Past experience told us that there was no charm to be found there then.

On our last day in Hoi An, I got up before the sun and spent a few hours wandering around the ancient town, the area I found hideously overcommercialised on my first night.

In the morning, before the shops opened, as children ate their breakfast and old ladies read newspapers on their front steps, I found the charm and serenity that I remembered from my first visits to Hoi An.

Early morning Hoi An

Hoi An’s charm is still there. It just may take a bit of work to find it.


Here's the charm!
If you haven’t done so already, like The Dropout Diaries on Facebook

7 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. Shalu Sharma says:

    Its always a good idea to use bikes for small excursions but what do you do if there are no baby seats? Nice set of photos. The sandwich looks quite yummy.
    Shalu Sharma recently posted..The calm blue vastness of Tarkarli Beach

  2. Jenny says:

    Oooh, I am so glad you gave it a second try. We loved Hoi An last summer and I just could not understand how it should have changed so much in so short a time.
    An Bang Beach is great, is’nt it? And Cao Lau – yumm…

    BTW: I have never seen anyone use bicycle seats for children, so I assumed the concept is unknown in Vietnam?

  3. denise says:

    Oh Barbara, so sorry but I really need to disagree with you on this one 🙁 Paris and Rome and all such places are choked with tourists more of the time, but that doesn’t make them less charming! They are gorgeous places which means everyone wants to visit. The same with Hoi An. We can’t really expect to keep these wonderful places only to ourselves, can we?

  4. Carmel says:

    A little more rest and good food in your belly probably made a big difference too. YUM. Lovely photos.
    Carmel recently posted..MY UNDERWATER FEARFUL ADVENTURE

  5. Laura says:

    I had cao lau in Hoi An but missed out on that delicious looking sandwich!

  6. SY says:

    Hi, would you be able to share the address for the mi quang shop you visited? I’m going to Hoi An in a couple of months, and would love to try the noodles there.

    Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge