A few years ago, Oli and I felt a major shift occurring in the way we travelled. After years of penny-pinching budget travel, and countless nights spent in questionable hotel rooms (were many of them even hotels?), we were craving more.
Now, our kind of ‘more’ doesn’t mean all-inclusive resorts and 5* luxury. To be honest that kind of thing really doesn’t appeal. No, really. So many of the world’s premium hotel chains seem to be lacking in the thing we love the most; character. And, we would much rather eat on the street than 1 of 5 ‘international’ restaurants in a resort.
For us, treating ourselves and travelling more comfortably has to come with authenticity and intrigue; somewhere that surprises you and makes you want to return. And, you know what? In Asia, you can have all that – plus the pure white sheets – for less than $30.
We found ourselves in a place just like this in Hoi An at the end of last year….
You enter Cashew Tree Bungalows from a quiet, dusty street, just off of the main road through An Bang Beach. There is never not a friendly face, or two, behind the small reception and a beautifully manicured, tropical flower bed lines the walkway to the rooms.
With just 4 rooms, staying at Cashew Tree is a very private and personal experience. With so few guests, the staff are happy to spend a lot of time simply chatting about the place, about Hoi An and making sure that you have everything you need. In just a few days, we really felt like we’d got to know our hosts and they made us feel like family.
The rooms themselves are bright and airy, with beautiful blue design details. The large cosy beds are framed with soft lighting and, while we didn’t need it in December, the aircon would be a welcome addition in the summer heat. The ensuite bathroom has been built to feel like it’s outside, with a rainfall shower and mini-garden!
Just five minutes walk from a quiet corner of An Bang beach and only 15 minutes by bicycle (which they rent) to Hoi An Ancient Town, the location couldn’t be better. We loved staying out here as we got to enjoy morning beach walks and sunsets over the water, with full days exploring Hoi An in between.
The star of the show, for me at least, was the breakfast. Breakfast is included and features Vietnamese coffee, a fresh fruit smoothie and a choice of eggs, pancakes and traditional Vietnamese noodle dishes. Hoi An is famous for its cuisine and Cashew Tree offer two of the many local delicacies for breakfast: Mi Quang and Cao Lau. Both dishes were as good, if not better, than those we tried in the Ancient Town. The fact that the staff are sharing their local dishes, rather than only traditional Western breakfast fare, is a really special touch.
We booked Cashew Tree Bungalows on Booking.com but you can also find them on Agoda and Airbnb for as little as $22 per night.
What to do in Hoi An
So, now you know where to stay in Hoi An, what should you do in there?
The joy in visiting Hoi An is simply to wander. Travel from Cashew Tree Bungalow by bicycle, to Hoi An Ancient Town, park up and then get lost in picturesque alleys. Sun-yellow buildings, intricate shop-fronts with large wooden doors and shutters, colourful silk and paper lanterns, and a riverside location: it’s hard to not fall for HoiAn’s charm.
We recommend visiting in the early morning and late in the evening, when the streets are quieter. Because, make no mistake, Hoi An is one of the busiest places you’ll visit in Vietnam.
A few places that I’d like to recommend from this trip are GAM and Mot.
GAM is a Gem Museum and Store not far from An Hoi bridge. The incredible and diverse personal collection is housed in a beautifully restored house that affords unbeatable views from the second floor balcony. Downstairs there is the main collection, a beautiful shop of unique items and a cosy little bar in the back. Even if gemstones aren’t your thing, this is a lovely place to come to treat yourself to a glass of wine or a cocktail.
Also, not far from GAM, and right on the water is a fun little floating bar where we also had an evening drink accompanied by live music.
Our other favourite hidden Hoi An gem was Mot. Located on the picturesque Tran Phu street (number 150), this tiny little cafe serves delicious renditions of all the Hoi An classics. We were enticed in by the smell of a mouth-watering drink they were serving out of the shopfront; a herbal iced tea made from lotus and with a hint of sweet cinnamon! Order 1 of every dish and then order more of your favourites if you’re still hungry. Portions are small, but cheap.
We also bought a few pieces of their adorable Hoi An food inspired art to take home!
A peaceful place to rest your head right by the beach, the best local food we could find and a few places for a sundowner… I hope these personal recommendations, from people always on the lookout for unique local hotspots, will help make your trip to Hoi An a little bit special.