Watching the world pass by in Hoi An

The pleasures of people watching

What we say: 4 stars

Hoi An is full of them: places where you can easily pass the time, just people-watching, reading a book or staring into space and letting your mind wander.

The pace is slow in Hoi An

Rush hour in Hoi An.

A good place to start is along the river. Bach Dang is lined with restaurants, many of which have river-facing tables. I spent a very pleasant hour or so sitting on the mini-terrace at the Blue Dragon Restaurant and did the same at Café 96, where the pots of fresh grass adorning the tables work strangely well with the shabby, yet authentic, decor.

For a higher class river view try the Mango Rooms. The room on the river-side of this restaurant has raised seating platforms scattered with welcoming, brightly coloured cushions which just beg to be reclined on.

And relax...

Office? I can't remember even having one.

Out of town, finding a spot by the river is easy and it’s more tranquil than Bach Dang. Head out on Cau Dai Street and once it meets the river you’ll find a number of hut-like cafes, some very pretty. Watch the prices though — the know they’ve got a USP!

It’s worth mentioning Dingo deli here as well, an expat-owned grocery store and coffee shop. It’s on the main street and doesn’t have a river, or any other, view, but it’s cosy, comfortable and serves a good range of Western-style drinks, cakes and meals. Definitely a place to imagine the world passing by, if not actually watching it. They also stock some board games.

If you prefer to do your world watching while drinking a beer and listening to some good tunes, try Sleepy Gecko on Cam Nam Island. The upstairs area has views across the river – before dark – and is a very easy place to lose not just an hour or so but a whole night.

Just off the river, but with its own view of a lively junction in the centre of the old town, White Marble Wine Bar & Restaurant claims to be Hoi An’s first wine bar. It can be difficult to find somewhere in Hoi An with a relaxed atmosphere where you’re comfortable just ordering a glass of wine, rather than a meal, but White Marble fits the bill.

Unfortunately Hoi An doesn’t have any obvious parks or areas by the river where you can just plonk yourself on a park bench with a bottle of water and a good book or good company for a cheap few hours away from your hotel — but there’s always the beach.

About the author
After years of camping in her back garden in the New Forest, Caroline Mills’ parents went wild and jetted her off to Morocco where her dream of becoming a traveling belly dancer was born.
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