Central Vietnam,  Vietnam

Basketboat Tour and Cooking Class in Hoi An

Cooking classes are a great way to connect with local culture and people. Pairing it with a tour exploring the countryside around Hoi An, as well as a visit to a local market and a cruise in a basket boat it’s a great way to spend a day while staying in Hoi An. In this blog post, I will be talking about one of those tours: “Mr Cu’s Basketboat Tour and Cooking Class in Hoi An”

One thing I had on my list for Hoi An was exploring the Nipa palm forests in a round basketboat. You can see it everywhere, on Instagram, on the tourism office websites, on almost every local hotel website and also in YouTube videos and TV documentaries. However, when I read reviews almost everyone said the nipa palm forest has been ruined by trash and loud music, so I was very sceptical.

During my stay in Hoi An, I found a flyer from a tour guide called Mr Cu. It looked very “self-made” and I wasn’t sure about doing it, especially since it looked like it was from before Covid as well and most small tourism-related companies went under. I asked my “house father” Hoa, who had been a great help in the past in navigating central Vietnam as a female solo traveller, and he offered to call him to ask all the questions I had. With a forecast of 100% rain, I decided on a basketboat and cooking class, rather than a bike ride.

Basket boat and cooking class experience Hoi An

The next morning Mr Cu picked me up with his old Jeep, two more people were already in the car and he informed us we would be picking up two more. I congratulated him on finding more tourists for today’s tour since Hoa had translated their call and told me there were no other guests yet so the tour might not happen and he replied that he was very thankful for people like him who recommended his tours to their guests. 

After having done this tour with him, I will join those who recommend him. This is as local of an experience as you will get. He knows all the other small family companies and you will be away from the touristic hotspots. Moreover, his English is good, he is a knowledgeable guide, very friendly and always up for a joke. His family are great people as well, who greeted us warmly (and the children curiously) when we arrived at their home for the cooking class later that day.

Visiting a local market

Visiting a market in Vietnam is always an interesting experience for me, but in the early morning and outside of the city centre is even more so. The produce is super fresh, it’s full of locals and there are no other tourists around. Our tour guide had a specific grocery stall in mind and it was interesting to follow him through the maze of the market and watch the hustle and bustle that went on around us. 


Vegetables, fruits, fish, meat, live animals, tools, decorations and clothes you will find everything at the market. Mr Cu explained the concept of bargaining to us as it seemed like two women at the stall next to us were seemingly screaming at each other, but were actually just bargaining the price of papaya.


Before we continued the tour we each got an iced coffee.

On the way back from the market to the car, Mr Cu stopped at a cart to buy tofu as a substitute for the chicken for one of the other tour members who had requested no chicken. At the same stall, we also got to try a dessert made from silk tofu and brown sugar syrup. 

Basket boat tour through a nipa palm forest 

Our next stop was a small dock where only a few basketboats were docked, nothing too touristy like the ones we ended up passing on our way to the forest. No fancy lanterns or decorations, no obnoxious music disturbing the peace. But a clean toilet and a locker for things we didn’t want to risk getting wet.

The two couples each shared a boat, I grouped with our guide and off we went. For the first strip of the way, everyone had to wear a swimming vest, but we could take it off later on „when the water police can’t see us anymore“.

At a clearing inside the forest, we met up with two bigger tours. Two boats split from the rest, someone turned on music and the two boat drivers showed a „dance“ in their boats where they swung the boat round and round, almost jumping out of the water. After their display, they offered to take tourists on board, for a small fee of course. Two from our group took the chance and ended up absolutely soaked, with no dry clothes to change into. This is why I decided against participating in this activity.

On our way outside the forest, we only saw a few boats again, but then once out on the open water, we met a large group (30+ boats) of Chinese tourists who were singing karaoke. In the boats. 

Right next to them, in a display of the disparity between social classes, a fisherman threw out his net, showing us a thumbs up afterwards as we had stayed far enough away not to disturb his work.

During the French colonisation period of central Vietnam, the French imposed extra taxes on boats, which the Vietnamese fishermen were unable to pay. So they made huge round “baskets”, which just so happened to function as boats, too. And so the basketboat was invented.

Cooking class in Hoi An with a Vietnamese family 

The second we were back in the car it started raining. At first, only a few drops, but then the rain became so heavy we could barely see anything outside the window.

When we got to Mr Cu’s house his wife was already waiting for us. She took the produce we had brought and took them inside, before handing all of us aprons to keep our clothes clean during the preparation and the cooking.


First, Mr Cu showed us how to make rice milk, the old-fashioned way. On their terrace, they have a stone grinder. He explained that a few decades back every family used to have one of these, but now they aren’t sold anymore, for two reasons: 

  1. They don’t break so families buy one and then never buy another again
  2. People buy rice milk at the supermarket

However, the rice milk you can buy at the store is not starchy enough to make bánh xèo with. You have to add rice flour to the store-bought rice milk to turn it into a batter whereas the homemade rice milk is ready to use for bánh xèo without any flour.

Bánh xèo was the first dish we learned how to make. Green onion, salt and turmeric are added to the freshly ground rice milk, and then the batter is fried in a pan with oil. Once the batter starts bubbling around the sides you add a shrimp and a piece of pork meat.

Since the others were couples who took turns and I was by myself I got to eat all the bánh xèo I made by myself as well. Delicious! Especially when topped with fish sauce, garlic and chilli.

Afterwards, we prepared spring rolls, first by grating and cutting all the veggies for the filling, then folding them into the rice paper. Frying them turned out to be quite the feat, as the pans were barely large enough to contain all of them and they needed to swim in the fat they were fried in freely to achieve an even, golden brown, crispy outside.

Lastly, we made a salad and fried chicken, before taking a seat at the table and getting to eat all of the delicious food we had just made and even more made by Mr Cus wife.


Final thoughts on the Basketboat Tour and Cooking Class in Hoi An

For me, cooking classes are a great way to connect with local culture and people. They can be an interesting way to learn about the food and cooking customs of a different place. They also give you a chance to spend time with like-minded visitors and a local family and enjoy a meal with new friends. 

Food is an important part of many cultures and is a huge part of life in Vietnam. Strangers can turn into friends when it comes to enjoying good food and having a nice meal together. All of us greatly enjoyed the tour and the cooking class and it was a great way to learn about the local food culture in Quant Nam and more specifically in Hoi An. We got to try some local dishes and learn some new cooking techniques along the way. I hope I can make good Banh Xeo at home, I missed it a lot in between my first trip and this one.

The tour “Basket boat and cooking class experience Hoi An” was a fun and delicious experience and I look forward to visiting again someday.

Basket boat tour and cooking class in Hoi An – Details

All the food, tickets and tools you need are included in the price of the tour.

Starting times: morning tour 8:30 am to 1 pm, afternoon tour 2 pm to 6:30 pm

Cost: 690.000 Đồng / 25€ – 30€ depending on the exchange rate

Address: You will be picked up and dropped off from any address in Hội An, Quảng Nam, Vietnam

Booking: You can book via E-Mail at: Greet him from me if you do!

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