SINCE “21 JUMP STREET” launched his career in 1987, Dustin Nguyen has starred in dozens of films and television shows, helping to pave the way for the next generation of Asian American actors. But his relationship with storytelling began much earlier — and seemingly in a different world. Here, exclusively for Departures, Nguyen returns to his early life in 1960s Saigon, a hotbed of internationalism and culture. He revisits the media classes he took when he came to America in the 1970s, and shares the significance of his emotional return to his long-lost home — and to the Vietnamese screen — decades after leaving. Through each chapter of his journey, we come to understand the meaning of home, not simply as a place, but as a state of mind.
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Since returning to Vietnam, Dustin Nguyen has rediscovered the beauty and heritage of his ancestral home. Here, Nguyen shares all of his favorite places to eat, see, and stay in Hội An, the historic city on Vietnam’s central coast.
You definitely have to visit Yaly Couture’s tailoring ateliers, particularly the one in the center of the Old Town quarter. Amazing service and the selection of styles and fabrics is incredible.
Ms. Vy's Morning Glory restaurant
You have to go to Ms. Vy's Morning Glory restaurant. I affectionately refer to Ms. Vy as the mayor of Hội An because she owns several amazing restaurants and hotels. When I met Ms. Vy, I really fell in love with Hội An.
Com Ga Ba Buoi
There's this locally famous chicken-rice place called Com Ga Ba Buoi. It’s a real hole-in-the-wall local place that is packed all the time. But the food is to die for.
Banh Mi Madam Khanh
And for some of the best Vietnamese baguette sandwiches, go to Banh Mi Madam Khanh. She’s known as the Banh Mi Queen.
Maison Vy or Four Season The Nam Hai
As for places to stay, I love Maison Vy, a very French-colonial boutique hotel. And if you want to splurge, don't miss the Four Seasons The Nam Hai in Hội An. These are the only two places I will stay when I visit Hội An.
If you want to feel like a local, or at least see what the real locals do, go to the local Central Market in the Old Town quarter. The locals go there to shop for their daily groceries and housewares.
Old Town Hội An
It has the charm and beauty that I never get tired of visiting — especially during the full moon, when the town uses lanterns. The Old Town quarter literally glows!
All photos by Pham Huy Trung.
Dustin Nguyen Director
Dustin Nguyen is a Vietnamese-American actor, director, writer, and martial artist. He is best known for his role as Harry Truman Ioki on "21 Jump Street."