03 Oct 2019
Music man, MC and all-round nice guy Justin Colon tells us about the best places to go out in Hoi An, his life as a revolutionary ‘digital nomad’ and the surprising number of Vegan-friendly options available in town.
Although he was born in Long Island, New York, MC and digital marketing guru Justin Colon spent much of his time growing up in South Florida. And you can tell. He is laid back but also cool and charming; Justin oozes that South Beach vibe, effortlessly. So what is he doing in a place like Hoi An? And why does he seem to fit in so well here?
Why Hoi An?
‘It reminds me of Bali in a lot of ways. Once I came here I had this idea that I’d spend 1 month here and now it has turned into six months... l have always lived in big cities and even travelling through Asia I lived in bigger cities but I really like that small-town community vibe in Hoi An.’
‘Everything and everyone is centralised, the community is tight-knit. It’s like a family. I like the fact that every single day you go to a coffee shop, you see someone you know, if you go for a drive you pass someone you know. And that is something that I have really come to appreciate.’
‘In Bali, I didn’t get too much into the community. There are communities but they are separate. There are people that want to do Yoga, the digital nomad guys, the healthy people. But it’s quite segregated. Here in Hoi An, it's much smaller and everyone is together in one community, which I like.’
Justin is part of a group of people who have ditched the traditional 9-5 to work online and travel the world, known as digital nomads. Studying marketing at the time, back in Florida, he heard a podcast by vlogger Johnny FD.
‘He was talking about Chiang Mai Thailand and how it was a really great place for so-called digital nomads. People who work online. He said that there were quite a large amount of people gathering there and working from a very popular co-working space. It was the first time I had ever heard of the term digital nomad or the concept of a co-working space. It sounded like living in a really cool city in the U.S but at a fraction of the price. I thought is this real?’
Six months later, after convincing his girlfriend to join him, the both of them jumped on a plane and made the move, travelling through Chiang Mai, leaving for Bali when the air pollution got too much and finally ending up in Hoi An, where they have been settled the longest.
In Hoi An town, Justin also finds the time to pursue his own passion as a musician and MC.
‘I’m continuing to build my catalogue of music so I go to Da Nang to record a lot. I also like to continue to perform on night’s out. It’s something I really love to do. For me, it’s my own passion and entertainment.’
And the venue we’re at today has provided lots of opportunities for Justin to do that: Blush Beach, just a few kilometers along the coastal road from The Watermark, an An Bang Beachside Boutique Hotel.
‘I actually discovered it because the night they opened it they had a huge party. It was one of the best nights I’ve been to. There were 500 or so people and there were a lot of live performances, big Vietnamese artists, a pool party and fire spinners. My mind was blown by this venue. There is nothing in Hoi An or Da Nang like this. It really does look like something that has been taken from Las Vegas or Miami and dropped here in Central Vietnam. The architecture is so different. I was wowed by it, excited by it. It’s only been open a few months and because the venue has the pool overlooking the beach and a bar in the pool, you can see the beach, be on the pool and have drinks at the same time.’
‘They have a Friday and a Saturday party. I really like hip-hop music and this is one of the venues that has that going on in Hoi An.’
And by simply enjoying the venue and the music, Justin stumbled upon a wealth of opportunity to get involved.
‘One of the perks of the venue being so big as well is that they are able to throw some huge parties here. My friends are DJs here and once my friends found out that I do music here, they connected me up. It is just the beginning of what they are building here.’
So what does an average day for Justin look like in paradise?
‘On an average day, I will get up and go and have breakfast. One of the things I really love about here is the cost of living. It’s so cheap to eat. Usually, I go out. I’m a plant-based Vegan so there are about 7 or 8 restaurants that I bounce between.’
‘Nourish is probably my favourite restaurant here, my go-to spot but Rosie’s has the best coffee so when I’m really craving a good coffee I’ll go to Rosie’s. The vibe at Nourish though is amazing. I always see people I know there.’
‘The middle eastern salad bowl is what I order at Nourish. I like to add avocado and falafel and it comes with a vegan tahini sauce. It is really fresh but also a light breakfast. If I eat too heavily in the morning it can drain me. If I’m feeling like diving into a craving, feeling a little bit of a heavier breakfast then I’ll get a wow burger. It’s a really nice patty, a nice bread with mango chutney and a tahini dip and fries. But it’s a lot more filling.’
Then usually he’ll work from home or at Hub Hoi An, a co-working space in the rice fields where he can network with other expats and digital nomads, before visiting the gym, ‘bouncing’ between Superfit and a local Vietnamese gym.
For dinner he recommends Am. ‘It’s a really good vibe there. It reminds me of Bali. It has an Indo-China vibe to it, a buddism flow and energy to it. The dishes here are all really good. I’ve never eaten something there that I don’t like. I’d say 85% of the menu is vegan, the rest is vegetarian. They do ‘fish rice’ and mushroom rice. They mix seafood and rice and soy meat which they make the fish out of. For a starter, I will always order their spring rolls which come with mock meat inside it and a sweet and sour dipping sauce.’
‘In the evening on weekdays after dinner I like to hang out in An Bang,’ Justin explains, ‘I like to go to Soul Beach or Soul Kitchen on Hoi An beach because they always have good music, almost every day. The live musicians they have there are always really talented.’
After a night out he is tempted by the late night street food, lit up by Hoi An lanterns, but how does he navigate this, being vegan?
‘I’ll go the little banh mi stations and get a veggie banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich) with one of the spicy sauces. Valhalla is also open until 2 am. If I go there I’ll order a falafel burger or a bbq jack fruit burger.’
So what else would Justin love to get involved in here before he moves onto his next destination?
`I’m in the marketing business so I would love to work with really cool venues like Blush here in Hoi An and possibly help them with their social media…there’s great energy here with the expats and westerns helping the Vietnamese out and the Vietnamese only too happy to try and find ways to please the expats with what they want, which of course helps them make money. It’s become very cohesive where everybody is trying to help each other out and I’d love to continue to be a part of it.’