Hoi An is an incredibly charming town on Vietnam’s central coast, well-known for its greatly preserved Ancient Town, cut through with canals.
I absolutely loved spending a week there, exploring the beautiful ancient city that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I was lucky enough to be there during the lunar lantern festival where the old town shuts off electricity in the evenings, is closed to traffic and transforms into magical alleyways of colourful lanterns, flickering candles and lively gatherings.
There’s no better way to explore a new place than by walking the streets. Admire the ancient and contrasting architecture; shops, bars, restaurants and coffee houses are all a photographer’s delight.
Walk across the ornate Japanese Covered Bridge, check out the Tan Ky ancient House, visit the local fresh food markets.
|Japanese Covered Bridge|
There is so much to see and it’s all in a relatively compact area, so wear comfy walking shoes and take regular breaks and refresh on traditional Vietnamese ice coffee to beat the heat.
|A local market|
After doing the sights in town (temples, ancient houses, chapels, the covered bridge) head south over the central footbridge to An Hoi islet, where the riverfront is lined with bars offering ice-cold glasses of the daily-brewed refreshing lager called ‘Bia Hoi.’ They usually go for around 5000 VND (US 20 cents!) and it’s a great place to people-watch.
One of my favourite and most memorable experiences throughout my time in Vietnam was doing a Vietnamese cooking class at Gioan Cookery School.
Beginning with a trip to a local market, we learned all about and hand-picked our fresh ingredients to use for the day. We got to choose our favourite dishes to learn how to make which were: fresh Vietnamese spring rolls with dipping sauce, Banh Xeo (country savoury pancakes), chilli chicken and lemongrass stir fry and traditional beef Pho!
|Busy making Pho!|
The nearby An Bang Beach is only 5 kilometres away or a 15 minute leisurly drive (or cycle if you’re keen!). The sand is soft, the water is lovely and refreshing to swim in and there are plenty of loungers with sun-umbrellas to relax on free of charge if you purchase a drink or two.
There are also plenty of cafes and restaurants in the area to choose from and I highly recommend going to a place called French Bakery and Restaurant.
They offer a range of options but their Banh Mi in particular was one of the best I’ve ever had. I had the special pork one with chilli jam and for 40,000 VND ($1.70 US), it’s an incredible price as well.
I didn’t do this myself, but I know Hoi An is very well-known for this. There are many budget tailors and it’s the place to take home a complete wardrobe of new clothes and leather goods.
If you decide you want a new wardrobe, do your research before you go; some of the tailors are cheap and very good, some are expensive and not good value, and some are pretty poor.
Word of mouth is usually a great source and I’m sure Trip Advisor would be able to steer you in the right direction with the best reviewed places.
There are many tours on offer to explore more of Hoi An how you please. From sunset boat cruises along the Thu Bon River, to walking street food tours in the Old Town to venturing further with a bicycle tour.
Many homestays and hotels offer bikes to guests, and joining the many cyclists on the roads provides an instant immersion into local life.
There are group tours you can join for an easy few hours with just 9 km of cycling along quiet lanes, lunch included, or a more demanding 50 km adventure. All take in traditional villages, handicrafts, fragrant rice paddies and rickety floating bridges.
Only a half an hour drive away are the Marble Mountains, a cluster of five marble and limestone hills, named after the elements metal, wood, water, fire and earth.
One of my favourite parts about travelling is trying the local cuisine. I have already written ‘Best Places to Eat’ for Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, and I will next write one for Hoi An too, as the food there was just as spectacular.
A few of the best local dishes that are a must-try and special to Hoi An and the central Vietnam region include:
Cao Lau – one of the most famous dishes, this noodle speciality has been eaten in the city since the 17th century. The hand-cut noodles are tossed with sliced pork, crunchy rice crackers, spices, big handfuls of fresh herbs and a small amount of super-tasty broth.
Mi Quam – a delicious bowl full of rice noodles, a choice of meat (chicken, pork, shrimp, quail egg etc.), fresh vegetables, a little broth and topped with peanuts, rice crackers or crunchy spring rolls.
Stay tuned for my next post where I will share my favourite places to eat including Banh Mi Phuong, Morning Glory, Phi Banh Mi and Cafe 43.
When to go: the central coast is at its driest and sunniest in May, June and July.
Be wary of the rainy season (September to November) as it can be prone to heavy downpours and bouts of flooding.
How to get there: getting around Vietnam is easy and there are many ways to get to Hoi An depending on your budget. Take a bus or train from any other major city to save money, or fly if you have less time and a bit more to spend. If you are only an hour or two away you can hire a driver to take you for around $100 USD and they will happily stop at any sights along the way.
Where to stay: there are many types of accomodation available to suit all budgets including guesthouses, hostels, AirBnbs, low-budget hotels to luxury hotels. Try and choose one close to the Old Town so you can easily walk or cycle there, or stay at the beach if you prefer a more relaxing style holiday. Most places offer multiple daily transfers to either the Old Town or the beach. If you can afford it, pick somewhere with a pool, as it’s hot year-round!
Need to know: tourists need to purchase an entrance ticket to the Hoi An Ancient Town. It costs 120,000 VND ($5 USD). The tickets are valid for 10 days and you need to have it on you at all times. For more information visit the Hoi An Tourism site.
I hope you are inspired to visit Hoi An, a beautiful little city with so much to offer.