We loved Vietnam and Hoi An was no exception. After riding from Danang to the old town on our old motorbike we discovered a beautiful place that was, sadly, hit by the floods. And while the town was slowly recovering and the awful cockroaches were leaving the premises, we were slowly settling in and getting a glimpse of the reason why Hoi An made it to the Unesco list of World Heritage sites. Colourful by day and night, the atmosphere of the old town has something romantic at night while its bright colours make it somehow relaxing during the day. If you make it to Hoi An, here are 10 things we would recommend for you to do in the town.
Stroll around in Hoi An Old Town
Fairly small, the Old Town is well worth a long walk to discover the lovely yellow and blue colours that cover the walls, and boats parked on the river during the day, or get in the busy markets and shopping streets. It’s difficult to dislike this place. At night it suddenly transforms in to a romantic stroll where you end up surrounded by hundreds of lanterns that are taking over the streets.
Take a cooking class or try your hand at crafting or fishing.
Cooking classes are fairly famous in Hoi An and for a reason: some of the best ones in Vietnam can be found in the area. While some might be out of your budget, others could be more affordable. Of course you do get what you pay for! And if you’re not into cooking you’ll still find a few other activities like Lantern crafting, pottery or even fishing in one of the surrounding villages. We opted for a small tour with Mr Trung and enjoyed the mix of activities that were offered to us though if I would come back to Hoi An I would most certainly try out the Lantern crafting session.
Take a boat trip on the river.
Boats are constantly taking tourist around the river and for a small price you might as well give it a try! You’ve got two options: one during the day and one at night.
During the day you’ll get on a fairly sizeable boat (at least for the area) and get to observe the countryside of Hoi An and a few fisherman at work. If you’ve always wanted to try and throw a net, you might get a chance to do so (for a small fee of course)
At night buy a few floating lanterns (preferably not from the children, it’s best to not encourage their parents to put them to work that young) and hop on one of the small boats that will take you for a quick visit of the old town waters. Let the lanterns float away on the water and enjoy that romantic moment.
Visit the Fujian Assembly Hall (Phuc Kien)
Ancient temple, this place has now been changed to an assembly hall. Still, Phuc Kien is worth your time and a visit. If you’re tired of the busy streets of the old town you might enjoy a quiet stop in this place.
With many trees and plants in there, it’s easy enough to avoid the sun and hide in a bit of shade. This spot does offer history and a pleasant retreat. A walk around might only take you 20 minutes so it’s worth combining with your visit to the old town.
Observe the Japanese bridge by day and by night.
Built centuries ago, the Japanese bridge was built by the… well you guessed, Japanese and its a beautiful piece of architecture. While we didn’t fancy paying to enter said bridge, it’s still worth taking a few photos outside, in front of the river by day or night. The colours do accentuate the details of this piece that, somehow, seems a bit out of place in a town like Hoi An. It’s hard to avoid and, once again, should be coupled with your visit of the Ancient town.
Visit the local beaches
One thing you can expect from Hoi An it’s… some lovely beaches! Rent a scooter, take a bicycle and get to them! Quiet, they are perfect to add a bit of beach time to your well deserved holiday in Vietnam. While the beaches in the South are probably more famous, these ones are still worth it if you’ve got time to go. An Bang beach is one of them. Bring your own drinks (or pay the “beach price” for a fresh sip) and relax for a while or walk on the beach to find the best spot possible.
Try out the Bia Hoi at the local pubs.
The famous Bia Hoi, made by locals you can easily get quite a few of them for less than a dollar. If the beer that you’ve found in South-East Asia seemed too expensive to you, then it’s your chance to try something much, much cheaper!
Light, those are the perfect refreshment after a long day of visits and prove, once again, the strong European influence that you’ve already noticed in the country.
Enjoy the mix of Western and local food in the restaurants in town.
Talking about Western influence… what about the food? From proper Vietnamese menus to some of the best pizzas in the country, Hoi An amazes any tourists! If you’re on for a splurge you might want to try out the few Western restaurants that you can find in town, the food is great and might give you a break from the local dishes, but if you want to keep going for a total Vietnamese feast then try the fish! It would be a shame to come in such a coastal town and not try some fresh and tasty fish!
Support local handicraft.
When everything seems so cheap and easy in Vietnam it’s hard to know if you are supporting the locals or not. That’s why in Hoi An we would recommend a visit of the Reaching Out coffee as well as a visit of their shop. Products are a bit pricier but you are supporting locals with disabilities and buying some unique pieces. Bonus point if you are visiting their coffee shop: they know what they are doing and the ice coffee is served with ice-cubes made of coffee to not water your drink down, a very nice touch!
Go around the central market.
You like things busy? Then go to the central market! Fresh food, clothes, tourist and local products mixed together, it’s buzzing, it’s lively and you might get surprised by what you discover at some corners of this place. If you like markets then it would be a real shame to miss it. Some tours offer to take you through it but you can also just go on your own.
You might know by now: we did love Hoi An and after a long week in town it was really hard to leave for our next adventure. In our top 10 we did not recommend the local tailors because it’s a tricky thing: you might find some very competent ones or you might get something awful, as for everything that relates to clothing you need time and you gonna need to shop a lot to find what you want! Don’t plan this if you haven’t got more than a few days in town!
If your itinerary in the country allows it then we think you should spend maybe 5 days or more in Hoi An to enjoy this town fully but if you are in a rush, 2 to 3 days should do the trick!
What about you? Have you visited Hoi An and what were your favourite sites? Which one would you recommend? If you haven’t been yet, will you add it to your visit in Vietnam?
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