Hoi An, Vietnam - a culinary and cultural delight
On a trip through Vietnam I was keen to see parts of the country away from the hustle and bustle of the major cities so after doing some online research I settled for the charming village of Hoi An, located mid-way up the Vietnam coastline.
Previously an important port town, Hoi An is now a significant tourism drawcard with winding village canals, and well-preserved ancient houses and shops making for an enchanting place to visit. I visited Hoi An without the kids (every parent needs some me time occasionally!) but it would be an equally interesting place to travel with kids due to the lack of congestion that is common in the rest of Vietnam.
During the day Hoi An is a vibrant and colourful place, but by night it transforms into a captivating scene with pretty lanterns lighting the laneways and canals, bustling restaurants, and bars brimming with chilled out tourists drinking the cheapest of cocktails.
Hoi An was listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1999 and there are lots of interesting sights to visit and things to do. If you are trying to decide how long to spend in Hoi An, I recommend allowing at least three nights to relax and enjoy the romance of the village fully. You can enjoy some top class resorts or home stays and take your time wandering the streets and sampling the culinary delights.
Hoi An Ancient Town
Largely pedestrianised, the old town has a charm that is rare to find these days. The locals are particularly friendly and strolling the laneways checking out the creative souvenir stores, eclectic art galleries, restaurants and bars can soak up hours of easy entertainment. It can be very hot in the old town during the day so the prettier and more vibrant time to visit the old town is at night.
Hoi An Central Market
Found alongside the waterfront of Thu Bon River in Hoi An, the Central Market is a bustling place to experience all the senses of Vietnam in one place. The colours alone entice you in with fresh flowers bundled in large bunches and crunchy produce on display in a bright display. The markets start early in the morning and are best visited in the earlier hours before it gets too hot. Don’t forget to use your bargaining skills to negotiate the price and enjoy the hive of activity.
Japanese Covered Bridge
One of the iconic spots to visit in Hoi An, the Japanese covered bridge is small but interesting to visit in the centre of town. The bridge has been fully restored but was originally built by the Japanese living in thje area to join to the Chinese quarter on the other side of the canal.
Hoi An Beaches
Vietnam has a booming travel industry and the beach resorts stretching along the coastline are gaining traction on the more traditional Thai or Malaysian resort holidays. Whilst I found the infrastructure and cleanliness to be not as well developed around the beach areas in Hoi An it is still a nice spot to spend some time lounging by the resort pool and splurging on some spa treatments at one of the luxurious beach resorts. Check out my stay at the Sunrise Hoi An resort below.
If you want to experience the best beaches in the region consider taking a day trip out to the UNESCO recognised Cham Islands. Snorkel and swim amongst the eight islands, enjoy a delicious lunch and visit a local fishing village.
Shopping and the Hoi An Tailors
Tailoring is big business in Hoi An and if you are around for a few days it is a wonderful place to arrange some custom-made clothing.
There are also a myriad of quirky and really beautiful arts, crafts and souvenir shops in the old town. There are some really cute gifts particularly for children that are hand crafted locally along with some very talented artists selling their paintings and other creations.
Unique Local Experiences
Hoi An is the perfect place to experience local experiences whether it be taking a Vietnamese cooking class, cycling tours or visiting small fishing villages. Some of the best local experiences for you to enjoy:
Including shopping for your produce from the local markets this experience will have you cooking the tastiest and authentic vietnamese dishes. Pre-purchase discounted tour here.
Enjoy finding out about all the historically significant places. Then this tour gives you one on one visit to all of the historic monuments in Hoi An, a river cruise to fishing villages and a cycle tour through the countryside. Discounted tickets are available through this link.
Day Trips from Hoi An
Due its location you are also in a prime spot to take day trips from Hoi An to Da Nang or Hue. Da Nang is easily visited on a half or full day tour where you can visit the Linh Ung Pagoda, the marble mountains and some historic caves. I highly recommend taking the full day tour to experience even more of the region by incorporating Hue and Da Nang into a combined tour meaning you will explore the most significant sites and beautiful rural landscapes of Vietnam.
Where to Stay in Hoi An
The Sunrise Hoi An was where I stayed and is a beachfront resort just a ten-minute drive from Hoi An ancient town. It is a large a beautiful, modern style resort and the pools are amongst the best in the area. My room was really luxurious and spacious, and the gardens are really appealing. With on-site restaurants and spa services this resort ticks all the boxes for an indulgent stay. The staff were all lovely and the free shuttle to and from town was a helpful bonus.
Other highly rated hotels in Hoi An for varying prices and type of stay include:
Getting to Hoi An and Getting Around
Hoi An itself does not have an airport so you need to arrive by air at Da Nang which is a solid ninety-minute taxi ride away in traffic (lucky taxis are super cheap). Vietnam Airlines have numerous flights each day from both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh which is where most International travellers will arrive.
For transport on the ground taxis are your best bet for longer trips as there isn’t a great deal of public transport around the area. A little word or warning that on two separate occasions in Vietnam I had taxi drivers take me on particularly lengthy and strangely routed trips (opposite direction to where we should be going!) so make sure you have a vague idea of where you are heading and hold them to account as best as possible. A good option is to use the resort or hotel shuttle wherever possible to ensure you are getting where you need to go on time.
For getting around the ancient town just hop on board one of the local cyclo buggys to take you on short trips.
Around Hoi An itself you could also consider biking yourself around the village. If your hotel is central to the old town this is an enjoyable way to sightsee!
Best Restaurants in Hoi An
To be completely honest I don’t think bad food is something you will find in Hoi An. The quality of food we had during our stay was all exceptional and the ambience and service was also a highlight. If I can give one tip – just make sure you head out for some meals in the ancient town as the resorts tend to be a little more western influenced and not quite as authentic as what you will get in town.
Along the river are some gorgeously lantern lit bars and waterfront eateries or if you like something within a pretty garden setting the Lantern Town restaurant is a great choice.
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