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23 January 2018

Top Things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam


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.



Once a major port, the melting-pot history is reflected in its grand architecture, a mixture of eras and styles from wooden Chinese shophouses and temples to colourful French colonial buildings, ornate Vietnamese houses and the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge.

It is an atmospheric and delightful place to visit, with little traffic and pollution, a nearby stunning beach, delicious and fresh cuisine and so much to do. 

Here are my top recommendations for Hoi An, a place not to be missed on your next trip to Vietnam.


Wander the ancient streets


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.


Gioan Cooking Class


One of my favourite and most memorable experiences throughout my time in Vietnam was doing a Vietnamese cooking class at Gioan Cookery School.

Hoi An is known for its diverse and excellent food, and it can seem that every other restaurant is offering cooking classes, but Gioan was one of the first original family cookery schools in Hoi An and they have a great reputation.

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!

It was such a fantastic experience from start to finish and our teacher was so funny and easy-going. I learned so much that day and can't wait to start using my new culinary skills at home. The feast we got to eat at the end of it with our freshly made food was phenomenal.

Banh Xeo

I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and very highly recommend it!


Have a beach day


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.


Get a new wardrobe


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. 
Shoes can be made to order and many handicraft shops specialise in embroidered linen.

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. 
If you have a favourite item you wish to replicate, take it with you, or take pictures of the clothes you want made.
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.


Do a bicycle/boat/walking tour


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.


Visit Marble Mountains 


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. 
I visited on my way down to Hoi An from Da Nang, as it is between the two cities.



It is a well-known pilgrimage site with peaks, caves, tunnels and temples. There are Buddhist sanctuaries and even a special circular cave which leads to the summit where you can enjoy panoramic views.


Indulge in the local food

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.


White Rose (Banh Bao Banh Vac) - A popular symbol of food in the ancient town, these are special shrimp dumplings made from translucent white dough bunched up to look like a rose. It takes three years to learn how to master them and apparently, there is only one family in Hoi An that produces them and distributes them to all the local eateries.


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.
Let me know in the comments if you've been or are planning to in the near future!

Pin it! :)

Happy Travels,
Share:

13 comments

Abby Darlington said...

Thats amazing how many different fun things you can do there! I've never been to Vietnam, but I'd certainly love to add it to my list. I see you are in New Zealand now- what part? My husband and I went there for our honeymoon 6 months ago!

Rose Mont said...

There are so many places I will never get to visit but I love seeing the pictures from trips others have taken. It would be fun to take a cooking class and shop for the ingredients on all vacations!!

Angela Tolsma said...

I am definitely a beach kind of gal whenever I go anywhere. I like spending all my time on the beach. That said I would totally want to do the cooking class!

Stephanie said...

Oh my gosh, I really want to go to the lunar festival, that looks amazing! And the cooking class sounds like so much fun. I love to cook, and learning a new cuisine with new techniques would be awesome. Oh, of course, being a Florida girl at heart, I would definitely be checking out the beach as well.

Michelle Richardson said...

I wasn't familiar with how this place and it looks absolutely beautiful! Love the lantern fest and the beaches. It would be awesome to travel to places like this!

Dorothy Reinhold said...

The pictures you posted of the view and those flowers are stunning! Pair that view with all of those delicious food options and you've got a great trip!

Christine Foster said...

I have always wanted to go to a lantern festival! So darn pretty! Vietnam is on my bucket list! I already LOOOOVE vietnamese food! I want to see all those bright and beautiful colors in person

Sherrie Fabrizi Allbritten said...

There looks like there is a lot to do in Hoi An. The cooking class would be something my husband would love. For me I would want to do the boat tour. Fantastic photos!

April said...

This is such a magical city! Love all the lanterns.

April

David Elliott said...

Looks like you had such an amazing time out there. I am with you when it comes to visitng places you need to go into the back streets and see how people live when you are there.

Becca Wilson said...

This looks like it was a really amazing trip. I have always been fascinated by the culture there!

Cheichei Va said...

I heard a lot of things about Vietnam. But unfortunately haven't visited it. Oh well thanks for sharing the pics.

Peyton's Pier said...

The food would have been my favorite part of the trip. The pictures are fantastic. I would So love to visit during one of their festivals.

23 January 2018

Top Things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam


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.



Once a major port, the melting-pot history is reflected in its grand architecture, a mixture of eras and styles from wooden Chinese shophouses and temples to colourful French colonial buildings, ornate Vietnamese houses and the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge.

It is an atmospheric and delightful place to visit, with little traffic and pollution, a nearby stunning beach, delicious and fresh cuisine and so much to do. 

Here are my top recommendations for Hoi An, a place not to be missed on your next trip to Vietnam.


Wander the ancient streets


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.


Gioan Cooking Class


One of my favourite and most memorable experiences throughout my time in Vietnam was doing a Vietnamese cooking class at Gioan Cookery School.

Hoi An is known for its diverse and excellent food, and it can seem that every other restaurant is offering cooking classes, but Gioan was one of the first original family cookery schools in Hoi An and they have a great reputation.

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!

It was such a fantastic experience from start to finish and our teacher was so funny and easy-going. I learned so much that day and can't wait to start using my new culinary skills at home. The feast we got to eat at the end of it with our freshly made food was phenomenal.

Banh Xeo

I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and very highly recommend it!


Have a beach day


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.


Get a new wardrobe


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. 
Shoes can be made to order and many handicraft shops specialise in embroidered linen.

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. 
If you have a favourite item you wish to replicate, take it with you, or take pictures of the clothes you want made.
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.


Do a bicycle/boat/walking tour


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.


Visit Marble Mountains 


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. 
I visited on my way down to Hoi An from Da Nang, as it is between the two cities.



It is a well-known pilgrimage site with peaks, caves, tunnels and temples. There are Buddhist sanctuaries and even a special circular cave which leads to the summit where you can enjoy panoramic views.


Indulge in the local food

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.


White Rose (Banh Bao Banh Vac) - A popular symbol of food in the ancient town, these are special shrimp dumplings made from translucent white dough bunched up to look like a rose. It takes three years to learn how to master them and apparently, there is only one family in Hoi An that produces them and distributes them to all the local eateries.


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.
Let me know in the comments if you've been or are planning to in the near future!

Pin it! :)

Happy Travels,

13 comments:

Abby Darlington said...

Thats amazing how many different fun things you can do there! I've never been to Vietnam, but I'd certainly love to add it to my list. I see you are in New Zealand now- what part? My husband and I went there for our honeymoon 6 months ago!

Rose Mont said...

There are so many places I will never get to visit but I love seeing the pictures from trips others have taken. It would be fun to take a cooking class and shop for the ingredients on all vacations!!

Angela Tolsma said...

I am definitely a beach kind of gal whenever I go anywhere. I like spending all my time on the beach. That said I would totally want to do the cooking class!

Stephanie said...

Oh my gosh, I really want to go to the lunar festival, that looks amazing! And the cooking class sounds like so much fun. I love to cook, and learning a new cuisine with new techniques would be awesome. Oh, of course, being a Florida girl at heart, I would definitely be checking out the beach as well.

Michelle Richardson said...

I wasn't familiar with how this place and it looks absolutely beautiful! Love the lantern fest and the beaches. It would be awesome to travel to places like this!

Dorothy Reinhold said...

The pictures you posted of the view and those flowers are stunning! Pair that view with all of those delicious food options and you've got a great trip!

Christine Foster said...

I have always wanted to go to a lantern festival! So darn pretty! Vietnam is on my bucket list! I already LOOOOVE vietnamese food! I want to see all those bright and beautiful colors in person

Sherrie Fabrizi Allbritten said...

There looks like there is a lot to do in Hoi An. The cooking class would be something my husband would love. For me I would want to do the boat tour. Fantastic photos!

April said...

This is such a magical city! Love all the lanterns.

April

David Elliott said...

Looks like you had such an amazing time out there. I am with you when it comes to visitng places you need to go into the back streets and see how people live when you are there.

Becca Wilson said...

This looks like it was a really amazing trip. I have always been fascinated by the culture there!

Cheichei Va said...

I heard a lot of things about Vietnam. But unfortunately haven't visited it. Oh well thanks for sharing the pics.

Peyton's Pier said...

The food would have been my favorite part of the trip. The pictures are fantastic. I would So love to visit during one of their festivals.

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