Oh wow, you are going to Vietnam? It is beautiful. Have fun!
Yes! What do you recommend? I am so excited for Halong Bay!
Of course, Halong Bay – one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. But did you hear about Hoi An? It’s a must! Why? Check out below.
Hoi An is a beautiful little beach town in Central Vietnam with a magical ancient town right at its core. It has the sort of charm that will lure you forever to come back for more. It’s a tease I tell you! Small, cozy, quiet, colorful – I could go on forever with adjectives. But I have decided to talk less in this post and give you a little photo tour instead. No, I am not being lazy or looking for ways to escape writing a typical blog post. I just don’t think I have the right words to describe to you what Hoi An was.
For quick info on food, accommodation and transport scroll to the bottom of the post.
(I can’t believe you don’t want to see my cool photos though. -_-)
I was in a new place I knew very less about with no fixed plans to follow, no time schedules to run after, no “must sees” list to tick off…no rush. This was exactly how I wanted to see Hoi An. This temple I stumbled upon was right outside my guest house. Abandoned, spooky which made it even more interesting for me.
You will find many such structures everywhere around the town. Never hesitate to go in if you are an architecture/culture geek like me. Just make sure to ask for permissions at the gate (if you see anyone around), take off your shoes in religious spaces and speak politely (even through your body language). Vietnamese people are very warm and inviting. My curiosity made me even enter people’s homes and private courtyards. But like I said be respectful always and they will be the same to you.
Want to soak in Vitamin Sea for the day?
Go to the An Bang beach to lie down, take a dip or sip a cocktail (or two) or read a book for hours (I did them all). It’s the nearest beach from the centre of Hoi An and you can take a bike down here or hire a taxi/Grab car/moto or better yet, walk. Around the beach are some amazing (and expensive) restaurants which serve some of the best seafood of the town. Must try!
We made our way to the Ancient town of Hoi An which is where all the shops, restaurants are. From kite shops to custom made clothing outlets, from cafes to yum restaurants – you name anything touristy, they have it here. I quickly dropped Tas at Friendly bags and was out to walk around the yellow town I had seen so many photos of.
Hoi An Ancient Town is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. Its buildings and its street plan reflect the influences, both indigenous and foreign, that have combined to produce this unique heritage site – UNESCO
Are you asking yourself why yellow?
Well, to some yellow is the symbol of prosperity and well being. To others it symbolizes royalty. Climatically it is said to reflect sun-rays away and hence not absorb much heat. Whichever the reason may be, the many shades of yellow makes this an ideal paradise for any photo enthusiast.
I love colors and this place probably will be my “spirit town” (if there is such a thing) for quite some time. You can never get bored, you can never click enough photos and you can never get tired of walking around. Here are some things you could do:
Rent a bike and stroll around the town…
You will see many places where you will be asked for $1-$2 to park your bike. Don’t listen to them. There are many restaurants where if you buy a bottle of mineral water for 10K VND they will let you park your bike for free.
Or be the lazy tourist and ride one of these cyclo-rickshaws…
Drink coffee and chill and chill more…
Shop till you drop, may be?
Well I am not much into shopping anymore. But Hoi An has a good reputation of having the best craftsmen in Vietnam. Check out Friendly for custom made leather shoes and bags (they have separate outlets for each). If you are a fashionholic, Hoi An is the place to stitch that beautiful dress or suit you have taken a screenshot of. Just show them the photo, give them your measurements and it will be delivered to your hostel the next day.
Check out the ancient houses and beautiful temples for free.
Did I already tell you Hoi An is a mix of the rural and the urban? There are rice fields all around the city and if you go outside this touristy hub, you may feel a little lost. But beautiful landscapes are guaranteed.
The canal that flows through the ancient town was where I loved sitting around. I have spent hours there doing nothing but observing people around (or sketching). And it’s so interesting to see the way the traffic changes around the water body as the day goes along. The locals trying to sell a boat ride to the tourists or couples sharing a kiss or pestering each other to take better photos (hahaha!) or just people like me sitting here for no reason.
As the night fell, colors started to lit up. On the waters, on the streets and in the skies too. Here comes another face of Hoi An.
There were more people on the streets now. A different buzz was in the air now. The chilled out lazy town seemed to have lit up in an less than hour.
The sky was full of colors and if I was a bit of a romantic I would probably have taken a boat ride, get a floating candle for a wish. Nah, too much of realist! 😉
After a good dinner by the waterfront (forgot to take photos, tipsy mistakes) we went out to explore the night market that opens up every night on the other side of the town (cross the bridge that connects two sides of the water body and you will end up there). Haggle hard if you want to shop here. I wanted to get a lantern but it was super expensive. Hence I ended up getting one from the town shops later on for much cheaper.
Even if you don’t shop, you must roam around in this night market, sip a drink or two and eat the street food. It’s beautiful and so much fun. And a shot like this is a must if you are there with a special person.
Or ask a stranger to take one like this if you are there just by yourself…
Or like this if you are out partying and shopping with your best friends…
How can you reach Hoi An?
Fly and taxi: The closest airport (30minutes) from Hoi An is Da Nang International Airport. If you take a flight to DAD, grab a taxi to Hoi An. It will cost you 500k VND. Expensive if you are traveling solo. We shared our taxi with 3 other backpackers. So yes, always look around and see if you find people to share a ride with. You’d be surprised how many people are out there trying to save money on the go.
Take the bus: Now this can be a little tricky and time consuming. Basically you will have to go to Da Nang bus station to Hoi An bus station, 20 minutes/route. It will cost you 25,000 VND.
Train to Da Nang railway station: I hear it is one of the most scenic train journeys if you are coming from up North. But then again you will have to take a bus or taxi to Hoi An from the railway station.
Where did I stay?
While doing my research before this trip, Hoi An seemed like the place I would like to splurge a little and stay at a villa or something. So I looked up my options on Booking.com and found some beautiful villas that are not only serene but super cheap. We stayed at the Hoi An Villa, a 15 minutes walk from the ancient town. For a private room we spent $10 per night with complimentary breakfast. So it’s the same $5 dorm rent for us, only much prettier and peaceful!
What to eat?
I personally think you can never go wrong with food in Hoi An. Try the seafood because it is super fresh. Eat a Banh Mi because it is completely different from the ones in Hanoi. Sip uncountable numbers of cocktails and drink as many heavenly Vietnamese coffees. Here are some restaurants I recommend:
- Phi Banh Mi
- Aubergine49 Restaurant
- Madam Khanh – The Banh Mi Queen
- An Bang Beach Village Restaurant
- Morning Glory
- Hoi An Roastery – Lantern Street
- Hoi An Roastery – Center
Other things to do
- Join a cooking class or a lantern making class
- Rent a scooter to check out the paddy fields and villages nearby.
- Check out Lady Buddha, Marble Mountains or My Son sanctuary – all at close distance from Hoi An.
We loved our stay in Hoi An so much that we cancelled some of other plans we had and extended our stay here. When we talk about Vietnam, Halong Bay is probably the first thing that pops into our mind. But for me, this is the place. It is perhaps the most well preserved and picturesque UNESCO heritage towns I have seen so far. It’s a treat and you must visit!
Hoi An has my heart and I can’t wait to go back. Let me know in the comment section below if you are going as well or have any questions regarding the magical Hoi An!
All photos belong to TabassumTrails unless otherwise credited.