Hoi An is one of those places that everyone raves about – with is beauty, history and charm it really is a crowd favourite – everyone we spoke to and all the research we did said “we wish we had longer in Hoi An” or “spend as much time in Hoi An as you can” – so we did! We were still on such a high after our engagement so this place had some pretty big shoes to fill and it sure delivered – Six days in this quaint town was PERFECT!
We flew 1 hour south from Ha Noi to Da Nang then drove a further 45 minutes to our Hotel in the Old Town Hoi An. We arranged a pick up through our hotel as we were scared of getting scammed again (takes the stress away). We stayed at the beautiful MGallery by Sofitel Hotel Royal Hoi An and it was ultra luxury and truly felt like home away from home. Our initial plan was to stay here for a couple of nights as a treat and finish off the last couple of nights at a homestay – well us being us, that clearly didn’t happen and we justified the whole stay at Hotel Royal (so worth it though). The staff were so friendly and ever so helpful, the rooms were amazing and the pool was the perfect relaxing spot to cool down or just chill and read a book – such a novelty these days.
The town of Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it borders the beach but inland lies the true heart of the city – whats known as The Old Town. Walking the beautiful streets of the old town along the river felt like we had been transported to a compelling mix of Mediterranean meets South America (Never been to any of those) but we’d imagine they would look like Hoi An if they were all combined – it was insanely beautiful with such vibrant colours, interesting smells, delicious food, great shops and friendly locals.
We had arranged for six nights in Hoi An – it was a great amount of time and we would recommend the following should you find yourself in this beautiful neck of the woods.
Explore The Old Town
There is something for everyone in Hoi An – from clothing and leather shops to amazing restaurants and craft shops and spas! During the day the Old Town is really quiet with hardly anyone around so we borrowed a couple of bikes and navigated our way round otherwise after 5pm everyday most of the streets are closed off to cars, motorbikes and the like so best way is by foot. From 5pm onwards bus loads (like, we’re talking thousands) of tourists flock to the Old Town to explore, eat and sight see. To get in to the Old Town after 5pm you must pay 120,000VND for a ticket to enter (some clever scammer has set up a roaring trade with this scheme) however make sure you keep your ticket as it can be used for the whole time you are there. We loved just exploring this quaint little town and admiring the beautiful old french buildings.
Visit The Japanese Bridge
This would be the one of the most famous tourist attractions in Hoi An. We didn’t really know a heck of a lot about this bridge apart from it was something you MUST see. We did however do a bit of research and found out it was built in the 1950’s by the Japanese community in Hoi An to link them to the Chinese Quarters for trading purposes (Well, something along those lines – thats our understanding of the bridge and its history, but definitely worth the visit).
The Lantern Festival
The Full Moon Lantern Festival which takes place on the 14th day of each lunar month is definitely worth co-ordinating your time in Hoi An around (of course we weren’t that organised) but it was still just as beautiful with just as many lanterns up. During the festival apparently troupes of dragon dances roam the streets and children dress up while they visit local shop owners to bless them for the coming year. As the sun sets they have row boats that can take you out (120,000VND) on the Thu Bon River (the main river canal through Hoi An). You can buy a floating candle (you will be hassled by a thousand locals to buy one) to release on the water – it is said to bring good fortune, happiness and health (in other words make a wish as you place the lantern on the river).
Hoi An Markets, Shops and Restaurants
There are so many places to shop and eat – both day and night night markets are on every day filled with clothing (silk and leather in particular), crafts, souvenirs, lanterns while bars and restaurant spill over into the streets filled with both locals and tourists.
Our favourite thing to do in Hoi An was grab an outside seat at a restaurant along the river, grab a beer or a fresh juice as we sat in awe watching the world go by – it really is one of the most beautiful, unique places we have ever seen. We made the absolute most of just chilling out and enjoying the moment as we had been go go go the last 7 days.
Hoi An is one of Vietnams best destinations for dining – we’ve listed some of our favourite restaurants that we tried out.
- MIX Restaurant
- Home Hoi An Vietnamese Restaurant
- Vy’s Market Restaurant/Cooking school
- Citronella Restaurant Cafe
- Morning Glory Restaurant/Cooking school
- Street food along the river
Get a tailor made Suit, Dress and even Shoes
Hoi An is very well known world-wide for its skilful tailors so it was a no brainer for us to try it out. Prior to going away – we were told that they are able to make a suit in 24 hours. Obviously we didn’t think that was remotely possible however sure enough we went in at 8am, they gave us a catalogue with everything you can imagine in it, we chose what item (for me items/plural) we wanted along with the fabric and they told us to come back at 4pm (8 hours later). Like, um that must be one serious sweat shop…
Anyway, we came back at 4pm sharp and our items were made ready for the first fitting. From there, we had a few minor changes to make in terms of sizing and one other final fitting but it was very easy and relatively affordable. We went to BeBe Tailors – they are slightly more expensive but it was air conditioned (big selling point) and the staff were extremely helpful – not too pushy (only asked us 3 times if we wanted something else not 3000 – WINNING) so we would definitely recommend. Our items came out really great – I got a black blazer and an amazing wool coat while Luke got a tailor made wool suit – which is beautifully lined and fits like a glove.
Once we had finished our initial fitting they asked if we wanted shoes – obviously we/I wanted shoes so they took us to their sister shop which did shoes and they looked after us really well. So, thanks BeBe – we’ll see you for the wedding!
Grab a bicycle or motorbike and head to An Bang Beach via Tra Que Herb Village
An Bang Beach is approx 4km from Hoi An so you can either grab a bicycle from your hotel or homestay or hire a motorbike. That was way too far for us to cycle in like a million degrees so we used the motorbikes we already hired for our time in Hoi An (definitely the more efficient and less sweaty way forward). On your way out to the beach – Tra Que Herb Village is definitely worth a visit. The village itself is known for its organic herbs and vegetables that spice up the meals prepared for the people of Hoi An. Its quite an interesting/traditional way of farming, the grounds are beautiful and there is a great variety of cooking schools.
Hai Van Pass to Hue on Motorbike
This would have to be a definite highlight of our trip – we took our day packs, rented a motorbike each and went on an overnight trip North from Hoi An to Hue via the Hai Van Pass. The day we left was so bloody hot that we were so close to turning back and not going at all cause I seriously thought I was going to melt (LOL drama queen I know) but we didn’t, we pushed on and we are both so pleased we did. We did this drive on our own but there are so many different companies that provide tours like Easy Riders which are great but whatever you feel comfortable with.
The ride to Hue was a good 3 hours and the Hai Van Pass was absolutely unreal – it was one of the most spectacular roads with unbelievable views. The Hai Van Pass is actually only about 30 minutes of the 3 hours but it was so worth it. We felt relatively safe although I must admit I was a little anxious about the corrupt policeman but if you stick to the speed limit you should be ok… finger crossed and good luck.
Our overnight in Hue was relaxing – we stayed at The Scarlett Boutique Hotel which was beautiful and we thought Hue had a lot to offer (we were just exhausted from our drive up) so didn’t really see it to its full potential. Hue, was the former capital of Vietnam and the main attraction is the Imperial City which consists of multiple ancient pagodas and palaces within the Forbidden City and next time we would defiantly allow half a day to explore deeper.
So, that pretty much sums up our 6 nights in Hoi An and what we would recommend to first timers visiting this beautiful part of Vietnam. There is an abundance of culture, history, shopping, cuisine and relaxation and as you can tell we cannot speak more highly about this special place – we could easily spend two weeks here and not get bored!
There you have it – we hope you enjoyed reading about our time in Hoi An – it was hands down one of our favourite places ever and definitely holds some of our most amazing memories so, if you’re going to Vietnam, make sure Hoi An is on the top of your list – it won’t disappoint! Give us a holla if you have any questions!
Stay tuned and next up last but not least … NHA TRANG!
L & A