As I said on my first post on Vietnam, it is a country that I don’t consider visiting again. However, among all the cities in Vietnam, there is one city that I absolutely loved which is Hoi An. It’s the most beautiful city in Vietnam and an UNESCO World Heritage city as well.
Hoi An is a beautiful heritage city located in central Vietnam. Most travelers who visit Vietnam do either Hanoi or Saigon, both of which have airports. Hoi An however doesn’t have its own airport. So you could either fly to Da Nang or do what most backpackers do, take open tour buses. Vietnam’s open tour buses are amazing value for money and I will talk more about it in detail on another post.
Since starting my trip from Hanoi, I booked my open tour bus from Hanoi backpackers hostel. I said it was a one stop shop because it really was. Not only did I book with them my Ha Long Bay and Sapa Tours, I also booked my bus tour there, which made my travel life a lot easier. One of the bus stops was the city of Hoi An. Thus, I get to experience this beautiful city.
There’s so much to do in Hoi An and I listed here some things to do and my personal recommendations:
1. Stroll around the Old Town
Hoi An is a well preserved World Heritage site and you would notice the richness of this historical city when exploring the Old Town. The city is very compact too which is suitable for half a day of walking. I stayed at Hop Yen Hostel, which is in between the Old Town and bus stop and is walking distance to major sights.
I am big on anything that keeps me active when traveling. Other than my daily walks, I also love biking and have biked in all the countries I visited. Hoi An was one of the cities that I enjoyed just being on my bike. It’s offers a beautiful scenery and colorful shops and houses and at the same time, the city is so small that it’s impossible to get lost.
Hoi An is a shopping paradise both for men and women. A lot of tourists go to Hoi An for this reason alone. If you’re shopping for gifts or souvenirs when you go home after your trip, this is the place to buy them. The items here are unique and are reasonably priced.
I recommend Reaching Out Crafts and Art Shop
I love to window shop and check the prices in stores and night markets but I don’t usually buy stuff because I also love traveling light. However, there’s one store that I wholeheartedly recommend, called Reaching Out. Reaching Out Arts and Crafts is a fair trade gift shop that sells arts and handicrafts that are beautifully made by disabled craftspeople in Vietnam. Most of the items that they sell here cannot be found anywhere else and are high quality. I love supporting these types of organizations and ended up buying gifts and a headband here.
4. Try Quan Chay Dam Vegan Restaurant
One thing that I loved about Hoi An is that they have a vegan restaurant that serves really delicious vegan Vietnamese cuisine. Quan Chay Dam restaurant is located in a very small alley that’s quite hard to find but it’s really worth trying out. The simple noodle dishes start from $1. They are cheap, good and healthy. Also, try Cao Lau. This is a Hoi An specialty and cannot be found elsewhere in Vietnam.
5. Bike to Cua Dai Beach
Hoi An is not a known place for beaches. However, it actually has its own beach that is worth visiting. It can be easily reached by biking. With a push bike it’s about a half hour drive and with a scooter it’s less. I biked here along with the group that I was traveling with. It was a great stop to just chill and relax since Hoi An can be very hot and humid during midday. Also, don’t forget to try the ‘sugar donuts’ that the street vendors sell across the beach. They’re quite delish!
6. Cooking Classes
Green Mango salad made by yours truly
Joining cooking classes like the one in Thailand, are one of my most favorite activities when traveling and coming to Vietnam was not an exception. My cooking adventures deserve another blog post.
7. Design Your Own Clothes
Hoi An is the perfect place for custom made clothes. You can have literally anything you want to have done- dress, polo, coat, bags, shoes, etc. and they can do it as fast as overnight.
When I was traveling in Ko Lipe, I met a girl who recommended me to have something in mind when I come to Hoi An because she spent so much money having custom made coats, dresses and boots done.
There are literally hundreds of tailoring shops in Hoi An. But there is one place that I 100% do not recommend- Kimmie’s Tailoring Shop. This place is the most popular in Hoi An, and the sales people here will put too much pressure on you to have something made. You can try it and you will find out what I’m talking about. I’m also more skeptic when everybody goes to one place and can sense if businesses are just there to take your money. Kimmie’s is definitely one of them.
In turn, I often find places which have much more to offer, very reasonably priced and with very courteous sellers, even in a country like Vietnam. I recommend walking around and checking out the small tailoring shops and you can find a gem in those places. Don’t follow the crowd. If everybody goes to one place alone, be skeptical. They’re probably getting ripped off.
I wasn’t going to have something done because I tend to be frugal and I love traveling light but I found an amazing tailoring shop that only a few people go to. So I designed a coat, chose silk materials and buttons, had my fitting done and my trench coat was done exactly the way I want it. I love it because of their great customer care, attention to detail, shaped exactly to my size and knowing that nobody else will have the very same thing.
If you want to see the coat I designed, it actually made its special appearance on my Switzerland post.
8. Soak in Hoi An’s Night Atmosphere
Hoi An’s Riverside
Hoi An is beautiful any time of the day but it’s even more stunning at night. I’ll just let the pictures talk instead.
On the other side of the river are small shops selling bright colored lanterns. They’re a sight to behold!
A more close up shot
Dining by the riverside restaurants is a great experience though the prices are higher than usual.
if you’re on a budget, street food dining and eating with the locals in Hoi An’s riverside can give you magnificent views as well.
9. Day Trip to My Son Ruins
If you have more time, a quick half day trip to another UNESCO World Heritage site is suggested. It’s about an hour away from Hoi An and if you can drive a scooter, you can do it as well. The trip costs $7 per person and if you’ve been to Angkor Wat, it won’t be much of a surprise and the tour guide can also be terrible. My group didn’t understand a thing of what our tour guide was talking about, which in turn was a funny story for a side trip fail.
Up Next: My yummy yummy adventures in Hoi An… Stay tuned!