Hoi An was my “seaside” stop on my trip to Vietnam, which is saying a lot because finding a beach destination in Vietnam in August, it takes a lot…and Hoi An in terms of beaches is not really the best.
Let’s just say that Hoi An, in August, allows you to enjoy what you might call“sunny days.” The North and South of the country are not so friendly in terms of weather at the same time.
But other than that, Hoi An besides being a “seaside” city, it is also a city “to love.” It is a little Vietnamese gem, one of those cities you fall in love with and want to spend many more days there than you have planned.
Certainly, many of you may think it is very touristy, and you are completely right. We cannot categorize Hoi An as the most authentic city in Vietnam; then again, neither can the city of Sapa was. Hoi An is to be taken “as is,” you have to appreciate it for the feelings it conveys as you walk through its alleys in the evening.
You feel like a tourist, it is true, but reading in the dictionary I see no negative meanings to this word. You have to be able to give it its proper weight and love Hoi An for what it is: a beautiful Vietnamese town with a very touristy soul. It is impossible to argue that Hoi An is ugly.
Reading tips for an itinerary in Vietnam
If you are planning a trip to Vietnam, you cannot fail to include in your itinerary at least one night in Hoi An.
You might be interested in:
- Hanoi: best things to do in Vietnam’s capital city
- Halong Bay in Vietnam: the Complete Guide
- My 10 tips for traveling in Vietnam DIY
Where to stay in Hoi An?
Hoi An allows different solutions. I had a very good time at the Windbell Villa (click to see it). It is located on one of the two islands in front of the old town of Hoi An, approximately 1 km from the old quarter.
Translated into times: 20 minutes by foot, 5 by bike, 2 by car. The hotel is slightly outside the center and has a swimming pool where you can relax until late.
Alternatively, you could sleep directly in the center of Hoi An ->discover the solutions
Or, if you have no interest in discovering the city of Hoi An, you could sleep in an accommodation near the sea so that you can reach An Bang beach more easily -> discover the solutions.
Small tip: If you will be flying into Da Nang, when you book your hotel, I suggest you ask if they have airport pick-up as a service. Usually the prices are in line with those of a regular cab service.
Recommended tours in Hoi An
This beautiful Vietnamese town is a perfect starting point for excursions into the interior as well. Not only that, there are many activities to do in the city. Here are the ones I recommend, private tours that will save you a lot of time in the planning stage:
- CLICK HERE for a guided excursion to the My Son shrine (which I also tell you about in the rest of the article). E HERE if you want to hike at sunrise, something incredibly fascinating.
- CLICK HERE for a guided tour (in English, the tour is highly recommended) of all of Hoi An. E HERE if you like the idea of discovering rural Hoi An with a bicycle tour.
- Finally, if you want to immerse yourself in Vietnamese culture, I recommend this tour with Vietnamese cooking class or this one: a workshop on how to create the classic lanterns that the city of Hoi An is famous for.
How to get to Hoi An?
So many people arrive by train, but a great alternative would be to land on Danang. In this regard, if you are flying over this neighboring city to Hoi An, I recommend booking the Shuttle service that will take you directly from the airport to your hotel in town. I used this very service and it was really convenient.
Hoi An: what to do in the city of lanterns
Hoi An is located 30 km south of the city of Da Nang, a city that is very important in terms of national connections. If you want to quickly reach the center of Vietnam by domestic flight, you can only choose “Da Nang” as your destination airport. Alternatively, there is also an airport in Hue, but it is much further away.
The city of Hoi An in 1999 became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many cultures have passed through its trading port, which was important between the 15th and 19th centuries. Chinese, Japanese, as well as Dutch, Portuguese, and French influenced the local culture. Indeed, the architectural styles that characterize the buildings in Hoi An’s Old Quarter feature contaminations of styles related to other cultures.
I do not want to dwell too much on cultural explanations that you can find in any printed travel guide on Vietnam; instead, I wanted to give you some tips on what to do and how to visit Hoi An.
1 – Stroll around the old town of Hoi An
Everyone praises the evening Hoi An, I also enjoyed the daytime Hoi An very much.
To visit cultural points of interest in Hoi An Old Town, you need to purchase a multiple-entry ticket that allows up to 5 entries among the 21 sites included in Hoi An Ancient Town. There are several points within the district where you can purchase the ticket; in case you cannot find them, ask any shopkeeper who will point you to the exact place.
The cost of the ticket is 120,000 dong, about 5 euros, a very small price that allows you to finance the maintenance of the site as well as preserve it properly. Eighty-five percent of the proceeds are reinvested in accommodation works.
Along with the ticket you are given a map with the various points of interest in the city. Each has a different color based on the type of structure/monument. My advice, having to choose, is to vary. Try to choose different types among the various cultural sites, or rely on the suggested itinerary in the “tours” section of this article.
Reading on the official Hoi An tourism website, the ticket should be bought even if you only choose to walk around the city without visiting any monuments. Once purchased, always carry it with you even on subsequent days as it is valid and allows you access for your entire stay in Hoi An.
Among the various attractions, don’t miss the Japanese Covered Bridge. It is the undisputed symbol of the city. A wooden and stone bridge with an arched structure that joined the Japanese quarter (located to the west) with the Chinese quarter (located to the east). The bridge also houses the small Chua Cao temple.
The charm of Hoi An can also be admired in the daytime. It is not the illuminated lanterns but the chaotic daily life of the Vietnamese. A soup of honking horns and market shouts. Yes, because on the east side, right at the entrance to the city, you will find the general market and the fish market, two excellent examples of daily life in Hoi An.
2 – Experience the evening of Hoi An and its lanterns
So we come to the most iconic aspect of Hoi An: the illuminated lanterns!
From sunset to 11 p.m., Hoi An becomes one of the most beautiful romantic cities I have ever seen. It is certainly a bit of a “romantic” as it is contrived, but the boats passing by on the Thu Bon River reflecting its lights, the streets lit up everywhere by lanterns of different colors, the restaurants that begin to welcome people…make the evening Hoi An a very quaint town.
If you want to experience it at its best, the advice is to get to the city early. Eating at 9 p.m. should be considered late. Once you leave the restaurant you would already find the first lanterns out; the city tends to shut down at a certain time. At 11 p.m. you will find many restaurants already closed and therefore no longer lit. I couldn’t wrap my head around that, and it is. Ergo, try to best enjoy the evening soul of the city by anticipating the time.
The perfect “combo” would be to spend an evening eating in street food mode in the night market across the river.
3 – Exploring the surroundings of Hoi An by bicycle
Most hotels in Hoi An will allow you to use a bicycle to get around. This is an absolutely interesting solution to explore the surroundings of Hoi An. Not only Old Quarter, Hoi An should also be discovered among the rice crops and in the villages just outside the city center. A great way to get out of the small, albeit intense, tourist chaos of Hoi An.
4 – A night on the Cham Islands
When I started building my itinerary in Vietnam, the Cham Islands were a fixed point. Few people talked about them, few had gone, and information could only be found on English sites: perfection!
I even wanted to spend 2 nights there. A homestay, tranquility after 3 p.m. (the last boats sail from the Cham to the mainland around that time), sun, sea and few people. Too bad, as you know if you have read my other articles on Vietnam, that luck did not turn on my side and consequently I was unable to discover this little paradise.
5 – An Bang beach and paragliding
Hoi An’s beaches do not shine when it comes to beauty. Forget the Caribbean beaches or those of the Andaman Islands in Thailand. Vietnam is certainly not the ideal destination for those who want to do exclusively beach life. The best area would be, perhaps, Phu Quoc but again it depends on the seasons. In August it is not ideal.
That said, An Bang beach is nice, definitely touristy but …who cares, just move a few dozen meters from the main entrances to the beach and you will find all the tranquility you need.
The advice is to move toward the northern establishments. Keep the sea on your right and continue past the first establishments. You will find more “bathhouses” with more space between umbrellas, derisory prices and less chaos.
Another tip -> if you are not afraid of heights try paragliding. One minute adrenaline rush at tens of meters above the sea. You will have a wonderful view of Hoi An and a beautiful memory. The cost is affordable, if I am not mistaken around 25/30 euros in pairs.
6 – Drinking the lotus flower drink
Okay, picture the scene: hot, very hot, thirsty, very thirsty…what could be better than a refreshing lotus flower drink! Wandering around Hoi An during the day, you will need to take a break and, tasting this drink, might be the best choice to regain some strength.
It is a drink that is served with ice and a lotus flower. It is very sugary, a pick-me-up to resume your discovery of Hoi An.
7 – Discover the ruins of My Son
My Son is a monumental complex, made up of ruins, located a short distance from Hoi An. This Unesco World Heritage site suffered numerous bombings during the Vietnam War and now only a few buildings remain in good condition. A great excursion if you want to break the “relaxing vacation” pace you can enjoy in Hoi An.