Hoi An is renown for being one of the most beautiful cities in Vietnam, and we can confirm... it is exactly that. After travelling for almost 4 weeks on our motorbike up north through Vietnam, Hoi An was a breath of fresh air for us after some long and tiring drives. The town is beautiful and has a lot to offer a visiting tourist. Below is a list of what you can get up to when spending a few days in Hoi An.
1 - Explore the Ancient Town
Number 1 on every blog and rightly deserved to be there! Hoi An is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site because of the streets that form the ancient town. The streets are still the same as they were in the 15th to the 19th centuries, where they were used by the locals together as a trading town. You can clearly see the influence of many different cultures and families stems that go back generations as you walk around admiring the homes and the colours in the street. The houses are small, similar to the cobbled roads and narrow alleyways. The Hoai River runs through the middle of the town and gives an incredible old-time, rustic feel to the place, it is simply beautiful. Take a walk beyond the river and experience real culture as you see Vietnamese locals on the streets, living in unity with each other, which we think only adding more to the beauty of the city. There are lots of clothes shops, quirky cafes, restaurants and market stalls dotted all along the streets, so there's never a shortage of something to look at whilst wondering through the town. The most beautiful thing you'll see on these streets however, and perhaps the most recognisable trait to Hoi An Ancient Town, is the lanterns that hang above every street, pinned from one side of shops/homes to the other. Hundreds of different colour lanterns hang down in the day-time which looked magnificent as it was, but you wait till they come alive at night! Make sure to give the old town a visit at night to as it is one of the most beautiful displays we've ever seen with so many different coloured lanterns lit up on the dark paths. Amazing!
2 - Take a boat ride down the river
Whilst your in the old town, look out for this little beauty on The Hoai River. As you walk along the edge, you'll hear loads of old ladies coo'ing at you and waving their hand asking if you if you want to come in their boat for a trip down the river. We politely declined as we weren't too fussed about going in the boat and just wanted to walk along it ourselves at that point. Until... The cutest lady we've ever seen called over to us and gave us the biggest, most genuine smile we'd ever seen. She looked so adorable in the boat with her little Vietnamese hat on, so I asked her if we could take a picture of her, she instantly started posing and laughed with us afterwards, so of course we got into her boat for a trip down the river! We were so glad we did afterwards because not only was the boat ride really nice, but the lady let us paddle with her so it turned out to be really fun too! She started hugging us and kissing our cheeks at the end, posing for photos like it was going out of fashion. She still makes us smile from ear to ear when we think about her little smiling face today!
3 - Rent a bicycle
One thing you will see a lot of in Hoi An is tourists, and when you see these tourists, they will most likely be on bicycles. Hiring a bicycle is really popular in Hoi An and is the perfect way to get around the streets. It's a great way to see some real culture as you can cycle deep into the back streets, alongside the rice paddies and up the road to Cua Dai Beach. Some hostels will lend out bicycles for free if you stay there, however most hostels will rent bicycles for around $5-10 per day.
4 - Visit My Son
No, I'm not sharing with you that I have a secret son and that you should go and see him. My Son is Vietnams answer to Angkor Wat, but just not as high scoring in scale or outright impressiveness. My Son is a cluster of abandoned, partially ruined Hindu Temples. They are believed to be dated back to the 4th Century AD and were built in dedication to the God of Shiva. My Son is thought to be the longest inhabited archaeological site in Indochina, although most of its structure was destroyed after a single week of bombing during the Vietnam War. Therefore, as you can tell, it's a very interesting site to go and take a look at!
4 - Visit the night market
Every night, there is a night market just over the bridge in the Ancient Town. Here is where you'll find the spot that everyone gets those famous snapshots of themselves surrounded by a plethora of glowing lanterns (of course I did this too). But more importantly, you'll find lots of fooooood! There are a few bars that line the riverside, so grab some friends, grab a drink and chow down on... Well, anything and everything. You know what food markets are like!
5 - Light a lantern on the river
This was such a beautiful experience. Every night, the river that seems so busy during the day transforms into a gently flowing carrier of thousands of little lanterns lit up by candle light placed inside. The lanterns are brought from ladies on the side of the river, who light a candle in the middle of it and let you place it gently into the water. The candles are supposed to bring you good luck all year round and it is tradition to make a wish as you place it in. Make sure you don't tell anyone your wish though as it won't come true! (I'm still wishing for Jac to hand me over all his cards and PIN numbers, I'm not sure if i told someone by accident, as for some reason it still hasn't come true yet!). If you've got 5 minutes, stand and watch the lanterns float by and have a laugh at the lanterns that get dunked straight away by boats rowing along the water! It's hilarious!
6 - Take a food tour
Food tours are great not only for discovering all the different dishes that specialise within different cities, but for finding out the meaning and the stories behind the dishes too. Many tour companies offer these tours which tend to run for half a day and cost around £25-35.
7 - All you can drink for 50k
Yep, you read that right. In the bar opposite the Sunflower Hostel in Hoi An, they offer all you can drink on spirits and mixers for 50,000VND (around £2). I'm not sure much else needs to be said... Get yourself there and try to thank me later if you can still form a sentence by the end of the night!
There you have it, our top 7 things to do in Hoi An. We really did like it here, however have to be truthful regarding our view on how the city is changing. As soon as you arrive, it does kind of feel a bit 'Brits abroad' as there as so, so, so many tourists. We feel it has a little bit too much 'tourist attraction' to offer in our eyes. Chinese & Westernised restaurants and swanky hotels flood the streets that surround the beautiful ancient town, which takes away the real beauty of the city a little for us. The town is literally overflowing with backpackers and holiday goers, with there being a clear divide between them and the locals trying to make a living from the increase in population and demand. It felt a little bit staged to us sometimes, as if everything that was going on there was purely to appease tourists and that makes it a bit less of a cultural wow for us.
Nonetheless, as you can see from the list above, it's a truly gorgeous city and we hope everyone enjoys even just wondering around it aimlessly just as much as we did!
When we're free