Here’s the thing:
I actually almost ended up skipping Hoi An because I wasn’t convinced it was going to be all that great. Turns out, it ended up being one of my favorite places in Vietnam and easily the most charming.
I opted out of staying at the “social” hostel that was a 15 minute bike ride from the Old Town and instead, stayed at a sleepy little hotel a minutes walk from the main street called Paradise Hotel. I had an amazing breakfast each morning of banana pancakes and fresh fruits before grabbing one of the bicycles and heading out to town.
HOI AN BY DAY:
Hoi An is full of street vendors selling donuts and breads, market stalls selling fruits and vegetables and salesmen trying to get you into their store so you can have custom clothes made. But before you get annoyed by the constant nagging, have custom clothes made.
Vietnam in general is the custom clothes making capital of the world. Most Asian countries are known for their mass production, but Vietnam is known for its tailoring and the most well-known city for that is our charming little Hoi An. Whether it be shoes, bags, suits or clothes—you want it, they can make it.
For lunch, stop at any of the cafes outside the Old Town for a cheaper price and delicious Cau Lao soup (which is different than pho and has noodles, beef, crunchy chips, sprouts and sometimes weird leafy things). And don’t forget a freshly made banana shake (which I may have had twice a day).
During the day, you can browse the food markets and souvenir streets for cute Vietnamese crafts or you can visit some of the pagodas and temples scattered around the city.
TIP: The ticket to get into all of the temples and pagodas is about $5. However, after entering into about 2-3 of them, I was completely underwhelmed and didn’t end up using the ticket anymore (Granted…I had been in Asia for over a year by this point and was a little templed-out).
OR another option is to bicycle out to Cua Dai Beach, which is about a 25-30 minute ride out of town.
TIP #1: If you park your bike right in front of the beach, the parking attendant will make you pay. If you park your bike on the street before it, it’s free.
TIP #2: When you get to the beach, you will stumble upon a lot of hotels and restaurants with lounge chairs and tables on the left. If you don’t feel like paying to sit there, walk past all of them and you will eventually find an open area of the beach with no businesses and no other people around.
TIP #3: Some of the cafes on the main road in Hoi An offer a take away lunch option. Grab a sandwich and water to take with you so you don’t have to move all your beach stuff to find lunch.
HOI AN BY NIGHT:
Hoi An comes alive into this magical, colorful, lively, lantern-filled city. It doesn’t even seem like the same place. What’s better is that I had no idea what I was stumbling upon.
Just before sunset, head to the Old Town to walk around and enjoy happy hour at one of the riverside cafes. There are colorful boats and colorful buildings to look at and stroll past.
Just as the sun goes down, the Old Town is lit up with lights and lanterns that reflect in the river and really give Hoi An the essence of being alive. And before you stop exploring, cross the bridge and head to the night market to see colorful lanterns lit up in every direction—a true highlight of the city.
And if you happen to buy more lanterns than you can hold because they are adorable and only .50 to $1 each, ask your tailor if you can ship them home in the box with your custom made clothes!