When we talk about visiting Vietnam, the places that usually come to mind are typically Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. While it’s understandable why you would want to visit these amazing spots, there’s actually one other place you should consider. We're talking about Hoi An! Formerly known as Fai-fo and located in Vietnam’s Quang Nam Province, Hoi An is a charming and atmospheric town with plenty to offer its visitors. From souvenir shops and beaches to trendy cafes and museums, this UNESCO World Heritage site puts the ‘peace’ in peaceful. Here are 8 things you must do in Hoi An for the perfect getaway.
1. Hoi An Ancient Town
Dating back between the 15th and 19th centuries, Hoi An Ancient Town is an amazingly well-preserved example of a traditional Southeast Asian trading port. Unlike some other parts of Vietnam, navigating through the ancient town of Hoi An is a breeze!Credit: @jrdavies66 on Instagram
With its colourful, pedestrian-friendly streets, you can take your time to explore the ancient city and take in the stunning architecture that reflects both local and foreign influences.Credit: @aurel.jacquot on Instagram
Some of the scenes you might encounter during your DIY walking tour might include the beautiful Japanese Covered Bridge, historical wooden merchant homes, the lively food market and some souvenir stores that carry things such as toys, clothing, silk, antiques, handicrafts and much more.
2. Gorgeous beaches
Considering the fact that Hoi An used to be a trading port, it would make sense for it to have beaches. As luck would have it, one of the best beaches here happens to be a mere 4km away from the city centre!Credit: @ sss__mina on Instagram
The An Bang Beach is simply gorgeous! With its clear, blue waters, fine white sand and unique, basket-shaped boats that dot the area, it’s the perfect place to relax and enjoy some seaside activities.Credit: @bright99 on Instagram
The waves are not particularly large, making it safe for people to swim in the sea (but there are lifeguards on duty, just to be on the safe side) and there are also a lot of fun things for you to try such as jet skiing, parasailing, paddle boarding and even surfing!
3. Yummy halal food
The common perception we usually have when it comes to Vietnam is - is it easy to find halal food? While there's no halal Vietnamese cuisine in Hoi An, thankfully there are some vegan/vegetarian restaurants you can visit to have an authentic Vietnamese experience ?Credit: @marisavine on Instagram
One of the eateries is Karma Waters Vegan Cafe which sells vegan pho and spring rolls. Substituting beef with tofu and soybean protein, it'll be interesting to see how they prepare their pho. The eatery also has international cuisine like curries and sandwiches. What's more, the eatery also takes in donations for underprivileged kids, so you'll be contributing to a good cause!Credit: @ilkkatolonen on Instagram
But if you need your meat fix, head over to Zeytun Restaurant which has delectable Mediterranean cuisine. Try their Pide Pizza or indulge in one of their grilled specialties like Shish Taouk and you'll be left thoroughly satisfied.Credit: Zeytun Restaurant Hoi An on Facebook
4. Rice fields and Tra Que Village
If you’re up for a bit of an adventure, why not go on a biking tour through the countryside? Located just a short ride away from the city centre is a nearly endless field of rice paddies, stretching as far as they can see.Credit: @sathyand on Instagram
If you want a truly ‘local’ experience, try going out during the early morning time (between 6 – 7 am) when the sunlight shines beautifully across the fields; bringing to life a gorgeous array of colours and textures.Credit: @petkalavcakova on Instagram
Additionally, if you bike about 3km along Hai Ba Tung Street, you’ll come across the quaint-looking Tra Que Organic Vegetable Village. This place is just so clean, green and picturesque, with plenty of history and interesting, caring people tending to the lush vegetable patches. Here you’ll be able to get a glimpse of real country living as you watch farmers care, cultivate and harvest their crops. If you should ever feel so inclined, you can even lend the farmers a helping hand.
5. Eclectic night markets
For those of you who love to shop, the Hoi An night market has got everything you could ever wish for. Occupying a 300-meter stretch of road that overlooks the Thu Bon River, the night market can be easily recognized by the hundreds of colourful lanterns hanging overhead, illuminating the street and giving it an almost magical glow.Credit: @star1107 on Instagram
The night market is well-known for selling traditional apparel, shoes, silks and paper lanterns. If you want, you can even get a suit or dress made and tailored to your specific requirements on the spot. Besides that, you can also find stalls that sell more touristy souvenirs like t-shirts, keychains, fans, lacquerware, artwork, silk lanterns, crockery made from coconut or bamboo and much more.Credit: @kha.nobi on Instagram
If you’re feeling peckish, several stalls sell fried seafood, Banana and Mango Roti, Keo Chi To (A kind of grilled coconut candy), sesame pudding and cut fruits. If you want a proper meal though, there are also a handful of strictly vegetarian restaurants available along the street. Either way, if you don’t end up buying anything from the night market, it’s still pretty fun to just wander through the streets amongst tourists and locals alike while browsing through the stalls.
6. Marble MountainsCredit: @ yulisaparkho on Instagram
If you’re looking for some great views and wouldn’t mind a bit more of a workout, you can always opt to go for a half-day tour of ‘Ngu Hanh Son’; a small group of five “mountains” (named after the five elements) that is known to the world over as the Marble Mountains ⛰️Credit: @ _ibrahim_oh on Instagram
Located between Hoi An and Da Nang, the main attraction is the Nui Thuy Son (Water) Mountain as it is the largest mountain out of the five and has the most caves. Climbing up the stone steps, you’ll be able to reach the various viewing platforms and be rewarded with terrific views of the countryside.Credit: @analisbaskoro on Instagram
There are also some stunning caves along the way, as well as beautiful pagodas and winding tunnels that have been used over the centuries by Buddhist monks for worship and by ancient warlords for storing their treasures. In more recent times though, the caves were used as a field hospital during the Vietnam War.
7. Awesome Folk Museum
Located in the ancient house at 33 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, the Hoi An Museum of Folk Culture is the largest wooden two-storey house in the ancient town with a length of 57 meters and a width of 9 meters. The museum is said to be housing around 600 artefacts, although only 500 or so are put out on display on the second floor of the building; the items are separated and sorted by themes such as handicrafts, traditional costumes and folk games. The first floor on the other hand is reserved for cultural performances.Credit: @vittorericcardo on Instagram
The museum is considered to be a rare cultural institution in the region and introduces visitors to the rich history of culture and creativity in the Hoi An area, as well as the contributions of generations of the local people during the history and development of the town.
8. Stunning sights along the riversideCredit: @iebg on Instagram
Due to its location on the bank of the Thu Bon River, the Hoi An Riverside was once a prominent stop for foreign traders between the 16th and 18th centuries. Now though, it has transformed into a popular hangout spot for both tourists and locals; with a slew of trendy cafes, bistros and restaurants lining the street opposite the river.Credit: @lawon_papa on Instagram
During the day, you can kick back with a cup of coffee or chilled coconut water and enjoy the nostalgic scene of traditional boats cruising up and down the river. If you want to feel more ‘involved’ and would like to have a more immersive experience, you can even hire a boat to take you for a relaxing ride! Plus, if you get the timing of your visit right, you can also buy beautiful floating lanterns and release them onto the river at night!
BONUS: Stop by Cocobox Café Farm ShopCredit: @charatpornkunin on Instagram
At first glance, the Cocobox Café Farm Shop seems like your run-of-the-mill, hipster café; what with its rustic décor, open bar area and wooden shelves jam-packed with fresh fruits and minimalistic packaged products. The only difference is that besides selling refreshments, they also happen to produce their very own line of skin care products, made with 100% natural ingredients and essential oils (making it suitable for those of you with sensitive skin!).Credit: @n_n087 on Instagram
True to hipster fashion, they only source organic and fair-trade ingredients that are produced locally in Vietnam for their range of products, which includes a wide variety of coffees and teas, an extensive menu of juices, homemade jams, honey, body lotions and massage oils. Located just around the corner from the Fujian Assembly Hall and Hoi An Museum of Trade Ceramics, the Cocobox Café and Farm Shop are worth a visit!
Hoi An is more than what meets the eye! Sure, it’s peaceful and historic, left relatively untouched by the rapid developments that seem to have swept the rest of Vietnam, but that doesn’t mean that it’s boring! There are plenty of things to do and gorgeous sights to see, making it the perfect place for a short getaway.