Despite its small size, Hoi An packs an almighty punch as one of the most beautiful and popular destinations in Southeast Asia, in large part due to its wonderfully preserved 'Old Town', which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition to its charming historic district and delightful blend of influences, Hoi An is a vibrant place, brimming with endless local and foreign culture, beautiful beaches and some of the most delicious food throughout Vietnam.
Population: Approximately 85,000
Vibe: Hoi An has a magical vibe, especially in the evening when the old town comes to life and the riverfront is lit up with a rainbow of colourful lanterns and floating candles. The night market is always busy, but due to Hoi An's pedestrianised nature it is easy to just meander through the streets at your own pace.
Known For: The UNESCO World Heritage listed 'Old Town' can easily take a day to explore, and if you're lucky enough to visit during the full moon there are even more lanterns on display. Hoi An is also known to possess some of the most beautiful beaches in Vietnam (both for relaxing and diving), but the beaches are best suited for exploring during the dry season which is usually from February to September.
Must Do: Rain or shine, getting some tailored clothing is one of the things Hoi An is famous for! There are well over 400 tailor shops within Hoi An which can initially seem overwhelming. First, decide what your budget is (as that often dictates the choice of tailor) and then ask for recommendations from people who have experience! The clothes produced here are incredible, but don't forget to be very clear on what you would like!
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
River Boat Cruise
Observe a slice of rural river life as you cruise down the Thu Bon River from Hoi An to where the river meets sea. All you need to do is sit back, relax and enjoy!
Tailor Made Clothing
There are too many tailor shops to count in Hoi An, all offering a 24 hour turn around, for a very reasonable price. Make sure you shop around and go with a clear idea of what you are looking for and the experience will be one of your best in Asia!
My Son Cham Ruins
Hidden in a valley surrounded by mountains just a one hour bus or motorbike ride out of Hoi An lie the ruins of My Son of the Cham Dynasty. My Son, like Old Town is now recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site and are best observed at sunrise if you can pry yourself out of bed early!
Visit the old town
It is free to meander through the streets of Old Town. However, if you wanted to visit any of the sites or museums you need to purchase an Old Town Ticket (speak to your Stray guide) which gives you access to five sites of your choice. Traveller favourites include the Tan Ky house, the Japanese covered bridge, Phuc Kien Assembly Hall, and the Museum of Trade Ceramics.
Beaches by bicycle
Like so many towns in Vietnam it is great to grab a bicycle, and pedal your way out of town through the rice paddies and local villages on the way to Cua Dai beach and An Bang beach some of the most beautiful beaches in Vietnam.
Visit Cham Islands
Board the local ferries with your bike. The Cham Islands are 27km away from Hoi An and best known for pristine beaches ideal for snorkelling or diving. Diving is best done December to August (as the weather may not be suitable from September to November).
During the rainy season, doing activities with the Backstreet Academy is a great way to pass the time. Optional activities include cookery classes and trying your hand at making one of the famous lanterns with a business that began generations ago!
EATING AND DRINKING
Whether you are sampling the delicious street food, stopping off for a mid-afternoon cake in a beautiful French influenced pastry shop or splashing out for a special treat, the food in Hoi An is to die for!.
Due to the trading influences from China and Japan, Hoi An boasts a few dishes truly unique to the town. Cau Lau is a Chinese egg noodle soup with pork – it is said the noodles are made with water from Hoi An's river, which sounds a little strange, but is delicious! Don't miss the White Rose dumplings, which are generously stuffed with a delicate prawn and pork filling and topped with fried shallots - they're unbelievably amazing!
Faifo Coffee is the place to go for discerning coffee connoisseurs. The beans are locally grown and traditional “Carpentry” methods are used for roasting right here in Hoi An.
Reaching Out Teahouse
If you're feeling peckish and want to make a difference while you eat, this is the place to go. This tea house is a local fair trade establishment and social enterprise that employs people with disabilities (providing them with meaningful employment and independence) while also serving excellent cafe food, tea and coffee.
Phi Bahn Mi
Bahn Mi stalls are everywhere in Vietnam, but this gem is definitely one of the best. Great value for money, filled to the brim, and the owner is so friendly he may even let you make your own with his guidance.
Don't let appearances deceive you - this tiny restaurant down a back alley behind the Japanese Bridge is a Hoi An favourite! The food is served as small and large plates, and if you go as a group you can order almost the whole menu and you will not be disappointed! Incredibly fresh, beautifully presented and amazing authentic Asian flavours – just divine!
Hoi An does have an active nightlife scene, mostly centred around the river. However, one of the best spots in the city is Dive Bar right in the middle of Old Town. It plays great music, has an excellent atmosphere, the bar men are known to hand out a free shot or two and there's a pool table to pass the time.
WHERE STRAY STAYS
Thanh Binh 2 Hotel
Freestyle Tours (Double, twin, triple, quadruple shared rooms)
712 Hai Ba
Hoi An City,
Tel: +855 92 586 962
This charming Hotel offers their traveller a full- relaxed environment with a typical Vietnamese architectural style. Located in the heart of Hoi An all sightseeing destinations are easy to access.
Facilities: Restaurant, laundry service, room service, bicycle rental.