Hoi An: Introduction
- 1 Hoi An: Introduction
- 2 Getting to Hoi An
- 3 Accommodation
- 4 Activities
- 5 Transport
- 6 Food
- 7 Overall
Hoi An was literally the cutest Vietnamese town I had ever been to. Decked out with multicoloured lanterns amidst old tiled streets, the beauty of Hoi An is at its best in the night, where its lanterns are all lit up, creating a vibrant romantic glow across the entire town.
Besides its charming decor, the town is known for its massive tailor scene, where you can get high-quality tailored clothing at affordable prices. Hoi An also boasts a UNESCO Old Town filled with history, which offers the opportunity to gaze upon ancient monuments like the iconic Japanese Bridge, as well as many old houses that were there a long time ago. With a myriad of different activities to partake in, this little town will grow on you gradually, as it did on me.
Getting to Hoi An
Prices: 1495000 VND (jeep tour from Hue to Hoi An), 450000 VND (taxi from Da Nang Airport), 300000 /400000 VND (3 / 6 seat private car booked with my accommodation Tribee Kinh), 110000 VND (shuttle bus per person booked with Tribee Kinh)
The nearest city to Hoi An would be that of Da Nang, which has an airport. You could either fly to Da Nang, or drive up to the city. Either way you would need to enter the city before going to Hoi An. I came from the city of Hue via a jeep tour down via the Hai Van Pass, which ended at Hoi An. It was an exhilarating experience offered by the Vietnam Backpackers Hostel in Hue, where I stayed at.
Price: SGD 11 / night (dorm room)
Tribee Kinh was the way to go. One of the BEST hostels that I’ve never stayed in, this hostel has such a great social atmosphere, AND its generally clean and aesthetically pleasing. The cool thing is that they organise activities every day of the week, so you can definitely be looking forward to an exciting activity each day, be it a food crawl, pub crawl or spring roll making (it’s free and you get to eat too mhm). The social atmosphere at this hostel was electrifying, with people willing to talk and explore the town to you any time of the day. The staff were a pleasure to deal with, ever helpful and quick to answer your queries.
The dorm rooms were really comfortable, with a maximum limit of 6 per room. There were no bunk beds (love this), and the mattresses were all really adequate for a good night’s sleep. Toilets had hot water, and the AC was fab. Of course, what makes or breaks your stay is usually the company, which in my case, was really good. I had 2 Dutch girls and a dude from California. Besides this, I had companions to explore Hoi An every single day, which was great considering that I was travelling solo.
The hostel also provides motorcycle rental services, which were convenient if you wanted to explore Hoi An by bike (I really suggest you do.) Furthermore, it was the only hostel in my entire trip to have a buffet breakfast (that is – unlimited scrambled eggs, French toast and other goodies in the morning). I felt that my money was very well-spent here.
I heard that this hostel has two sister hostels : Tribee Cham & Tribee Cotu respectively. Read the reviews and still decided that Tribee Kinh was the best place to be, it had the best social atmosphere, superb levels of cleanliness and great vibe overall.
Explore the Old Town
Price: 120000 VND (entrance to old town, however, we somehow managed to enter without anyone stopping us, or asking us to purchase a ticket)
The Old Town is the main highlight of this charming place. Being a major trading port in the past, the architecture reveals what Hoi An used to be. The preservation is wonderful, with Chinese temples, the iconic Japanese bridge and various other French colonial houses in perfect conditions. It is also the area where there are the most lanterns, almost on every street. These quaint and old-fashioned lanterns augment the photogenicity that Hoi An already possesses.
Apparently, you have to purchase a ticket at the entrances the Old Town that permits you entry to the 5 major ancient structures – one of the them being the Yellow Temple. We realized that you can actually go to one select structure and pay its individual price to enter, if you don’t fancy entering all the buildings listed on the entrance ticket.
Tip: Grab a morning cuppa in one of the many coffee joints in the town, I highly recommend the local Vietnamese coffee instead of an international latte or mocha.
Tip: You might want to explore the Old Town early in the morning to avoid the day trippers from Da Nang. It gets really crowded in the late morning / afternoon.
Tip: If you’re hungry, just walk back across the central bridge away from the Old Town where food is better and prices are lower.
Explore Hoi An at night
Hoi An truly turns magical after dusk. The lanterns get lit, the music gets going and the town transforms into a romantic, almost dream-like state. Walk across the same central bridge that you passed in the morning, and you’ll see rows and rows of colourful lanterns lit across the street. Stroll a little further and you’ll glance upon rows of lantern shops, each illuminating their wares, creating a iridescent glow upon the area.
Vendors will also be selling paper flowers that they made for tourists to light them onto the river. They might be a little persistent so just politely decline.
Tailor some clothing
5 Season’s TripAdvisor Review: here (A well-deserved 5-star rating)
Prices: 26-28 USD (shirt), 38-45 USD (work pants)
Tailoring clothing in Hoi An has almost become a staple, that almost everyone I talked to has made at least a piece of clothing. The town has an incredible amount of tailor shops. My hostel recommended me to head to the 2 established tailor shops – Kimmy’s and BeBe. However, my recommendation would be to go to the smaller family owned shops. Not only do you get cheaper prices, the quality of the clothing does not decrease at all. I went to 5 Seasons which was just beside BeBe 2. I can’t recommend them enough. The service that I obtained from the smaller shops were much superior to those of the bigger establishments, possibly because the big ones already have a steady stream of customers brought in by day tour groups from Da Nang.
All in all, I made 7 shirts and 4 pants, which was perfect as I was starting my clinical years in the wards the next academic year. To top it off, Rose gave me 2 free ties because of my bulk purchase. I had originally wanted to make just 2 shirts, but changed my mind after seeing the quality of my clothing. Also, the smaller shops will not have a change in interest no matter how many pieces you were purchasing, unlike the big shops.
Besides shirts and pants, they also do full on 2-3 pieced suits, shoes and jackets for guys. For the shops doing shoes, they’re commonly specially for leather items which includes belts as well. Clothing and leather tailors are usually different shops. Apparently, the most worth for money item to get in Hoi An would be suits. However, Singapore’s weather did not require me to get any suits. For girls, they do almost everything (blouses, jackets, dresses, shoes, skirts etc.) They had so many designs and colors, I was really spoilt for choice.
How the tailoring goes:
- You walk into the shop, and ask for what you’re looking for (a polo tee, shirt, suit) and make some rapport with the shop assistants.
- Ask for the designs and materials. They will be small little squares pinned together.
- Ask for quotes, and bargain with them. The more you purchase, the better discounts you’ll get.
- After settling your first order, they’ll take your measurements and ask you to come back within a day or two for your first fitting.
- During the first fitting, they’ll ask for your opinion and modify the clothing if you’re unhappy with the fit. Come for a second fitting within a day. If you do decide to order more clothing (what I did) during your first fitting, you’ll have to come for more fittings.
- Once you’re happy with your product, you pay and can choose to either allow the shop to ship the product to your desired address, or to carry it back yourself (I chose this option as I was worried about it getting lost along the way, they’ll compress the clothing so that it takes up minimal space.)
I was really impressed as they churned out my last shirt within 8 hours. That’s how efficient the tailors are without compromising on quality.
Do an eco-cooking class
TripAdvisor Review: here
Price: SGD 35 (half day tour, booked from your hostel / hotel, just tell them about Bay Mau’s cooking tour)
A highly recommended class to go for as it not only protects the environment, but imparts some great cooking skills to you. Its a half day tour which includes a boat ride down the river, floating in a wooden basket to the cooking area, where you’ll learn to create the traditional Vietnamese cuisines. We made Spring Rolls, Vietnamese pancakes, a Mixed Vegetable dish and Beef Noodle Soup (Pho).
Not only will you learn how to make the dishes from the relevant ingredients, your personal guide will also bring you through the process of buying and procuring the ingredients (bringing you to the local market to shop, showing you the process of making rice flour etc.) At the end of the day, you will also get the recipe for the dishes.
Nhi was our guide of the day, a cheerful and friendly spirit to be around. Don’t worry if you can’t cook (like me), the patience and helpfulness that Nhi and her assistants showed were unbeatable. During the entire cooking tour, you will constantly get refills of fresh passionfruit juice which was refreshing and definitely needed after the constant toiling on your wok. Do take note that there might be some mosquitoes around, at which you can ask the staff for an effective repellent.
One of the more unique things about this tour was the way we got to the cooking site. We had to sit in these little wooden baskets and basically float down a narrow water channel to the cooking site. It was so interesting and my fisherman showed us how to catch crabs from the surrounding reeds. Too bad that I was put beside a squeaky (yes, she literally squeaked when the crab got caught) clean woman who was nauseating at the tiny crabs being taken on board. (Like, hi we’re in a tropical river.)
This tour really exceeded my expectations as the various dishes were all flavourful and very appealing. I was quite intrigued at the addition of peanut butter for some of the sauces. I highly recommend that you go with some hostel mates as it would definitely be a fun experience to do as a group.
Go for a Massage
Prices: shown below in picture
Vietnam , like most of its other Asian counterparts, is also known for its massage. Its also a good idea to head there after a long day of exploring, where the masseurs knead out the tense muscle knots professionally. There is a wide selection of massage parlours in the residential district of Hoi An (where most of the hostels are), do compare prices as usual before picking your spot.
Do a Pub Crawl
Prices: SGD 3-4 (cocktail)
The good thing about Hoi An is that it has a strict curfew on noise in the town after certain times. This mean that the bars and clubs close generally early in the morning. Tribee Kinh hosts a pub crawl on every Wednesday and Sunday which brings you to 4 respective pubs/clubs (where you get free shots). The first would be to the reggae-dominant One Love Bar, then to the quirky Mr Bean Bar (best designs EVER, hilarious photos of the household comedy Mr Bean plastered all around the bar killed me), to Funky Monkey (where you can take turns to play your favourite song), and lastly to Tiger Tiger Club. Tiger Tiger, being the last club to close, is where everyone congregates at night. You’ll eventually meet up with your lost friends here.
Tip: Take note that there are 2 Tiger Tiger Clubs on the map. The popular one is a 5 minutes walk away from Mr Bean Bar, not the one beside it. Tiger Tiger Club has both a pub as well as a club area. You are required to purchase a drink to get a stamp on your hand to enter the club area.
Tip: If you’re feeling thirsty, try not to purchase your water in Tiger Tiger itself. Exit the clubs and head right. You’ll reach some vendors at the end of the street who sell bottles of mineral water at a third of the price they charge you in the club.
Go to the beaches
Price: SGD 3/ sun bed (for the day)
There are 2 nearby beaches in Hoi An if you desire to be near the sand during your days here. The first one is An Bang beach, where most people head to because of its closer proximity to Hoi An. The other one would be Cua Dai beach. Eateries and pubs are aplenty on these two beaches. Soul Kitchen, popular hangout with tourists and locals alike, serves Western cuisine and boasts enjoyable live music on Sunday afternoons. If you’re staying here for at least a week, lounging on a beach in rustic Hoi An will definitely be an attractive alternative to spend the day recuperating from your days of travel.
Apparently, there is a really cool accommodation on An Bang beach. My roommate actually moved out earlier to relocate there after some nights at Tribee Kinh. Called Under the Coconut Tree Home Stay, the pictures of it were beautiful and the only reason why I didn’t that same snap decision too was the fact that it has no air-conditioning (yea I’m such a pampered backpacker)
Explore the nearby villages
Price : 20,000-25000 VND (entry to each village). Tra Que Herb and Vegetable Village
Another recommended activity would be to rent a bicycle/motorbike and head to the nearby villages where you’ll get to see friendly locals crafting pottery, making furniture and plow the fields. One suggestion would be to visit Tra Que Herb & Vegetable village to learn more about traditional farming methods (using seaweed to fertilise the soil, palm fronds to shelter plants etc.). You can also view Thanh Ha Pottery Village to experience the local pottery culture, in which you can partake in by making your own custom pot (you need to leave it behind to dry though). Other cool destinations include Kim Bong Carpentry Village (where you can view traditional carpentry), Tra Nhieu Fishing Village (try your hand at some fishing here, if you have patience) as well as Duy Vinh Sleeping Mat Village (where locals weave colourful sedge mats )
You can also support the locals by purchasing the products which were tediously handmade by them. If its too heavy to bring around with you, you could choose to donate it to some needy family or ship it back (assuming you’re making clothes as well).
Explore the night market
TripAdvisor Review: here (I suggest you take some caution in trusting the reviews that suggest particular stalls to visit as besides the fact that it could be a fake review, from what I gathered through talking to stall owners, the stalls rotate around everyday so that each stall gets an equal opportunity to be in a prime position – at the start)
Hoi An has a daily night market that comprises of 2 main streets which meet at a crossroad in the middle. One is dedicated more to accessories and other goods, while the other is composed of food stalls. Unfortunately, my camera ran out of memory when I was here, so I was only able to take a few photos. Note that the stalls shut very fast when it starts to drizzle, even a little.
Day Trip to My Son Ruins
Price: 150000 VND (entrance fee)
A true disaster, but what an experience! This UNESCO complex composes of Hindu ruins built by the kings of Champa, which are dedicated to the God Shiva . They take around 40 minutes to travel to if you have a decent GPS system. Thing was, I went with a group of friends I had met at the hostel and thus I passed them my phone for the directions as I was the only one with data then. After traveling for approximately 2 minutes, I lost them. I was stranded, with no maps, and no phone, and I didn’t even know whether to continue or to head back. Long story short, I eventually met them at My Son via the help of helpful locals and sheer willpower. But these ruins were beautiful, their quirky architecture made even more mysterious by the light downpour that afternoon.
Tip: Bring along some light bites with you as the only restaurant there is overpriced and not worth the wait. Except for, maybe the Vietnamese coffee. But Viet coffee is worth it anywhere, I suppose? :p
Tip: Do take note that My Son is also a popular site for day tours (particularly with the Mainland Chinese and Koreans), and you might want to visit in early in the day to avoid the crowds.
Price: SGD 6-8 / day (24 hours) [ discount if you rent it for multiple days]
As usual, the easiest and most convenient mode of transport anywhere in Vietnam would be via motorbike. Do take note of the danger if you’ve never ridden one before. However, it is undoubtedly the cheapest way to get around. Do take an automatic scooter if you’re inexperienced. I saw many other tourists with skid marks indicative of previous falls from their motorbikes. For the more experienced riders, there are actual motorbikes for rent as well. If you want to enter the Old Town, do park your scooter at designated parking areas located outside.
Tip: Always top up your petrol first thing after renting your scooter, you dont want to be running out of gas halfway to a destination. I usually top up half a tank, as I don’t want to waste money unnecessarily on a full tank unless required.
Tip: One of my friends said that they saved on parking (and trouble, because some of the parking wardens do harass you for extra cash) by dining at a restaurant just outside of the Old Town, and asking the restaurant to look after their scooters while they explore the Old Town. A brilliant idea, to be honest.
Price: SGD 2-3 / day
One thing to note is that Hoi An’s Old Town does not permit any vehicles (including scooters) through. Thus, most people cycle into the Old Town with their bicycles, which can be conveniently rented from most hostels or hotels at reasonable prices.
Overpriced, period. Hoi An’s town is pretty small, you could walk around and save a lot more. Or, rent a scooter or bicycle.
There are various shops and restaurants in Hoi An, but I suggest that you dine at some of the smaller, local eateries which are cheaper and occasionally better. Always ask the locals working at the hostel for the best places to eat. Not only are you more likely to discover hidden local gems, your wallet will most likely be thanking you too. Most of the rooftop bars and scenic dining areas overlook the main river in Hoi An, giving a great view of the town and surrounding areas. I highly suggest that you follow the food tour that Tribee Kinh offers, which will bring through various local delights at the local food market.
A staple everywhere in Vietnam, Banh Mi is commonly found at roadside stalls. It makes for a delightful bite on the way back from a night out partying, where all proper shops have their shutters down and you’re left with the hardworking (& smart) roadside sellers who camp outside the clubs waiting for hungry patrons.
Tip: I always ask for additional fried egg in my Banh Mi, it only costs a few cents more, and (to me) makes a large difference in taste.
Price: 30000-50000 VND (depending on location of purchase)
There is a local dish which is basically a pork broth with yellow noodles, slices of pork, which is concurrently served with bean sprouts, green vegetables and croutons. It is said that the noodles are made with water taken from ancient Cham wells hidden in Hoi An. Being an Asian, I have to say that this dish wasn’t too far off from our local Singaporean Bak Chor Mee. However, it was still right on delicious and a must-eat in Hoi An.
Essentially chicken rice, we have them here in Singapore as well. The rice are cooked with chicken stock and tumeric, which gives it a unique flavour. Toss in some shreds of chicken, onions, coriander and some other spices and voila, you have chicken rice. Its a staple here in Singapore and most of my fellow Western backpackers really love this dish. I had it once, when I was heading back after a night out with fellow hostel mates. I actually bought it from a street stall and it tasted warm and delicious. You can find Com Ga in many shops, both on the street and in restaurants.
Other local food that I would suggest would be the carefully-guarded family-prepared White Rose and the Quang Noodle. However, I did not have the chance to try them on my trip so I’ll leave you to give me some feedback 🙂
It was such a pleasure to visit Hoi An. It makes for a good rest stop after weeks/months of travelling, with its rustic countryside and nice beaches to boot. With the quaint architecture, cute decor and gorgeous tailored clothing, Hoi An has impressed me immensely. I’ll be back (possibly to grab more clothing if I start growing horizontally).