Hoi An used to be a major trading port between the 15th and 19th century but has now become one of Vietnam’s most beautiful towns. Comparing it with all the other cities in Vietnam is impossible. In the evening, the town’s center is traffic free and becomes the most romantic town in whole Southeast Asia. Almost every type of traveler loves Hoi An, and a lot of them stay a lot longer than they initially thought. Here are 10 awesome things to do in Hoi An.
10 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN HOI AN
EAT AT THE CENTRAL FOOD MARKET
The central indoor market of Hoi An offers the best local and national dishes under one roof. It’s the perfect place to get lunch at low prices made with the freshest products, right from the market. The stallholders can be a bit pushy, but finding a good spot won’t be hard because all of them offer almost the same dishes. You should walk out with a full belly for less than $3/person.
TASTE THE LOCAL SPECIALITY: CAO LAU
When in Hoi An, you definitely need to taste the Cao Lau. Why? Because this is the only place in Vietnam where you can eat this delicious dish! Cao Lau is a noodle dish with roasted pork and local greens. But let me assure you, this is no ordinary noodle dish! The rice noodles are completely different from any other in Vietnam. To be truthful, it’s difficult to describe what makes this dish so good. If you’re in Hoi An, just try it at least once. We had plenty of them, and maybe the best that we had was made by our guesthouse, with a lot of attention and love.
EXPLORE THE CANALS IN A BASKET BOAT
It seems a bit touristic, but these basket boats are traditional boats used by fishermen for ages. In the French colonial era, fishers made this kind of boat with bamboo to avoid paying taxes on their normal fishing boats. They argued that these aren’t boats but baskets, so they didn’t have to pay taxes on it. Now, Hoi An is one of the last places where they still use these woven basket boats because of it’s mobility to navigate through the narrow canals. Paddling with it is not easy when it’s your first time but is definitely a cool experience. At Hoi An Eco Coconut Tours, you can do a fishing boat tour where you’ll do the basket boat, catch some fish and have a cooking class in one day!
RELAX AT THE BEACH
When it’s getting too hot, and you don’t have a swimming pool at your accommodation, the beaches of Hoi An are an excellent place to get a refreshing swim. Just 5km from the town’s center, you’ll find Cua Dai beach, the most popular and expensive one. The other one is An Bang. We recommend going just between these two beaches, where there’s free parking and fewer people. Taking a deckchair is also free, but the nearby restaurant expects that you buy at least a drink or two. From here, you can see the mountains of Cham Island and even Da Nang City at the horizon.
VISIT THE ANCIENT TEMPLES OF MY SON
When in Hoi An, the ruins of My Son are well-worth the visit. The old temples are just one hour from Hoi An and are situated in the valley of a beautiful green forest. Because of a lot of bombings on the site during the war against the Viet Cong, almost all temples are partly destroyed. You can’t compare it to other well-maintained temple sites like for example Angkor Wat, but a day tour to these ruins, that are taken over by the jungle, is something you can’t miss. Get there by bus with a tour or go by yourself with a motorbike.
Travel Tip: When going by motorbike, use the Maps.Me app and take the bicycle route. It will take you through the beautiful countryside and small villages. We even crossed a river next to the train tracks with our motorbike.
EAT VIETNAM’S BEST BANH MI SANDWICH
Banh Mi, the famous street food baguette of Vietnam which is filled with juicy meat, fresh veggies, and herbs, can be found everywhere. All the way from Hanoi to Saigon. You will definitely eat more than one while exploring the country. But if you want to taste Vietnam’s best banh mi, according to Anthony Bourdain, you need to stop by at Bánh Mi Phương! They serve all sorts of banh mi baguettes at very low prices. Almost all the baguettes are under $1. We must admit, they’re indeed delicious! Another good option is to go to Madam Khanh – The Banh Mi Queen, a small food stall at the side of the street.
VISIT THE MONTHLY FULL MOON LANTERN FESTIVAL
Every 14th day of each lunar month, Hoi An’s old town center changes into the most romantic town of Southeast Asia. In the evening, colorful candlelit lanterns provide the old town with light, the streets become traffic free and the street lights go out. This is the time when the locals honor their ancestors outside their homes by burning fake dollars and offering fruit and flowers. At the riverside, older ladies will try to sell you small paper candles that can float on the water. They say that by releasing a candle in the water, it’ll bring you good luck and make your wish come through.
Making a short cruise on the river is also possible, which is without a doubt very romantic and lovely to see the town with all its lanterns and lights. Book your stay well up front because a lot of accommodations are sold out when the Full Moon Lantern Festival takes place. Check the dates of the festival here.
EXPLORE THE COUNTRYSIDE BY BIKE
Exploring Hoi An with a bicycle is the perfect thing to indulge yourself in its pace of life. Go to the beach by bike or drive around the countryside and Hoi An’s surrounding islands. Here you can escape from the touristic center and see how the Vietnamese truly live. Ride through Tra Que, a small village northeast of Hoi An. Here you’ll ride through farming lands, rice fields, and across rivers. There’s also the opportunity to help the locals with farming and making rice paper. Of course, it’s also possible to do all this with a motorbike, which gives you quicker access to all the other islands.
COOK YOUR FAVORITE VIETNAMESE DISH
Do you love the Vietnamese cuisine? Do you want to make those delicious dishes at home too? Hoi An is the place to be to enroll yourself in a cooking class! And it won’t be hard to find one. Numerous restaurants and tour operators offer these cooking classes. Ask around for prices because these can vary significantly. Most of them start by taking a tour around the market to buy local ingredients.
BUY TAILOR MADE CLOTHES
This is not really for the real budget backpacker but getting a tailor made suit in Hoi An will be a lot cheaper than in your home country. So if you’re not planning to go backpacking for a while, this could be something for you. Hoi An has a big choice of tailors that can make everything for you, from suits and dresses to shoes and bags. But beware, the price and quality can vary between different shops. So it’s best to check Tripadvisor first!
WHERE TO STAY IN HOI AN?
We suggest staying in a guesthouse because it’s cheap and gives you a better local experience. We stayed at the Strawberry Garden Homestay, and it was just perfect. The family is so friendly and do everything to make the best out of your stay. The breakfast is included and so delicious! Nothing bad to say about our stay there. We initially booked for 3 nights and ended up staying two full weeks.