I can't believe it took us so long to finally get a ticket and go explore Vietnam. We've probably been a influenced before by some negative stories we've heard from fellow travelers. Lesson learned: take others opinions lightly. And make YOUR OWN! With its history, architecture, colors, people and oh -should I mention THE FOOD?!!- Hoi An is a delightful town.
Situated on the coast of Central Vietnam, Hoi An is an incredible place to discover, either you're on an road trip in Vietnam or you're just looking for a weekend trip destination (only 1h40 flight from Hong Kong!). Among other things, it's known for its preserved historic houses, its strong history and its delicious Cau lầo -of course, there is food involved, it's Vietnam we're talking about!
There's a lot to explore and it can sometimes be a hassle to figure where to start, so I've put together the best things to do in Hoi An to help you plan your trip. Prepare your camera, photographers, as the atmosphere might charm you at first sight...
Discovering vietnam: good morning Hoi an !
With its central location on the coast -right in between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh- and its picturesque little alleys, no wonder why Hoi An is often a favorite on a traveler's road trip in Vietnam. Now let's discover our complete guide to Hoi An!
Where is Hoi An?
From Da Nang International Airport: 30 kms
From Hué: 122 kms
From Hanoi: 830 kms
From Ho Chi Minh: 930 kms
From Mui Né: 700 kms
How to get there?
From Da Nang Itl airport, Hoi An is about an hour drive. One hour flight from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh. You can also play it more adventurous and take a train from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh, I've heard the journey is fantastic...
10 things that will make you love Hoi An
#1. The crafts & the colors
Be ready to get inspired, as Hoi An transpires a very creative atmosphere, with original DIY here and there, colorful arts in pretty much every little shop, and a real passion for detail -as often in Southeast Asia.
#2. The food, the food, the food
Our weekend in Hoi An was our first trip in Vietnam, so you can imagine how excited we were about the food! Phở, Bánh mì, Bánh xèo, and the local Cau lầo -another of these delicious dishes made with noodle pork, and tasty local greens- there were so much we wanted to try! Every meal was a surprise, with some delicious highlights, such as eating our Phở with the locals early in the morning, our Cau lầo by the river at sunset, and the whole menu at Nu Eatery -this restaurant is insanely GOOD!
#3. the rice fields and the villages around
In only 15 minutes bicycle ride from Hoi An old town, you will get in the middle of rice fields and tiny villages, with massive water buffaloes starring at you from the side of the road. The landscape is magnificent, and truly peaceful. We spent a wonderful day wandering around, with an incredible lunch break in the midst of organic farms. Tra Que is known for its cooking class, traveling with a baby, we chose to just eat & nap -I know, life's hard.
#4. the romantic vibes
The lanterns, the boat rides in the river, the flowers, the old alleys, Hoi An has got that little something... It's particularly charming, especially at dawn, when the sun is still is low and before the tourists awake.
#5. the historic old town
Hoi An has preserved its ancient merchant houses, Chinese temples and ancient tea warehouse, and you can visit most of them. They are everywhere, so the struggle will be to choose which one you want to explore. You need to buy a pass at the entrance of the old town. Being short on time, we decided to simply get lost by ourselves, and didn't bother buying the pass, so I can't really recommend which house is the most interesting. All I know is the whole old town is absolutely charming.
#6. the arty boutiques
I was surprised by the shopping opportunities in Hoi An! Besides the classic Southeast Asia stalls and little tourist shops, you will find some great places to buy clothes, accessories, but more than that: Hoi An is BIG on home design! Oh and of course you'll NEED that typical Hoi An lantern...
#7. An bang's laid back beach
Honestly, I didn't expect to find such a stunning beach in Hoi An. I figured it would be very touristic -and it was, at first sight. When you get to An Bang Beach, locals will tell you where to park, ask you to pay the parking, then some will try to sell you sunglasses, hats, tee-shirts or to get you to come to their charmless restaurants. As often when traveling, you just need to keep walking, keep exploring. Five minutes down the beach, we found that gorgeous restaurant with lounge chairs and sofas on the sand, where we spent the rest of the day. The food was great, the staff really cool, and they even have live music at night!
#7. the vietnamese people
From the staff at the hotel to the people on the streets, we've had the chance to meet some really nice people. As usual in Southeast Asia, locals, aren't shy, they love to share their culture, and on top of everything... they love "white babies", as they say.
>> Discover more about traveling in Southeast Asia with a baby here.
#9. the cafe culture
Cafe is a serious matter in Vietnam. And lovely cafes aren't hard to find -they are aaall around the city. We tried many, as we always needed to escape from the it between noon and 3pm, and we particularly loved Hoi An Roastery for its superb decor, its cool music, and its AMAZING "Coco Coco", a coconut ice cream topped with Hoi An spices chocolate. I could go back to Hoi An just for that dessert.
#10. Réhahn's magnificent tribute to vietnam
There aren't any words to describe the emotion when we discovered Réhahn's work. This french photographer has been exploring Vietnam for years, going to the most remote villages to meet the last surviving tribes. He somehow managed to capture a story in each of his photos. We were speechless, and spend hours watching these great images that make you want to know more about the Vietnamese people. That's a stop you can't miss.
Precious Heritage, 7, Nguyễn Huệ, Cẩm Châu, Hội An
Hoi An: A few places to discover...
Streets: "Good food helping good kids" - The staff is entirely made of students, who spend part of each week at the restaurant, applying what they have learned in their classes. Outstanding service!
Nu Eatery: From far our favorite in Hoi An. We loved it so much we came back three nights in a row. Don't miss the Bánh mì. And the lemongrass homemade sorbet.
Sunday: (photo) Elegant and colorful design shop. So gorgeous you'll want to buy the whole collection. I almost did.
Mui The Label: Clothes and accessories shop made with great materials. Perfect finds for hot weather like Hong Kong. Light, comfy and chic.
WHERE TO STAY ?
There are tons of great places to stay in Hoi An. We found Hoi An HIstoric Hotel at the last minute, and we were very happy about it. Great staff, DELICIOUS breakfast, big bedrooms, perfect location.
Traveling in Hoi An with a baby
Flying with a baby to Hoi An went really well, as it was a really short flight. It went so well last time we traveled with Noah, I was pretty relaxed. The trip went perfectly! Hoi An is actually one of the rare places in Southeast Asia where you can easily walk with a pram, and all restaurants and hotels are baby friendly.
At the end Hoi An was a perfect destination for a baby moon: as romantic as it could get yet very chilled out and baby friendly.