Hoi An travel highlights:
– Walking the atmospheric old streets of a one-time major South East Asian trading centre.
– Cycling in the surrounding countryside.
– Savouring delicious local dishes like Cao Lau noodles, Hoanh Thanh wontons and Com Ga chicken rice.
– Taking a cooking class
– An Bang beach’s laid-back restaurants and bars.
Hoi An’s World Heritage listed old streets make it one of the most attractive places in all of Vietnam. Hoi An is a perfect tonic for traffic weary travelers from Hanoi and Saigon. And there’s plenty to do in and around the old streets too.
How to get to Hoi An?
Most visitors to Hoi An arrive from Danang airport 30kms away. Vietnam Airlines and Jetstar Pacific offer loads of domestic services each day from Saigon and Hanoi and a smaller number from other points like Nha Trang and Dalat. Fares on both Vietnam Airlines and Jetstar Pacific are very reasonable and often start as low as 40USD one-way.
A taxi from Danang airport to Hoi An will cost between 250,000 and 300,000 VND and takes around 45 minutes.
Danang’s railway station is the most convenient rail access point to Hoi An. A number of travellers use the rail network to reach Danang and Hoi An from Hue and Hanoi to the North.
See and do?
Hoi An’s temples and pagodas are all remnants of the town’s trading past and most reflect strong Chinese influence. Many served as assembly halls for Chinese communities from different parts of the country – hence the names, Hainanese Assembly Hall, Cantonese Assembly Hall, Fujian (Phuc Kien) Assembly Hall.
Chua Ong aka Quan Cong Temple
This temple was founded in 1653 and dedicated to esteemed Chinese general Quan Cong. It’s also the site of the uninspired Museum of History and Culture. Easy to swing by for twenty minutes.
Phuc Kien Assembly Hall
Originally a place of assembly for Hoi An’s Fujian community the hall later became a temple dedicated to Thien Hau – Godess of the sea. Thien Hau was naturally revered by China’s seafaring merchant class.
Cantonese Assembly Hall
From the late 18th century, Hoi An’s Cantonese community gathered and worshipped here.
Tran Family Chapel
Built in 1802 at the commencement of the Nguyen Dynasty further north in Hue, the family patriarch was an acquaintance of the first Emperor Gia Long and served as an ambassador in China.
Hoi An’s iconic Japanese Bridge also has a small Taoist pagoda that you’ll certainly encounter when visiting the bridge. The bridge has its own reference in see and do in Hoi An.
Hoi An ancient house
Hoi An’s old streets are packed with houses dating back to its emergence as an important Asian trading port in the eighteenth century. The houses reflect the architectural styles of the major trading partners of the time – China and Japan as well as Vietnam’s coloniser, France.
Most of the town’s grand heritage listed buildings date back to French times in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The oldest houses are much older though and are quite distinct from those of the French era. A handful of these older merchant houses are open for visitors holding the Hoi An Heritage Tour ticket.
Hoi An museums
Hoi An’s old town has three museums covering history, culture, ceramics and the ethnology of the Sa Huynh people. Hoi An’s museums are located in some lovely old town spaces. Regrettably, they’re as lacking in context and information as the other sites of this historic town.
Hoi An Museum of History and Culture
Hoi An’s History Museum is perhaps the most eloquent testament to the town’s grudging interest in communicating its rich story to visitors.
Museum of Trade Ceramics
As the name suggests, the collection here showcases Hoi An’s time as a centre of trade in Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese ceramics between the 16th and 18th centuries.
Museum of Sa Huynh Culture
The Sa Huynh civilization was an ancient culture that flourished in this part of central Vietnam (emanating from Sa Huynh town a few hours south of Hoi An) between the 2nd century BC and the 2nd century AD. This small museum houses a number of artefacts from the Sa Huynh.
The museum also exhibits an incongruous collection of items from Hoi An’s contribution to Vietnam’s communist revolution.
Hoi An cooking class
Hoi An may well be the best place in Vietnam to take a cooking class. Access to fresh produce, lively markets and a long culinary tradition all set the scene. Add to that some very cool locations, great instructors, good value for money and you’ve got a pretty compelling case for those interested in Vietnamese cuisine.
Cua Dai and An Bang beaches
Heading east of Hoi An, new housing and hotels mix with older rice paddies, and the riverbank meanders for around 5km to sandy beaches. This palm-fringed coastline extends north to Danang, and despite the development, there are still a few quieter stretches; it’s a good area to explore independently by bike.
Nearest to Hoi An, Cua Dai beach has a few big resorts, and an ongoing and escalating problem with beach erosion exacerbated by the past building of hotels.
Think casuarina-lined white sandy beaches, just the right balance of great restaurants and bars, green lawns, island views and year round swimming in the tropical East Sea and you’ve got An Bang Beach.