It’s no secret that I loved my time in Vietnam, and out of my entire month spent in the country, Hoi An was one of my favourite cities.
There’s something about the slow pace of the town and its almost fairy tale-like setting that made me want to sink back into the place and linger for days on end even though I still had the rest of northern Vietnam left to discover.
Here are just a few reasons why you might enjoy this place too:
Hoi An may not have a huge reputation as a beach town, but it actually has two really nice beaches to choose from! If you’re willing to hop on a bike and cycle a few kilometres, you can reach An Bang Beach (located 3 kilometres north of the city) or Cua Dai Beach (located 5 kilometres east of the city).
The old world charm
Hoi An happens to be a really cute place and you’ll notice this while you’re still in the outskirts of town. The curved roofs and brightly painted walls just ooze hundreds of years worth of history. Plus get this, there are speakers along the streets in the historic centre of town which play soft instrumental music – it feels like you are in a movie!
The lively markets
Hoi An’s Central Market is chaotic mix of shoppers, vendors, motorcycles, live poultry, and curious travellers competing for space. If you’re an early riser, then you might enjoy a visit to this local market in the morning when the vendors are beginning to set up for the day. And yes, locals wear those conical hats.
Shopping for tailor-made clothes
Hoi An is the capital of custom made clothes. There are literally hundreds of tailor shops scattered across the city, and that means you have countless options when it comes to having clothes, shoes and handbags made. Your best bet is to spend some time browsing the various shops and making mental notes of what you like. If you spot something on a mannequin that fits you’ll be able to walk away with it off the rack, but otherwise measurements will be taken and your clothes will be made to order. I only walked away with 3 dresses, but it is tempting to walk away with a whole lot more.
A taste of organic living
During one of our last days in Hoi An, Sam and I ended up biking to a small organic farming community in the outskirts of town. Tra Que Herb Village is located 2 kilometers north of Hoi An and it is a pleasant way to see the countryside. Once you arrive at the farm, you can take part in a number of activities like cooking classes, rice paper making, a even farming. The highlight of our visit there, however, was the recently opened Waterwheel Restaurant which served a number of local dishes using fresh ingredients from the farm. That was hands down the best meal I had in Vietnam (which says a lot because the food was amazing everywhere in the country)!
Local cuisine and secret recipes
Hoi An has its own unique cuisine and there are several dishes that are specific to the town. For starters, there is cao lau, which is a noodle soup made with pork, lots of greens, bean sprouts, and crispy croutons. What makes this dish so special is that the water for the broth is said to come from an ancient Cham well located in the outskirts of town. You know it’s a one of a kind dish when the water for it comes from an undisclosed source!
Another dish that is unique to the town is banh bao vac, also known as ‘white rose dumplings’. These special dumplings are made with a translucent dough and then stuffed with shrimp. The dumplings get the name ‘white rose’ because the dough is bunched up and folded to resemble a flower. The secret to this recipe is held by one family in town who has been responsible for supplying the rest of Hoi An with dumplings for the past three generations.
The nightly events
This town doesn’t slow down once the sun sets. Music and dance performances often take place along the riverfront in the evenings, and you’ll also notice people releasing floating candles with well wishes into the Thu Bon River. If you’re up for a little nighttime shopping, you can cross the bridge over to An Hoi island where a fun night market sets up selling everything from silk lanterns to beaded necklaces.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you’re planning a trip through Vietnam, you should really try to swing through Hoi An!
Have you been to Hoi An? Do you have any plans to visit?