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?
Sounds like a whole bunch of amazing reasons to stay a while! We’ll be cycling through Vietnam in August, starting in Hanoi and ending in HCMC-we’ll have to make sure to budget some time in Hoi An along the way! I’m sure we will be dying for a break by then anyway 🙂
That sounds like quite the adventure – I’m just thinking of all the overnight buses and trains I took to cover the length of the country – you guys are in for quite the journey. 😉 I hope the training is coming along well! Hoi An would be the perfect place to rest for a few days.
Hi Audrey! I’m with you! I loved Vietnam (I’ve been there three times) and especially Central Vietnam. On my first trip I stayed at the Nam Hai for four wonderful nights. The first thing I did after breakfast was head into the streets of Danang, where I was made to feel extremely welcome by the locals. That night I went into Hoi An and fell in love with the place. I totally agree with your account. On my second trip to Vietnam, I worked my way south from Hanoi to Saigon, stopping first at a beach resort and then in Hue, which was the old imperial capital of Vietnam – about an hour north of Hoi An. It was totally fabulous! If you haven’t been there, you would love it. There are shop houses in town and heritage sites on the outskirts. I only touched the surface! My third trip was to Danang again, with a trip into the Hoi An. I was thinking I’d really like to spend a month there and really soak up the place! BTW, sorry we didn’t get a chance to chat during DIA!
Hi Michael, sorry I didn’t get to properly introduce myself during DIA. It really was a crazy couple of days between the sessions and the after parties; I was wiped after the first day, haha.
I’m glad to hear you also enjoyed your travels through Vietnam. I spent a whole month there and I probably could have used another. There are so many places I had to skip over because I didn’t have enough time on my visa. I’ll have to revisit the country again some time. 🙂
I totally agree with you! I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews on Vietnam on various blogs, but I loved it! I loved the landscape, the people, the food and the amazing shopping!
Reading this, I wish I was back there right now!
I’m glad to hear you also enjoyed your time in Vietnam. I had heard lots of negative things before going, but the country completely took me by surprise – in a very good way! 😉
I spent 3 weeks in Vietnam this past May traveling north and south; Hoi An was my favorite city/town. Next trip I look forward to interior highlands; I.e. Dalat
We went to Hanoi and Sapa on our trip to Vietnam. It’s such a beautiful country. It’s like a gem in every city and beach. Just about anywhere, really. =)
I really enjoyed Sapa. I ended up doing a 2 day trek through the mountains and I also got to visit some of the hill tribes in the region. That was another highlight!
I’m madly in love with Hoi An too! Taking a boat on the river and shopping at the street market were our favorite things to do, but these are all great reasons to visit.
I didn’t get to take a boat tour, but it looked like so much fun. I came across a few night boats where they were playing guitars, singing, and just being merry. 🙂
Vietnam is one place Ive been wanting to check for the longest time and its cool you got this info. Thailand is the place Ive really explored lately but may want to check out Hoi An! Nice stuff
I highly recommend it. I’ve really enjoyed my time in Thailand, but if you’re looking for something a little different, Vietnam is the place to go. 😉
Thanks again for the tip Audrey, will indeed check out it for a change of pace!
Those are certainly 7 great reasons – of course you’d find me in a bakery eating my way through their delicious bread.
Hehe, plenty of bakeries and cafes to keep you happy here.
Great photos and great reasons to visit.
We hope to get to SEA early next year. Can’t wait.
And as the poster above said, there aren’t many places that have better bakeries 🙂
Thanks Nicole. Definitely a destination to add to your itinerary once you start planning your trip.
So any tips on convincing my husband we should drop everything and move here? 🙂 I honestly don’t think I’ve heard a bad thing from anyone about Vietnam, and your descriptions just add fuel to the fire. It’s been lingering in the back of my mind for a while, but I think Vietnam has just secured a place on my bucket list.
When you make it to SE Asia, Vietnam is definitely one country to add to the top of your list. 😉
We’re heading to Vietnam later this year and I can’t truly wait!
Thanks for feeding my excitement even more! 🙂
Yay! Do you know what places you’ll visit during your time there? 🙂
Sounds just like my thing – beaches and secret recipes and all.
I hope you get to visit, Mette. 🙂
Yes, beaches, recipes and… I like this photos from Hoi An and Vietnam.
Yes – I love Hoi An! I intended to stay for only a few nights and wound up there for ten days. I fell in love with the food there; I can say with 100% that cao lau is my favourite food ever.
All the food there was sooo good. I couldn’t stop eating those Vietnamese pancakes that you roll up in rice paper with some fresh greens. Yum!
These are all awesome reasons – I SO want to go to Hoi An. I’ve heard so many great things about it from all sorts of different people. It sounds/looks beautiful. And I would love to get some tailor-made dresses!
Everyone who passes through here seems to walk away with a new wardrobe. Perhaps a destination to consider when you make it over to SE Asia. 😉
I’ve always wanted to visit this city and its small town charms, didn’t know there were a lot of night time activities to partake in, thanks for sharing and maybe down the road, I’ll get to finally visit.
I hope you get to visit too, Noel. Lots to see and do around town at nighttime.
We only had 10 days to spend in Vietnam so we decided to divide our time between HCMC, Hanoi and Halong Bay so we wouldn’t feel too rushed. But gosh I’m regretting that we skipped Hoi An! It looks like it may deserve it’s own special trip!
It’s hard to cover it all. But you got to see Halong Bay, that’s a pretty amazing spot! 😉
Hoi An is probably my favourite place in Vietnam as well. I could easily just spend my 30 day visa right there 😉
I have been reading a lot about Hoi An that when we went to Legoland last week, I right away recognized what they built to represent Vietnam in the Lego world, Hoi An!
Reading this, I am more tempted to really go there!
Thanks for sharing Audrey!
I was sold after reading “white rose dumplings”. Sign me up.
Also, lovely photos!
So pretty!! I do really want to visit here sometime, especially to get some clothes made. 🙂
No, I’ve never been to Hoi An, or Vietnam at all, but this definitely makes me want to go…especially to the Waterwheel Restaurant!
Audrey, I think I finally found a beach I like… will have to write about it soon!
And yes…. I need to go to Hoi An I think… JUST for the dresses. Everything else would be a bonus. x
In Russia?! I can’t wait to read more about your stay on that secluded island with freezing waters. 😉
Really enjoyed this post, I am off to Vietnam next week and first stop is Hoi An.
I don’t have a hostel booked yet for me and my partner – any tips?
I didn’t do hostels in Hoi An. I stayed at Vaia Boutique Hotel which at $30 was a bit of a splurge by SE Asia standards, but definitely worth every penny. 🙂
I have been to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City but I haven’t been to Hoi An! It sounds like a beautiful to get lost and just be! The old word charm sounds very appealing and getting clothes made is also a treat! I will definitely make the time to explore it the next time I return! Thanks for sharing and happy travels!
Very interesting post, i like the term organic living you mentioned! Is this the reason that you think will make a visit to Hoi An a highlight?
Keep up sharing nice photos too.
I really need to visit Vietnam and South East Asia generally. I love anywhere with old world charm and Hoi An looks to have this in abundance!
I can’t recommend Hoi An enough! It was one of my favourite spots in Vietnam – along with Sapa and Halong Bay. Actually, I really enjoyed the whole country! 🙂
Hi, got to hoi an yesterday after the typhoon, fair bit of debris around but they still go around doing their daily chores amongst the aftermath, this is my 2nd time here and won’t be my last, recommend it to anyone going to Vietnam.
Hoi An is a great place to see. You will be missing a lot if skipping Hoi An. Audrey, you should also add one more reason why to visit Hoi An is eco tours such as biking, walking, farming, fishing, ride water buffalo cart.
I am sure I will love it!
Awesome, we’re going to Hoi An the day after tomorrow.
We’re in Hue and I’m really looking forward to it.
Have only booked two nights but can see that being extended.
Thanks for your great photos and great posts. Yes, the food in Hoi An is so amazing. I did try the cao lau and the dumpling cakes you said. They are so wonderful! Hoi An made my trip to Vietnam so meaningful and unforgettable. OMG, cao lau, Quang noodle, white rose, xi ma, banh can,…I do miss them a lot now. Thanks to your posts and the adorable girls from Hoi An Food Tour, my trip to Hoi An was fulfilled with lots of food. I am dreaming about my next trip back to Hoi An in December! 😀
Hoi An is amazing! We loved our time there and would happily go back there for a good week next time. I’m starting my own blog on my time in Vietnam/Asia and will be writing a post on Hoi An. Interested to know, where did you get your clothes from and how was the quality? My blog is a bit thin on the ground with posts but just starting up 🙂 It’s get-backpacking.com
Maybe you do not know, Hoi An still retains nostalgia in the way people live. We always want to live peacefully and integrate with nature.
These are great reasons to visit Hoi An Audrey. I’ve never been there. But, I’ll definitely add it to my itinerary. How many days should I spend there for the best experience?