Hoi An, Vietnam - Travel guide & Hoi An in 60 seconds video

Hoi An, Vietnam – Travel guide & Hoi An in 60 seconds video

 

Getting to Hoi An

Continuing our tour through Vietnam we left Hue and took to the scenic road along the National Highway One, south to Hoi An which took around 3 hours.

Hoi_An_the_road_to_Danang

Hoi An the road to Danang

Goats and a fortress along the Hai Van Pass

Goats and a fortress along the Hai Van Pass

The drive took us past wonderful countryside and was slightly hair raising at times as we zig zagged our way up and down the mountain pass – Hai Van Pass for a short stop at Da Nang. The Hai Van Pass was featured in the BBC’s Top Gear Vietnam Special, Jeremy Clarkson said it ‘was one of the best coast roads in the world’  Incredibly scenic, just don’t look down too often!

Magnificent views along the road to Da Nang

Magnificent views along the road to Da Nang

Countryside near Hoi An

Countryside near Hoi An

Fishing near Da Nang

Fishing near Da Nang

 

Da Nang

Da Nang's 'China Beach'

Da Nang’s ‘China Beach’

Da Nang is Vietnam’s 4th largest city, a popular resort town with visitors from South East Asia. It’s a very nice place neither polluted or crowded.

We stopped at the immaculate beach – My Khe which was made famous during the Vietnam War by the American Forces. It was their place for rest and recuperation, who nicknamed it ‘China Beach’, but don’t use that phrase anymore as it’s considered disrespectful. Phil went for a paddle in the sea and said it was the warmest he’s ever experienced, it had strong currents on the day we were there, so swimming was not allowed.

Da Nang's My Khe beach

Da Nang’s My Khe beach

Signs from the past - Old hangars of the former American airbase

Signs from the past – Old hangars of the former American airbase

On the road out of Da Nang, not far from Marble Mountain we saw some of the old US army airbase hangars which appeared to be intact. Hoi An was just another 30 minutes away from here, we were now excited!

 

Hoi An’s Old Town, a living museum

Beautiful Hoi An

Beautiful Hoi An

The small coastal town Hoi An once traded in silk and spices, a prosperous place it was an important trading port in the whole of Asia until the River Thu Bon silted up and trading moved to nearby Da Nang.  The Old Town appears romantically frozen in time as all the whole town is incredibly well preserved unlike other Vietnamese cites, which have undergone mass development. The fact it’s so well intact is what makes it picturesque and a pleasure to visit.

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The architecture is a blend of Vietnamese, French colonial, Dutch, Chinese and Japanese influences. Buildings are now restaurants or shops catering to tourists, as we explored we really did feel like we were in the past, the whole town is like a living museum.

Hoi An's colourful streets

Hoi An’s colourful streets

Hoi An’s ancient Old Town is also a Unesco World Heritage Site so you have to pay once for a ticket to access the 22 streets (traffic is banned during the day) The ticket gives you access to 5 of the main sights, however you can use your ticket as many times as you want to enter the Old Town.

Fruit vendor carrying a traditional yoke with baskets full of bananas

Fruit vendor carrying a traditional yoke with baskets full of bananas

Locals out before the heat of the day

Locals out before the heat of the day

A street next to the Japanese Covered Bridge

A street next to the Japanese Covered Bridge

Street food vendors in Hoi An

Street food vendors in Hoi An

Distressed walls in shades of yellow ochre are everywhere

Distressed walls in shades of yellow ochre are everywhere

Hoi An reminded us of our visit to Havana, where the faded colours look like photos straight from an Elle Decoration coffee table book. Garth loved the distinctive yellow colour palette around the Old Town and the distressed textures of paint crumbing away in the sunshine.

The other thing we noticed was just how clean Hoi An is compared to Hanoi, streets don’t have rubbish scattered around and the streets don’t smell.  Instead you pass aromas of incense one minute, freshly baked baguettes or the smell of lemongrass which is really nice.

Hoi An - a popular place for wedding photography

Hoi An – a popular place for wedding photography

Hoi An waterfront boats

Hoi An waterfront boats

Early morning in Hoi An

Early morning in Hoi An

Pretty waterfront scenes

Pretty waterfront scenes

 

Japanese Covered Bridge

Japanese Covered Bridge

Japanese Covered Bridge

Standing for over 400 years is the Japanese Covered Bridge – It’s Hoi An’s must see landmark. Built in the 18th century to join the former Japanese quarter with the rest of the town.  We used our ticket to cross the bridge and have a look at the small temple inside.

20,000 Dong banknote

20,000 Dong banknote

It also features on the 20,000 Dong banknote, and looks great at night too. However this isn’t the only Japanese bridge in Vietnam, we saw another one in the countryside outside Hue.

Japanese Covered Bridge interior

Japanese Covered Bridge interior

Sculptures of a dog and monkey guard each entrance

Sculptures of a dog and monkey guard each entrance

 

Tan Ky House

Tan Ky merchant house

Tan Ky merchant house

Inside the Tan Ky house

Inside the Tan Ky house

Tan Ky is a perfect example of a wealthy merchants house. It’s over 200 years old and has been passed down 7 generations, who keep everything presented exactly as it was. The house often gets flooded every year, there’s photos and markings on the wall to show this. In December, the month after we went the whole town was flooded, we watched pictures on Facebook of people navigating the narrow streets on boats.

 

Phuoc Kien

Phuoc Kien assembly hall

Phuoc Kien assembly hall

There are 5 Chinese assembly halls in Hoi An, we went to one of them – Phuoc Kien. Assembly halls were built by Chinese migrants when they settled in new countries to keep their traditions alive for their next generation. Primarily it was a place for them to socialise and worship.

Large incense coils inside the main hall

Large incense coils inside the main hall

Ornamental plants and Bougainvillea flowers fill the small gardens

Ornamental plants and Bougainvillea flowers fill the small gardens

 

Central Market

The Central Market

The Central Market

We’d definitely recommend getting up early to explore the Central Market, before Hoi An gets busy, especially if you’re into photography. You can eat breakfast here if you like, the food is cheap from the ladies with small stalls, even if they are a little pushy.

The meat hall inside Central Market

The meat hall inside Central Market

Further into the market is the meat stalls, get ready for a shock as it’s nothing like what we’re used to!  There’s no fridges, instead is meat piled up high on tables next to the sound of cleavers whacking wooden blocks. All the meat is divided up and every part of the animal appears on sale, like pigs snouts, it’s fascinating to witness and surprisingly there were no flies despite the appearance!

Phil inside the fruit and veg market

Phil inside the fruit and veg market

Hoi An's fish market

Hoi An’s fish market

The next section is the a vegetable market, really colourful and busy we saw the vegetable they call ‘morning glory’ which is water spinach and the most common vegetable used in Vietnamese cooking.  Then a few more steps away is the fish market right next to the river, with brightly coloured baskets full of live crabs.

 

Cao Lau & Local dishes

Cao Lau - Hoi An's signature yellow noodle dish

Cao Lau – Hoi An’s signature yellow noodle dish

We tried the local signature dish of Cao Lau, usually eaten at lunch. Barbecued pork, bean sprouts, mint and other fresh herbs with chewy and thick yellow rice noodles, and crispy croutons it’s really cheap at Morning Glory Restaurant which is considered to sell the best Cao Lau in Hoi An. Garth loved this dish and ordered it a few times. Morning Glory also had a range of cooking classes, so you may want to consider adding a lesson to your itinerary.

A couple more local dishes we tried in Hoi An were Com Ga – a rice dish with chicken, and White Rose – dumplings filled with either pork or prawns and topped with fried garlic with a sweet dip. Hoi An was food heaven!

Fashion Cafe in Hoi An

Fashion Cafe in Hoi An

One evening we crossed the bridge to the opposite side of the river to Fusion Cafe. It’s in a great location as it overlooks the Old Town which is beautifully reflected in the water.  Grab a glass of Larue – the local beer and just sit back and people watch.

Larue, the local beer

Larue, the local beer

Hoa Anh Dao Sakura and Old Town by night

Hoa Anh Dao Sakura and Old Town by night

We’d also recommend Hoa Anh Dao Sakura, a restaurant in the Old Town on the waters edge. Make a reservation upstairs, over looking the river, like we did for an atmospheric night and listen to the sound of the locals playing a weird outdoor bingo type game next door, we still never worked out what it was.

 

It’s really all about the Lanterns

Hoi An full moon festival

Hoi An full moon festival

Our trip nearly coincided with The Hoi An Lantern Festival or known by locals as the Full Moon Festival, but not the ones you usually associate with Asia!  It’s when locals pay their respects to their ancestors by burning fake money, symbolising prosperity. Our timings were out by a couple of days, which was annoying but there was still plenty of activity with people setting off paper lotus flower shaped cups with candles inside down the river. It’s on the 14th day of any lunar month.

Lotus flower paper cups flicker down the river

Lotus flower paper cups flicker down the river

Silk lantern shop at night

Silk lantern shop at night

As day turns to night, Hoi An turns into an incredibly magical and romantic place where the whole town twinkles in a lovely warm glow. Although Garth felt these busy streets had an air of Disneyland about them, probably because they were full of Western tourists, so not quite as authentic as evenings in Hanoi.

The beautiful coloured silk lanterns at night

The beautiful coloured silk lanterns at night

Silk lanterns are everywhere

Silk lanterns are everywhere

The shops selling the silk lanterns make for wonderful photos! they look so good all bunched together. They also make a perfect souvenir as most fold up, we weren’t too sure if they would work with our decor at home! but we should have just bought one, as they’re not expensive. Worth noting that all the shops close early at 9pm.

Phil and Garth under the lanterns

Phil and Garth under the lanterns

Vendors line streets selling their glorious paper cards

Vendors line streets selling their glorious paper cards

 

Shopping & tailoring

Bep Truong coffee shop and bookstore

Bep Truong coffee shop and bookstore

Hoi An bespoke tailors

Hoi An bespoke tailors

If you’re into shopping then Hoi An will be paradise for you! The Old Town is full of shops especially clothes shops as Hoi An is the tailoring capital of Vietnam.  You can get a suit made in 24-48 hours, we noticed the quality varies dramatically between shops.  Be prepared for a hard sell, as owners entice you to enter their shops, we felt a bit badgered after a few places. If you do want to get measured up give yourself 2 days to allow for fittings and just be careful it still fits after all that delicious Cau Lau!

Hoi An shopping

Hoi An shopping

Silk worms

Silk worms

Silk scarfs for sale

Silk scarfs for sale

Paper cutout greeting cards

Paper cutout greeting cards

Decorated coconut shells

Decorated coconut shells

You’ll find loads of silk in shops Hoi An and if you want to see some real life silk worms then head to Ken Tam Cocoon on Tran Phu street, they sell some good quality silk scarfs which we bought as presents, Phil also liked their decorated coconut bowls for sale. Garth loved the nearby Bep Truong – a coffee shop and bookstore selling old propaganda art and bought various posters.

 

Tea house

Reaching Out tea house

Reaching Out tea house

Reaching Out is a charming tea house where tea is served like an art form. It’s also a charity (NGO) and supports disabled people, the tea house staff are hearing impaired or deaf so you use small wooden blocks to communicate. It was full of stylish people and was just lovely and tranquil.

Reaching Out tea house

Reaching Out tea house

Reaching Out also have an Arts and Crafts shop – this shop is AMAZING, go there. It’s full of unique and tasteful things – homeware, clothes, all sorts. We bought a few items including a beautiful handmade silk bed runner.  At the back of the premises you walk through the small workshop and see the artisans they are supporting hard at work.

 

Hoi An was easily the most picturesque city on our travels through Vietnam. Although it’s a bit of a tourist trap, the charming old houses and pretty riverside make up for it. We would also recommend the hotel we paid for which turned out to be one of our favourites, Hoi An Historic Hotel it’s just a short walk to the Old Town and had a lovely rooms and a glorious pool which you will need in the heat!

 

Phil and Garth’s Top 5 Hoi An Tips

Phil and Garth in Hoi An

Phil and Garth in Hoi An

  • Tip #1: If you are visiting in November like we did, take a poncho just in case, as it’s the wet season.
  • Tip #2: If you have more time – hire a bike from your hotel and go to the nearby countryside.
  • Tip #3: Wander around at 7am before the shops open and tourists wake up.
  • Tip #4: The town is easily walkable because it’s so small – so no need for taxis.
  • Tip #5: Got even more time? Go see the nearby ancient My Son ruins or the pristine white sandy An Bang Beach.

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20 Comments

  1. Lucy
    18th March 2017

    Wow great post! Only just discovered you guys through Pinterest but will definitely read more! I am going to vietnam in may starting to get very excited! Xx

    Reply
  2. Sarah
    15th March 2017

    I love your 60 sec videos 😀 They’re so helpful!! I’m so going to use them to plan all future trips with 🙂 Great post as always guys! Love the pics as well! stunning 🙂

    Reply
  3. David
    14th March 2017

    I wish my photos from Hoi An were anyway near as beautiful as yours! You really captured the vibrant, upbeat nature of the place. Oh and Cao Lau is my favourite Vietnamese dish! The houses and temples around town really are nice to visit and you can definitely understand why it has become such a popular tourist destination. Just beautiful guys!

    Reply
  4. Siddharth and Shruti
    4th March 2017

    So pretty! Your photography is amazing. Loved the quirky, quaint tea house. A cooking lesson sounds like a great idea to add to the itinerary. #feetdotravel

    Reply
  5. ThriftyTrails
    1st March 2017

    So I’m pretty sure you are both Vietnam experts by now! Thanks for sharing all this information with us. Will definitely reference back when we make our way to that side of the world again. I need to get my hands on some Cao Lau, looks so yummy!

    Reply
  6. Shona
    1st March 2017

    Spectacular photos as we’ve come to expect from you guys plus the informative content gives us great insight. It almost feels like I’ve been but I will go just to make sure. 😉

    Reply
  7. Elisabeth Caraballo
    1st March 2017

    Such an inspiring post! I really love your photos and video! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Reply
  8. Sina
    28th February 2017

    Great post and I love the pictures! Really inspires me to travel to Vietnam and learn more about this country. I love the lanterns and vibrant colours and the food looks delicious once again. Hope to go one day!

    Reply
  9. Scarlett Begonias
    28th February 2017

    Everything. Everything about this post made us want to be in Vietnam. That immaculate beach, the lanterns, that delicious noodle dish. As usual your video captured the atmosphere of the place perfectly! Awesome guys.

    Reply
  10. Kreete
    28th February 2017

    Love your detailed guides every time! Do you write them down straight away the same night? I struggle with my memory sometimes ha! Excellent photogtaphy again and great tips too! The 60 second videos are an icing on the cake! The lanterns are a beautiful sight too as long as they aren’t released to litter the nature once they fall down from the sky. Well done!

    Reply
  11. Stephanie (1AdventureTraveler)
    27th February 2017

    Wow, okay I am ready to go back to Vietnam and visit Hoi An. Such an interesting and beautiful city and so clean. I love how there is not trash around the streets like Hanoi. Your Video and Photos are stunning. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Reply
  12. Georgina
    27th February 2017

    This is one of the best post on Hoi An that I have come across- really helpful! Thanks guys 🙂

    Reply
  13. Rob+Ann @TravelLatte(.net)
    26th February 2017

    Wow, so much here. GREAT photographs! Love the lamps, the architecture, the food (Cao Lau!!), the scenery…so much to fall in love with! I’m glad you captured the couple in the formal wedding attire, and the girl (bridesmaid, I’m guessing). The formal dresses and suits are always so beautiful! Great photo essay, guys. Really brings Hoi An home and makes us really eager to visit!

    Reply
  14. SamH Travels
    26th February 2017

    Your posts are always amazing and this post is no exception. I am fascinated with the architecture, particularly the old Japanese Covered Bridge. The photos capture the mood and the feel of Hoi An perfectly, I feel like I was visiting with you 🙂

    Reply
  15. Oana
    26th February 2017

    Great post, I am following all your posts about Vietnam, hoping to get there this year or the next one. The market reminds me of Phuket market, where the meat was just pilled up, no fridges or anything similar. Everything looks so beautiful and full of life. You managed to capture the soul of Hoi An in your photographs. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  16. Travel Lexx
    26th February 2017

    I loved Hoi An – we stayed in a modern hotel outside the historic town but I would love to stay somewhere closer next time. I loved the Japanese Covered Bridge and all the beautiful buildings with their European influences. Would love to explore the Central Market properly next time and try even more food – you’d have to keep me away from those silk works as I would probably try to eat them! Absolutely love your shots of the street life – stunning look into the city!

    Reply
  17. Angie (FeetDoTravel)
    26th February 2017

    I am following your Vietnam posts with interest as we will be there within the next couple of months which, is a shame in a way as we will miss the lantern festival which looks amazing! My Khe beach is now on my radar, thank you and thanks for the tip about hiring a bike, we will have to do that! Clearly there is a lot for us to do in Hoi An – can’t wait to visit and I hope we can capture half of the amazing photos/Hoi An life as you have! #feetdotravel

    Reply
  18. Anna Schlaht
    26th February 2017

    Wow! Hoi An looks really incredible. The more of these posts I read on Vietnam, the more I think this destination is rising on our travel list! The vibrant colors, stunning countryside, and incredible handcrafted items (I can’t get over how much detail goes into those scarves or greeting cards!) just pull at me in a very alluring way. Thanks for the tips, guys! Definitely want to visit someday, so saving for future reference.

    Reply
  19. Jenn
    25th February 2017

    You have such a magical way of capturing the essence of the places you visit! From the lush rolling hills to the vibrant colors of old town – this looks incredible!

    Reply
  20. Tracy
    25th February 2017

    Love this!! Wonderful photographs and a great write-up just makes me want to jump on a plane right this second! I absolutely cannot wait to visit Vietnam! And I am so looking forward to reading about the rest of your trip! As usual I adore the 60 second video – wonderful. #feetdotravel

    Reply

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