Discover UNESCO heritage listed Hoi An, Vietnam – what to do, what to eat and travel tips for visitors looking to travel to the beautiful lantern-lit ancient town.
A colorful, ancient locale as serene as it is quaint, Hoi An is distinctive and incomparable to any other location in Vietnam. The town is renowned for its Japanese and Chinese architectural influences, part of the reason Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage town. And it deserves the distinction. Just a bit of Hoi An travel transports visitors from far and wide back 2000 years, to a lustrous time of glowing wonderment in Southeast Asia.
Hoi An is conveniently situated south of Central Vietnam tourist hot-spots Hue and Danang. The convenience and ease of access between the towns means a trio-visit is highly recommended. The town’s beauty endures, despite an annual influx of tourists, thanks to the preservation of its ancient land, architecture and culture.
Hoi An Lantern Festival
Also known as the City of Lanterns, Hoi An celebrates the monthly Lantern Festival. Locals light incense to bring peace and request guidance from their forefathers and ancestors, while silken and bamboo lanterns are lit along the Old Town riverbank to celebrate the festival. Your Hoi An travel agenda should include this.
Hoi An is a safe and beautiful town to explore by bicycle. You can rent one for just $1 – 2 USD. This allows travelers to inspect every nook and cranny of Hoi An at their own pace. Cycle through the Japanese and Chinese quarters to discover old merchant structures and traditional folk culture.
Or pick up speed by getting one of the dozens of motorcycles and scooters available for rent throughout the town. Many agencies such as Flamingo Travel also offer day tours through Hoi An’s mountains and countryside.
Old Town Hoi An
Visitors exploring Old Town Hoi An will be greeted with the smiling faces of local street food vendors serving up an eclectic range of delightful Vietnamese treats- boiled, steamed, grilled, skewered and even fermented. The finer details of 18th-century wooden houses reveal themselves too. And lush trees line the town as delicate bamboo lanterns illuminate the narrow streets and alleys below.
Old Town Hoi An offers shoppers an artisanal, cultural experience. Delighted visitors will remain in awe as they sift through the copious amounts hand-crafted bowls, musical instruments, souvenirs, and a wide selection of affordable tailored clothing.
Famous for its handcrafted lanterns, it is mesmerizing to discover how many different shapes, forms and colors are available in these bamboo torches.
An Bang Beach
Right off Hoi An’s main road Hai Ba Trung is popular An Bang Beach. It is clean and popular with both locals and tourists, and lounge chairs and tiki-style canopies are available to rent for some fun in the sun. Badminton and soccer are options too. Locals are happy to welcome tourists who want to join their games.
Thu Bon River
The Thu Bon River continues to play a crucial role in Hoi An’s agricultural and tourism industry. It was originally an international trading port for Asian merchants, and now it borders rows of lantern-lit restaurants. Travelers can enjoy dazzling Hoi An on a colorful sampan boat for as little as $2 USD.
River tours gently glide patrons along the river bank for 5-minute trips, stopping at the golden Japanese bridge for photo opportunities. Sampan rides on the Thu Bon are also a great opportunity to pay a little extra dong to make a wish by setting alight floating tea light candles on the water.
Hoi An’s Folklore Museum is certainly worth a visit for travelers seeking to delve deeper into the ancient town’s Chinese and Japanese influences from centuries before. It displays more than 500 artifacts that are over a hundred years old. This truly is an inquisitive experience to discover the traditions of the past and explore why Hoi An has come to be such an iconic and crucial representation of Vietnamese culture.
You can see traditional Vietnamese performances at a variety of eateries along the Old Town riverbank. Artists perform classical Vietnamese shows in traditional garments and primitive instruments.
Particularly unique to Vietnam is the highly regarded Water Puppet Show at Hoi An Theatre. The skillful show displays a variety of carefully curated puppets beautifully portraying centuries of Vietnamese history, culture and traditions. And it appeals to both adults and children alike. Each show is 45 minutes long, starts at only 80,000 VND, and displays some of Vietnam’s finest puppetry art and craftsmanship.
Hoi An eats
You must try Cao Lau. This dish features a pork-based sauce and Chinese wheat noodle. The bowl is fragrant in flavor and chewy in texture, a symbolic meal reflective of China’s traditional influence in Hoi An. Hoi An chicken rice and white rose dumplings are two other favorites worth sampling.
You can eat with a view if you want as well. An Bang beach hosts a variety of tropical themed restaurants and bars perfect for sunset gazing. Beach lounge Soul Kitchen serves killer Summer dishes including tuna tartare and beef carpaccio to the beats of live international DJ’s and bands.
Traveling to Hoi An
Vietnam ensures a variety of transport services to the famous town. The most efficient method includes a stop in Danang, then a second mode of transport to Hoi An. The public bus costs only 30,000 for a one-way trip and stops at various locations on AH-17, the major north-south thoroughfare connecting Da Nang and Hoi An.
Numerous domestic flights run daily from both Hanoi and Saigon to Danang. Air travel takes just 1.5 hours and starts from as little as $25 USD across airlines such as Jetstar, Vietjet Air and Vietnam Airlines.
International flights to Danang are also available with budget airlines such as Air Asia offering flights for $30 USD from Kuala Lumpur and $50 USD from Bangkok.
From Danang Airport, a half-hour trip in a private car or taxi will set visitors back about $20 – 25 USD. Alternatively, shuttle buses are available for a mere $1 USD. However, visitors must first make their way to the Da Nang Bus Station to catch the bus for a 1 to 1.5-hour journey to Hoi An.
Hoi An does not have a train line. Tourists wishing to travel by train are to take the Reunification Express Train to Danang. Passengers can select whether they’d prefer a hard or soft seat, or a bunker bed in a 4-person cabin. Prices start at $40 USD and they can be booked online for convenience.
The trip can be up to 17 hours in duration from Saigon. Take the final train of the day (generally 10 pm). It will allow you to rest for a majority of the trip. The journey is fairly comfortable, outside of the unwelcoming bathroom facilities, and travelers can watch as the train passes through various provinces of Vietnam’s countryside.
Semi-sleeper buses via The SinhTourist start at $30 USD, and are a 15-hour journey from Saigon. You save 2 hours, compared to the train, but there’s a tradeoff. You can walk through the carriages on the train. You’re confined to a small space on the bus.
Harmonious Hoi An
Hoi An boasts unique qualities and experiences into Vietnam’s culture and traditions. Visitors from all walks of life are sure to be mystified by the magical fantasy-like beauty of this UNESCO town. The place carries visitors to a classical Vietnam and provides alluring and picturesque moments to cherish for a lifetime.