The colourful little town of Hôi An is not one to be missed. We were only there for two nights, but there was no shortage of things to do. It has a great small town feel, which is a nice change from the busy cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. It is fun, charming and offers great shopping as well as wonderful food and cultural experiences. Hôi An is known for its many cheap tailor shops, and lots of people flock here to buy custom suits and dresses. Spend your time strolling through the streets, trying the delicious food, and make sure to check out the Ancient Town!
How To Get There
We took a bus from the city of Hué that also offered a tour through a small local market, the Hai Van Mountain Pass and the beautiful Marble Mountains. More about this travel featured in our Travel from Hue to Hôi An post! That tour took about 8 hours from Hué to Hôi An.If you choose to do a hop on/hop off bus through Vietnam, you can get dropped off right in Hôi An.
We also travelled from Hôi An to Hanoi, first taking a local bus for an hour to Da Nang, then an 14 hour overnight train to Hanoi. It cost 17,000 dong each for the bus (after a ton of arguing) and 785,000 dong each for the train. This segment of travel ran us into a ton of issues which opened our eyes to some of the scams we were warned about in Vietnam, you can check out our story in our post on Hanoi.
Where to Stay
- Sunflower Hotel – Featuring very nice and clean rooms, a fun atmosphere, a pool, a bar in the back and a huge buffet breakfast, this was a great place to stay! We had to book in advance due to our arrival by bus tour, so we didn’t get a chance to look around at many other options. It cost $18 CAD and is located just a few minutes walk away from the Ancient Town. You can book online here.
What To Do
- Explore the Ancient Town – This is the original part of the town, with buildings dating far far back into the 15th – 19th centuries. It is actually a UNESCO Heritage Site! Old yellowed buildings show off Asian architecture of the time, while string lanterns, cobblestone sidewalks and beautiful flowers make for a lovely scene to walk through. One of the many architectural sites is the beautiful, elaborately decorated Japanese Covered Bridge, dating back to the 18th century!
- Get Your Own Clothing Made – A popular thing to do here is get suits, dresses, rompers, pants, even coats custom made to fit your exact measurements here. Take your time and look into different shops. Do your research online for any recommended tailors! After you have decided on a reputable shop, bring in your design, choose your fabrics, and make sure you’re paying a fair price. Remember, this is their livelihood, so don’t try to haggle too much (prices usually in USD). You should plan to be there for at least 3 days to allow for research and fittings. We didn’t have time to get anything made just for us, but Devon found a dress that they were able to alter for her in less than a day!
- Vietnamese Water Puppets – This cultural custom is a beautiful display of colourful, intricate puppets floating, splashing and dancing through the water. We were given explanations of different stories and enjoyed folk music, cultural symbols and a lot of humour during the hour long performance. We definitely recommend taking this opportunity to learn more about Vietnamese culture! It cost 80,000 dong per person, and the shows are at 6:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
Where to Eat
- Bale Well – This was recommended in one of our travel books and it did not disappoint! It has a set menu, and the moment you sit down you are greeted with an all you can eat food spread. The dishes were pork grilled on skewers, rice pancakes (called Ban Xeo – iconic Hôi An street food), plates of lettuce, basil, cucumbers, rice paper wraps, cabbage, carrots and pineapple. They quickly show you how to use the rice paper, filling and pork to create your own little wraps to dip in your own sauce. It was delicious! Dessert was mango pudding. Definitely come hungry to this place. Now that they know they are popular, the prices have risen a bit (when we went it was around 120,000 dong or $7CAD) but we still found it totally worth it.
- Cao lầu – This is Hôi An’s signature dish. It usually consists of thick yellow noodles, greens, and pork, but there are different variations everywhere. The flavours weren’t out of this world, but it was fun to try the local dish!
- Bars in Ancient Town – Though we didn’t do a lot of drinking there, that’s not to say there weren’t a ton of places to do it! The Ancient Town is peppered with bars with unreal happy hour drink deals. Promoters also hand out free drink flyers to get you to come to their bar. Buy a few discounted drinks and have some fun bar hopping through an ancient city!