Hoi An is one of those places that is ‘up and coming’. I didn’t know too much about it, wasn’t really sure what to expect, but it was one of the places to see when researching Vietnam – so it went on the itinerary!
I am so glad we got to see this beautiful place – it has become one of my favourites! Bursting with colour, charm and vibrance, I can’t wait to tell you all about it…
Where to stay – Hoian Nostalgia Hotel and Spa
After mixing up our dates a little bit to have a day in Da Nang, we swapped our hostel for this 3 star hotel (no arguments here)!
James was a little dubious as the décor was quite boutique but for the price it was worth a go, and we definitely made the right choice!
When we arrived, we were offered welcome drinks and a seat on the sofa, whilst one of the staff came over with a map and advised us of the 5 minute walk to the Old Quarter, free bicycle rental, top Hoi An dishes to try and a room upgrade!
Every morning the staff asked us if we slept well and what we had planned for the day. Definitely the biggest welcome we had received so far!
The rooms were spacious and comfortable with clean sheets and towels, tea and coffee, toiletries, spare flip flops and large umbrellas (which ended up coming in handy!)
The breakfast was delicious with a huge selection of Vietnamese, fruit, yoghurt, pancakes, eggs to order, pastries and juice! No wonder we have put weight back on!
There was always the option of the swimming pool to work it off if need be, which James made use of.
Places to visit in Hoi An
Hoi An Old Quarter
As advertised, the walk was only 5 minutes from the hotel. There is confusion around whether you need a ticket to enter. And at certain gates there are guards that will ask to see it.
Our hotel told us to say we already had one but left it at the hotel (as the ticket lasts as long as you stay). So, if you just want to stroll around you will not need to pay.
However, if you wish to see any of the temples, assembly halls or walk over the Japanese covered bridge, a ticket is required and you have only 5 tear off vouchers which are taken at sight entrances. It costs 120,000 Dong each and your ticket is valid for 5 attractions.
Walking through Hoi An, you will notice the copious amounts of lanterns hanging all around. Numerous shapes, sizes, patterns and colours! One of the reasons I love this place so much!
They are so pretty and charming in the day, but in the evening when they are all lit up it is so beautiful – I tried to take photos, but they aren’t even close to capturing the real sight you see first hand!
Hand in hand, James and I strolled around the streets of the old Quarter, taking in the old, quaint yellow buildings filled with cafes, shops and restaurants. I instantly said the place had a Cuban feel to it (even though I have never been to Cuba, but you know what I mean)!
We wandered down to the river to see lots of colourful boats (with faces!), with captains offering to take you for a 30 minute journey. We declined but still took photos.
On the other side of the river, were a few quirky bars – including a ‘Mr Bean’ bar! We took more photos of the Old Quarter and found a large Hoi An sign. We also saw shiny water monuments of the 4 animal symbols in Vietnam.
Japanese Covered Bridge
I think this what Hoi An is mainly known for! It is an ornate, dark wooden bridge over a small canal. It isn’t very big and seems somewhat gothic but still stunning!
We took numerous pictures during the day and at night and it really adds to the charm of the city! We managed to get away without using our ticket, but we did see security asking for tickets on other occasions. This really is a must see – but it is hard to miss!
Hoi Quan Quang Dong – Cantonese Assembly Hall
This was our first ticket use! We walked in to a courtyard admiring a Chinese style building with dragon statues on the roof. We walked in to see Chinese art, large mosaic dragon sculptures, lanterns, incense and a shrine.
Around the back was a pretty garden with small ponds, bridges and a large goat statue – unsure what that one was about! Worth a look!
Phuoc Kien Assembly Hall
Similar to the first, but a little larger! It starts off as a garden with trees, flowers and a fountain sculpture that leads to a pink archway structure in a Chinese design (so hard to describe – hopefully photos will help)!
Through the archway was another garden with small trees, flowers and benches that opened up to the Chinese assembly hall – again dragons on the shaped roof. Inside were some unusual sculptures including a boat, further art and more curly incense!
You don’t need to spend much time here, but still worth a quick visit if you have a ticket!
The day market is full of locals selling fruit, veg, fish, jewellery and clothing. We got a little lost walking around the streets, not knowing whether we were still in the market or not!
We didn’t eat here, but we spoke to another family who said they ate some amazing food at the day market! There were some beautiful items of jewellery for great prices – but we just don’t have the room to be buying unnecessary items!
Nha Go Tan Ky
Another ticketed entry for the Old House of Tan Ky. This house belonged to a man who offered support and food to numerous people so I acknowledged here. Yet, it isn’t very big or very exciting, so I would only recommend popping in if you are really interested in the story!
Chua Phap Bao
Another temple just outside the old quarter so no ticket necessary. The garden filled with buddhas and plants with quite a large temple. Nothing too exciting and I didn’t go inside the temple but worth a stop off if you are nearby!
Old Vietnamese Home
This was a bit of an odd experience. After lunch at Phi Banh Mi (outside the Old Quarter) we walked past a fairly pretty building and we were invited in for a tour – free of charge.
It was explained this was how Vietnamese used to live – and some still do. It was fairly open plan and had lots of wooden carvings of fish in the architecture.
We walked through to the bedroom to find an old woman resting on one of the beds – I was so freaked out as I thought it was a mannequin at first and she wouldn’t stop staring!
Then I felt I was intruding in someone’s home, even though we were being guided around it! We were shown how they make jewellery here as a family business and even cleaned a bangle of mine for free – he did a really good job.
Again, I felt bad for not buying anything but we don’t have the budget for it! We did however leave a donation.
Old Quarter at Night
As if it wasn’t beautiful enough in the day, at night the place comes alive with the colour of thousands of lanterns!
In the river, there is a nightly event where you can go out on lantern lit boats with lights in the shapes of lotus flowers to release candle lanterns into the water. We didn’t do this but it was so special to watch! Photos do not do it justice at all!
The night market is just over the other side of the river. Usual sort of items for sale including jewellery, clothing, souvenirs and lanterns! There is also a selection of street food to chose from so we ate here on both nights for cheap and tasty meals!
If street food isn’t your thing, there are numerous restaurants in this area too!
We made use of our free hotel bike rentals and cycled to the terracotta village – about 1.5 miles away. We cycled around the houses that had small pottery pieces on display and saw pottery making in action!
We even received a free gift for our Chinese New Year symbol! I was a horse and James was a snake! Although, we had to leave these behind as they were too heavy!
We also visited the museum which was a lot more fun. They had displayed terracotta versions of many wonders of the world including the Colosseum, Egyptian Pyramids, Sydney Opera House and Taj Mahal! Very clever! Some were a little worn or broken but still good to look around!
What to Eat in Hoi An
Phi Bahn Mi
James had researched this place and was desperate to go there for lunch! We found it and I must admit it was delicious.
Bahn Mi is a traditional Vietnamese Sandwich – I had Vietnamese sausage with pate, salad and avocado for about 50p and it was delish. James had seasoned pork, pate and veg and ordered another one to take away (originally for lunch the next day but unsurprisingly, it didn’t last that long)!
This was also out first experience of Larue Beer – my new fave! For 3 sandwiches and 2 beers we paid about £2.75!
We had Cau Lau on a couple of occasions – a Hoi An dish of marinated pork, pork croutons, udon noodles, veg and a small amount of broth. I am not a pork lover but it was delicious! A big bowl only cost £1.
Banh Trang Nuong – Vietnamese Pizza
Grilled rice paper with topping of pork, spring onion and sauce. Looks a little like a taco! It was so tasty and so cheap, we nearly went back for another!
Unfortunately, we had another one the following day from a different vendor but it tasted really stale and put us off! So make sure they fry them fresh.
Hoi An Spring Rolls
You will find spring rolls all over Vietnam – fried and fresh. Hoi An spring rolls are delicious (as are most spring rolls) and are usually filled with pork and veg and sometimes shrimp.
These were essentially pork dumplings sprinkled with crispy onion. They were so good – we couldn’t get enough! They are another Hoi An specialty so haven’t found them again since!
Another Hoi An specialty – a bowl of broth with dumplings/wontons floating around. The broth was really tasty but the wontons were shrimp which I wasn’t too keen on!
James and I have continued to say it’s a shame we don’t eat to much fish as there are so many fish dishes!
Coconut Coffee and Egg Coffee
The Vietnamese LOVE their coffee. They mostly have it iced and black or with condensed milk. I tried coconut coffee which is an iced coffee made the coconut milk and it is so tasty!
James had an egg coffee – apparently, they used egg as a milk substitute during the Vietnamese war. I wasn’t as keen but James drunk the whole thing saying he enjoyed it!
We only had 2 whole days to spend in Hoi An and it was probably the perfect amount of time. The weather couldn’t make its mind up most of the time, but that didn’t spoil this experience for me. Hoi An is an absolute treasure and I would implore anyone to go and see it.
Next up Hue!