As beautiful as it is peaceful, Hoi An is an ancient town that will charm the pants off any traveller. Listed as a UNESCO Heritage site, Hoi An has so many historical tales to tell, which is evident in the surrounding architecture. With obvious influences from foreign cultures and different eras, the town makes for a very interesting visit. And thankfully, the whole town, including the buildings and street layouts, has been very well-preserved.
What was once one of the largest trading ports of the 15th to the 19th century, is now a sleepy little town that attracts the likes of you and me for entirely different reasons. Of course, nearly everyone knows that Hoi An is famous for its tailors, and people come from far and wide to have their dream dress or suit made for cheap. (Of course, it’s cheap by Western standards, but when you’ve been living in Hanoi for three years, $25 for a dress doesn’t really seem that cheap – despite the high quality).
But it’s not just highly skilled tailors in the Old Town that Hoi An has to offer. In fact, there’s quite a lot to see and do here that I would recommend staying here for more than the standard two days that tourists seem to do.
Japanese Covered Bridge
If you walk right down to the river in the Old Town where the wooden restaurant boats sit, then you won’t miss the gorgeous Japanese bridge, built in the 17th century during their occupation. Not only can you walk over it and overlook the river, but you can also cross a bridge further down from which you can admire the beautiful architecture and flawless workmanship.
Quan Cong Temple
Not too far from the Japanese bridge, this temple is another popular attraction which is supposedly dedicated to a Chinese general named Quan Cong. Although it seems odd that they would worship a Chinese general, who played a part in occupying Vietnam, it seems that he is remembered more for his loyalty, sense of justice, and compassion. The temple itself is, as you would expect, stunning, and it’s an enjoyable visit in the sunshine.
There are several museums dotted all around Hoi An, which would attract various individuals of various interest. I won’t pretend that we visited them all, but just to wet your museum appetite:
– Museum of the Revolution (war stuff, weapons)
– Museum of History and Culture (history of Hoi An)
– Museum of Folk Culture (mostly dedicated to the culture of rural Vietnam)
– Museum of Sa Huynh Culture (pottery and urns)
– Museum of Trade Ceramics
It’s also possible to visit ancient homes, but we didn’t bother – people are still residing in some of them
I’m a big fan of hiring a bicycle and cycling around any new town or area, despite the heat It’s a really great way to see some areas that you might not otherwise have seen. Sadly, however, my boyfriend and I differ in this respect and so sadly we didn’t get to experience this joy in Hoi An. Maybe next time… That being said, there are several tour companies that run bicycle trips around Hoi An, including Heaven & Earth Tours, Hoi An “Love Of Life” Bicycle Tours, Buffalos Adventures and Green Apple Activities … Alternatively, you could just simply hire a bike yourself and go for a spin.
Let’s not forget the pristine white sand beaches near Hoi An, that stretch as far as the eye can see. The main tourist beach destination here is Cua Dai Beach – about 7km from the Old Town, which is home to several beach resorts. Other beauties include the quieter An Bahn Beach (5km away), China Beach (7km away) and Ha My Beach (13km away).
We found a nice secluded beach (Bai Rang) where we were able to hire a wooden hut, order cheap food and a big box of beer, while being a stone’s throw away from the sea. It was an excellent way to spend an afternoon with some friends and definitely recommend checking it out.
Only a one-hour motorbike ride away from Hoi An, or short boat trip, the My Son ruins are also a popular attraction for tourists. This was a town built by the Champas, who ruled Central Vietnam from 200AD to 1700AD and built several temple complexes around the region. Since the collapse of the shampa, the temples fell into ruin and nature began to take over, so the whole site is in a state of disrepair. However, it offers a glimpse into the ancient history of the area and is definitely worth a visit.
Hoi An Eco Tour
Not many people know of this when they visit, but the Hoi An Eco Tour is a great activity if you fancy doing something different or getting away from the tailors in the Old Town. You get to row a basket boat across the river with local fishermen, and although a little pricier as an activity, all meals and drinks are included, and you have the chance to catch you own fish!
Other things to see and do:
- Hoi An food tour
- Craft lessons and craft tours
- Scuba diving or snorkeling around Cham Island
- Hoi An Silk Village
- Hire a motorbike