5 reasons to visit Hoi An
The main draw to Hoi An, especially the old town, is that it is just so pretty! The streets are lined with rows of yellow buildings, with ornate, moss covered roofs. Strung from the shops and trees are rows of beautiful silk lanterns. The town’s architecture and design are a mix of influences and heritages; Vietnamese, French, Chinese and Japanese. There are spectacular temples, little bridges, shophouses filled with clothes and painted crockery and of course the water. The river and canals are the heart of Hoi An and walking along the water or taking a boat trip is a fantastic way to see the town.
Coffee is a big deal in Vietnam. There are coffee shops absolutely everywhere. The chain café, Highland Coffee, can be found all over the country. They are great to stop in for excellent cheap Banh Mi and to try interesting local jelly coffees and iced drinks. Hoi An town has a number of Hoi An Roasteries dotted around, which are beautifully decorated and serve delicious pastries and traditional egg coffee – like an espresso poured into whipped egg yolks – sounds weird but it’s good! Plus you can find amazing independent coffee shops wherever you look. Our favourite was actually out in the beach village Tan Tanh, Sound of Silence, and their Vietnamese drip and flat white was awesome. You can also easily pick up the stuff needed to make your own coffee. The stainless steel (or choose a fancy brass or ceramic version) drip filters used traditionally are sold everywhere, as is local coffee, so you can DIY when you get home.
All the food!
We were absolutely amazed by the standard of food in Vietnam in general. We knew we’d be eating delicious pho and other noodle dishes, but we were not expecting to be so blown away by almost everything we ate. Local specialites to try in Hoi An are Cau Lau (pork noodles), White Rose (dumplings), Mi Quang (sweet and sour rice noodles), Banh Mi (sandwiches) and beef pho (noodle soup). The fried morning glory/spinach with garlic and chilli is also fantastic here. We tried so many amazing restaurants and café’s serving Vietnamese that it is impossible to recommend any, we just wandered and picked ones we liked the look of. I would recommend going to The Field though. Their food was delicious and the atmosphere and surroundings were just beautiful. The tables are set out in different areas with views of the paddy fields or river, there is a small children’s play area made of bamboo and even small floating platforms you can arrange to have a romantic dinner for two on!
What was surprising was how delicious the food from other countries was. So if you are here for more than a couple of days, there is loads worth checking out. The curry and samosas from Ganesh Indian restaurant were so delicious we had takeaway from there twice. I probably had some of the best meatballs in tomato sauce I’ve ever tasted at the Italian restaurant at SunWorld at Ba Na Hills. We had amazing ‘beer food’ at Pasteur Street Brewery; sausages, cheese toasties, meatballs, etc. to wash down their beer tasting board! Dingo Deli, out in Cua Dai, does sandwiches, quiche and pub favourites that put lots of UK or Australian eateries to shame.
There’s a beach!
I honestly didn’t even know there was a beach near Hoi An when we first added it to our list of planned destinations. We decided to stay near the beach as with small children it made more sense to be out of the busy town, as we wouldn’t be sightseeing most of the time and the tribe would need somewhere to run around. We visited in rainy season so the sea was fairly rough and we only had a few days warm enough to actually “use” the beach. The little village, Tan Tanh, that we were staying in was definitely in quiet mode. However, the beach itself is really nice and there are some great little hotels, bars and restaurants on the strip. We went back a few times to Salt Pub as the vibe was very chilled, the food was good and we could have a drink overlooking the sea while the gang ran around the grass area.
There are loads of ridiculously great day trips from Hoi An: temples, beaches, food tours, river trips, farm visits…you could fill days!
Our favourite has to be Ba Na Hills. You need to either go on an organised tour (available from most hotels/tourist info or advertised around town) or book a taxi to take you and wait to drive you back. We did the taxi option to give us more flexibility. We saved this trip for while Tom’s dad was out visiting and it was great to share it with him as well, as it was such an awesome overall experience. Probably the best part of the trip is the cable car ride up the mountain. It was completely, unexpectedly stunning. I was worried about being too terrified to open my eyes, but it was so beautiful that I didn’t even think about being scared! At the top is the insta-famous Golden Hands Bridge, a weird and wonderful fake European village, temples and even a theme park. All included in the entrance ticket! It was a real bucket-list moment that we will never forget.
Another trip worth doing is My Son temple complex. Similar to, although much much smaller than, Angkor Wat, you can wander around the temples and catch a traditional dance show. What was also fascinating were the bomb craters around the site from the Vietnam War.
We didn’t go to Marble Mountain but other travellers have said it is worth getting a taxi to and having a wander around. You can have a look here: marble mountain.
We spent a month in this area of Vietnam and really were kept so busy, even on a budget. We absolutely loved it and would recommend it to anyone thinking of going!