During the summer, I travelled around Vietnam with my mum and sister. The entire trip was incredible; Vietnam is such a beautiful place, with beautiful scenery, delicious food and the friendliest people. One of my favourite places that we visited was Hoi An, along the central coast – we loved this beautiful historic town so much that we ended up extending our stay. I’ve put together this travel guide, suggesting places to sleep, eat and visit for any of you who are lucky enough to make the trip here.
Before we get into any of that, I have one very important suggestion. Make sure to arrive in style, like we did, via the Easy Riders motorbikes. We booked the tour from Hue to Hoi An and spent an incredible day on the back of a motorbike, driving the scenic route through the country and over the Hai Van mountain pass. I had never been near a motorbike before this trip and was frankly terrified of the whole experience, but as soon as our friendly (and extremely safe) drivers picked us up from our hotel in Hue, I completely relaxed. It turned out to be by far my favourite day of the entire trip through Vietnam, and the views during the drive were spectacular.
If you’re a backpacker and have a small budget, fear not because there’s no shortage of places to stay. The Sunflower Hotel is cheap (around €10 for a private room) and comes recommended by friends who have stayed there. It’s well known amongst backpackers so try to book in advance if you’re travelling during peak season.
We stayed at the Little Hoi An Hotel, which is a more upmarket boutique hotel. Rooms are around €60 for a double, including an incredible buffet breakfast. This hotel is situated in the perfect location, just a two minute walk into the old town along the river and offers a free shuttle bus to the beach, which we took full advantage of. I have to say, the level of customer service is good all over Vietnam, but the staff in this hotel were so friendly and helpful, we never wanted to leave!
For high-end hospitality, the Nam Hai is the place to stay. It’s quite far out from the old town and is made up of 100 private villas and has it’s own private stretch of beach, with a one-bedroom villa costing around €490 per night.
Hoi An is absolutely packed with amazing places to eat and drink, and we did our best to try as many as possible. For our first dinner, we walked two minutes around the corner from out hotel into Cava, which serves a mixture of Western and Vietnamese cuisine in relaxed, candlelit surroundings. Then next day, we cooled off from the intense heat with a light lunch and a chilled glass of wine at White Marble. Another great lunch place that we unfortunately never made it to is Madam Khanh’s, also known as the Banh Mi Queen – for the best Banh Mi in Hoi An.
After a busy day of sightseeing, we ended up at The Little Menu for dinner, where we ate some delicious local noodle dishes (I vaguely remember mine being called Mi Quang), served by the most incredibly friendly waitress.
The following day, we ate dinner at the famous Morning Glory restaurant, which serves delicious Vietnamese street food – there was one particular aubergine and soy sauce dish that would literally melt in your mouth. Just keep in mind that this restaurant is very popular and busy, so booking a day or two in advance is a good idea. While we waited for our table, we popped across the road for some tasty cocktails in the Mango Rooms.
On our last day in Hoi An, we were in the mood for something a little bit different to the usual Vietnamese fare, so we headed to Hola Taco for some Mexican food.
Afterwards, we went to GAM, which is a very curious combination of gemstone art museum and wine bar. We sat outside with a bottle of wine and watched the town come to life as the lanterns that are strung on the houses, above the streets and along the river, were lit up for the night.
There’s no shortage of things to see and do in Hoi An, as the town is full of historical sights, beautiful architecture and is only a few minutes drive away from the beach. However, the first thing to do when you arrive is to find a tailor. There are literally hundreds of tailors to choose from, and it’s impossible to say which one is the best, as it completely depends on what you want to get made, your budget and the quality of service you expect. Choosing just one can be a daunting task, but we ended up going to Canali’s, on a friend’s recommendation and it was an incredible experience. The women in the shop were amazing, making everything exactly how we wanted it, at record speed. Ideally, to get clothes properly fitted and adjusted, you need to make 2-3 trips to the tailor, so it’s advisable to stay for around 4-5 days in Hoi An, but you’ll probably want to stay that long anyway.
Between trips to the tailors, there are some beautiful historic sights to be visited in the Old Town, like the Japanese Bridge, the Cantonese Assembly Hall and Tan Ky House (a private home that was built over 200 years ago and is still completely preserved). Just buy a general ticket for the entire Old Town at the entrance, which should get you into most of the sights.
If you want to take a break from sightseeing (which can be exhausting in the stifling heat) then I can highly recommend taking a cookery class at Ms. Vy’s Cookery School. Ms Vy also owns the Morning Glory restaurant, as well as several other eateries in Hoi An. We did the Holiday Masterclass, which involved a trip to the local market, a tour of Vy’s Market Restaurant, where we got to sample lots of incredible food and try our hand at making noodles (harder than it looks!), followed by a two hour cookery class and lunch.
You’ll need to relax after all that cooking and eating, so head to An Bang Beach, otherwise known as paradise. We took the hotel shuttle out there, but lots of tourists choose to cycle out, which would be a great way to see the local area along the way. If you’re still not completely relaxed after the beach, you can always go for a massage!
I hope this is helpful to anyone planning a trip to Hoi An – I certainly plan on going back to this beautiful town sometime in the near future!