The city of Hoi An in Vietnam was formerly known as Fai-Fo / Faifoo. It is situated in the Quang Nam province of the country. Located south of Da Nang, on the coast of the South China Sea, Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This city has a varied history, starting from the Cham era, through to times of Dutch / Portuguese influences, and also with trading relations with Japan, China, India, and various countries in Europe.
The weather is best during May and June when the seas and winds are calm so schedule your trip during this time if you can. You can get around Hoi An using motorbikes; taxis are a little expensive. You can charter motorbike taxis / boats for specific time periods.
You must purchase a ticket for the entry to the Old Town for 120,000 VND (approximately 6 USD), which provides a self-guided tour and entry to 5 selected places in the heritage area. It is technically valid for 24 hours, though time periods are often quite flexible. You can choose to see heritage houses, the Japanese Covered Bridge, museums etc (details are on the ticket).
If you’re planning a weekend in charming Hoi An, these are some of the best things to see and do:
1. Visit Hoi An Ancient Town
The Old Town has lot of well-preserved timber-framed buildings with brick or wooden walls. There are architectural monuments, pagodas, traditional family houses, and more. The town served as a port in ancient times and Hoi An is a perfect example of a well–preserved Asian trading port. You can relax in the street-side cafes dotting the narrow streets and enjoy amazing Vietnamese food in this part of town. Enjoy the lanterns that come alive with bright lights during the night, spend some time by the Thu Bon River watching the boats, or, even better, hire a paddler and spend the evening paddling down the river.
As mentioned above, the best way to see the entire town of Hoi An is on a bike. Book this whole day combo boat and bicycle tour in Hoi An. From an hour boat trip on the Song Thu river to the 23 km (15 miles) cycling across the countryside, feel the adrenaline rush and turn your stress into mist as you delight your senses with fresh cool breeze and verdant surroundings. Have a relaxing encounter with nature, walk over unusual floating bridges and visit local crafts and workshops. It’s the perfect location to have lunch with a local family. The activity is joined by a French or English-speaking guide (based on your preference). It does not cover for drinks and insurance so please make your own arrangements.
There is also the Hoi An Free Tour, which is primarily provided by local university students. You can check out the villages and rice fields and learn more about the area through experience, enjoying something that no guidebook will be able to give you. It is totally free; the volunteer students only want to practice some English in exchange for showing you around the beautiful place. You only just have to pay for the ferry (20,000 VND / 1 USD) and a small donation to support the local community (approximately 30,000 VND / 1.5 USD).
Take a bike tour around the city
Price: 44 USD
Duration: 9 Hours
Experience what it’s like to be local in Vietnam. Dive into the life, culture, and food passions of a local host as she provides you with practical hands-on lessons on how to cook like a real Vietnamese! Begin by visiting the market by boat to buy the ingredients. You will surely appreciate the fresh produce bringing local flavours to the dish. Then, head back to her home where she will share with you not only her step-by-step cooking techniques but also an insight into the life of a local. Most importantly, you will never go hungry as you cherish the moment eating together surrounded by gorgeous riverside scenery. This is a fantastic opportunity to learn the secrets to cooking authentic Vietnamese food.
Cook with a local and visit the market by boat
Price: 25 USD
Duration: 4 hours
4. Shop at Hoi An Night Market
Hoi An has some scope for those who love picking up locally-made handicrafts from whichever place they travel. So, if you are looking to buy a signature silk lantern of Hoi An, head to the night market, open every day from 5 pm until 11 pm at the An Hoi Peninsula. Apart from lanterns, you can buy handmade jewelry, traditional clothes, and ethnic handicraft items, to name just a few.
5. Relax at An Bang Beach
An Bang Beach is only a short distance from the Old Town, and it is a great place to chill out and relax. This is the perfect setting to relax, the backdrop of a perfect holiday. You can reach this beach via bike. The white sandy beach is very inviting, as are the azure waters. You can also visit An Bang Seaside Village, which is just the right setting for couples as well as families. You can stay at the homestay accommodation to get a local experience of a stay at Hoi An.
6. Visit the Japanese Covered Bridge
Symbolic of Hoi An’s past, this bridge was constructed by the Japanese community that was living in Hoi An. It is said that no trip to Hoi An is complete without a mandatory picture of this bridge. It was initially built to reach the Chinese quarters across the stream. The roof was intended to shelter the people during sun and rain, a very thoughtful touch! This bridge is now the official symbol of Hoi An.
7. Enjoy Kim Bong Carpentry Village
Kim Bong Woodworking / Carpentry Village is located in Cam Kim commune of Hoi An. It is noted for its traditional woodwork and carpentry. The carpentry village is quite popular among tourists who like to stay away from the touristy part of the town. This village is located about 10 minutes across from the town of Hoi An, and it is accessible by boat. Here, visitors can see first-hand carpentry traditions that are used to make unique and sophisticated products.
8. Visit the Old House of Phung Hung
Located just a few feet from the Japanese Covered Bridge, you might notice the wide entrance hall that is decorated with embroidery, exquisite wall hangings, and beautiful lanterns. This is the old house of Phun Hung. For those who would like to get a taste of the olden living style, this house is a must-visit. The house is still being lived in by a Chinese family, the Tran family to be precise, and it is very well-looked after. You can ask for an English or French speaking guide to know more about the house. It is open every day from 8.30 am until 6 pm. Entry to the heritage house is one of the options included in the ticket for the Old Town Heritage Area.
9. Time your trip for a festival
The Full Moon Festival is held once a month, on the 14th day of every lunar month. You can take a boat (it will cost you about 70,000 VND / approximately 3 USD). Also referred to as the lantern festival, it is a tradition that has been held for a long time. The entire town shuts off its lights, stops the traffic, and beautiful lanterns are allowed to fly high in the air. You will be awestruck by the candles, lanterns, and the large gatherings.
Another festival to look out for is the Dragon Festival, or the Mid-Autumn Festival, that is held once a year. You can hear drum beats every day of the week before, when children practice for their performance on the big night. The main participants are children, and the festival is a gesture of gratitude to the moon.
The Lantern Festival is Hoi An’s most beautiful spectacle. The tradition of decorating the town of Hoi An with colourful lanterns started in the late 16th century during the Chinese and Japanese settlements. Lanterns are lit up along the streets and set into the river as offerings to the God of their lands and to their ancestors. This tradition is still carried today every month on the eve of the full moon.
Join this workshop with one of Hoi An’s respected lantern makers. Learn about making paper lanterns and literally make your own! From building the structure into your chosen design, assembling the paper to the finishing touches, you will surely walk away with a charming lantern to cherish forever. Don’t worry, the lantern is collapsible, so you can conveniently carry it during your trip. This is also a fantastic way to understand Vietnamese culture and engage with the locals.
Book a lantern making workshop
Price: 18 USD
Duration: 2 hours
In Hoi An, enjoying the town’s many river ways is always a must. If you can pick only one river tour, do not hesitate to go on a fishing trip with a local down the Thu Bon River, an important water stream and the main source of livelihood for the residents of the town. Escape the stresses of city life and experience breathtakingly panoramic views of Kim Dong countryside. Immense in the life of local and learn how they preserve their traditions and culture, using traditional fishing methods, mending fishing nets and using wooden fishing boats. Enjoy the fishing and appreciate the amount of hard work and skills involved. Finally, satiate your tummy with light dishes from your catch. It’s surely a perfect getaway!
Go fishing with an old local
Price: 22 USD
Duration: 3 hours
In East Asian culture, bamboo signifies longevity, friendship and vitality, a sacred barrier against evil. No wonder bamboo is commonly used as decorations in Asian homes. Let loose of your creativity and join this wonderful and authentic bamboo sculpting experience. No amount of experience is necessary. Under the skilful eye of our bamboo artist Huynh Phuong Do, carve and create intricate works on bamboo roots. Work your way using chisel and sandpaper. You will be pleasantly surprised of the masterpiece you have created! Listen to your host as he shares a bit of history and his love for the craft.
Bamboo root crafting class
Price: 20 USD
Duration: 2 hours
Splurge and enjoy!
Vietnam is one place where you can become instant millionaires; the Vietnamese Dong has such a low exchange value that everything runs in millions! So, have fun being a millionaire for a few days, if you aren’t one already!
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