Hoi An : proud old town made of bewitching yellow walls, curved rooftops and small alleyways enlighted by bright hanging lanterns… Wonderful Hoi An ! This beautiful city was already quite renowned in the 15th century, thanks to its privileged location along the sea which transformed it in one of the most important harbors on the silk trade route. Today, Hoi An is thriving again under the UNESCO flag, attracting crowds from all around the world.
What is there to see in Hoi An ? What are the must-do activities for a few days?
We paused in Hoi An on our way to north Vietnam and simply decided to stay there a whole week more! The city has worked its magic upon us…
Follow us in the yellow streets of this fascinating town and discover why we enjoyed visiting it despite the crowds and why you shouldn’t miss to spend some relaxing days there when visiting Vietnam.
Hoi An, the yellow city
Nicknamed the « yellow city », Hoi An is a cultural place that really needs to be explored in its every corner. With nearly 1000 ancient buildings, of which 844 are written down on the UNESCO list for their historical value, you won’t get bored a instant if you are interested in visiting remains from the past. Many of these ancient houses have been rehabilitated into museums or artist’s workshops, so you will be able to take an inside look to their mixed architectural style, from colonial european to chinese or even old japanese.
Hoi An is not only a very interesting and relaxing kind of town, but also a wonderful playground for photographers ! The best time for street photography in Hoi An is of course at sunrise (you would have gessed it !). The light is simply magical, reverberating sofly on the iconic yellow walls, playing hide-and-seek on the rooftops, printing on the ground the silhouettes of this beautiful town. Everything is quiet in Hoi An at dawn. You can wander peacefully in every streets, looking for the best angle, a detail, a movement, a reflexion… How to fill the frame? How to capture what was already photographed a thousand times? The locals are already up and starting to fill up the streets, getting ready for visitors. Women come and go from the market while men smoke and talk before opening the doors of their workshops. Soon they will be busy with a torch or a hamer or else, making jewellery, ceramics, upholstery… But most of them will be working hard on sewing fine clothes or bespoke shoes. Oh, I forgot to tell you : Hoi An is the city of tailors. Hundreds of tailor shops are scattered all around town, and many people actually come to Hoi An mainly for shopping! Visitors are all up now, strolling in the street, looking for cultural interests, a hand-made pair of boots, or a bit of good food. Some of them hire a boatman for a relaxing discovery of Hoi An from the river.
It definitly feels like holiday!
Hoi An delicacies
If you’ve followed our last months adventures, you know that we’ve spent our time hiking 2500km from China to Vietnam and that Quentin even lost 27kg on the way! We’ve well deserved a bit of good food, don’t you agree? Good news, Hoi An is celebrated worldwide for its local cuisine!
Food tasting in Hoi An starts early morning. Breakfast knows how to be unforgettable here. The whole atmosphere smells of coffee that you can savor either european-way or vietnamese-way, meaning the strong tasty beverage has to drip slowly through a filter laid on your cup before you can drink it. But the one you definitely can’t miss to try is the egg-coffee! Made with a yoke and sweet condensed milk, it truly tastes like a liquid tiramisu… It’s a bit heavy to be fair, yet delicious nonetheless. To go with your choice of coffee, you can choose either to buy a bánh mì, this yummy local baguette filled with wathever you like, from paté to fried eggs, cheese, or marinated beef, or maybe you will be more on the sweet-tooth side, and fall for one of those delicious cakes, croissants or other sweet delights coming directly from the french colony heritage. So, what’s for breakfast today?
Yet you will need to wait for lunch time to discover the most interesting flavors this town has to offer. Sitting comfortably at the shady terrace of a charming restaurant, looking at the small painted boats dancing quietly on the glittering river, you are now trying to figure what you will choose among the five finest specialities of Hoi An:
- The banh bao vac (that everybody also call the White Roses) : rice dumplings filled with porc or shrimps.
- The chả giò chiên : fried spring rolls filled with pork, rolled in lettuce and fresh mint and dipped in the famous nioc nâm sauce.
- The bánh xèo : our favourite dish so far! Small crêpes made with wheatflour and curcuma and filled with meat and shrimps, along with fresh lettuce and herbs.
- The cao lầu : a dish of thick rice noodles with a very unique taste. It seems that there is only one company producing them in whole Vietnam. Served along with thin pork slices, rice croutons, fresh lime, lettuce and herbs.
- The com gà Hoi An : classic fried rice transformed Hoi An-style in a delicious and mysterious dish with delicate hints of saffron…
Addicted to Hoi An food? If you want to learn more about the secrets of Hoi An’s fine cuisine, you can even book a cooking class with the locals in one of the little country villages around.
Hoi An by night, lantern town
You will soon discover that Hoi An offers a very different atmosphere by night. From the « yellow city », it becomes the « lantern town ». Every single street and alley shine under the soft glow of thousands of hanging lanterns. Purely magical sight, really. Shops stay open late at night, restaurants have nice terraces to dine on, bars echo with live music…
Later you can enjoy a digestive walk among the crowd, watching the delighting night animation or contemplating a few local vendors setting lucky floating lanterns on the dark river. If you are lucky you can even stumble on an improvised street show, but if not you can still enjoy wandering into the everyday night market. Whatever happens, it won’t let you undifferent.
Around Hoi An
Hoi An is not only an ancient yellow town! You can discover many other things in the surroundings. For instance, only a few kilometres north-east of the city centre is one of the best beach of the area. Perfect to relax and sunbath for a few hours. From there you also have possibilities to get to Cù Lao Cham Island, a really paradise island where you can find many fine beaches, wonderful landscapes and charming fishing villages. You will find all the accomodation you need there if you wish to stay overnight. There is also diving and snorkelling spots all around the island, but then better get organised in Hoi An from where you can book a boat and all the gear you need.
What we prefered, though, was to bike around the area. From the old town, you can take various circuit bringing you through smaller districts and villages to bright green rice fields where you can watch slow buffalos at work. Further on, you will discover a fragmented area of shrimp breeding ponds catching the sunlight before reaching Tra Que where you will find a wonderful ecological garden tended by more than 400 devoted villagers! Thousands of vegetables, flowers and herbs are growing there in perfect lines!
If you still have time, there are still things worth seeing 30 km north of Hoi An, just near Da Nang, like the exuberant « dragon bridge » spitting real fire by night, the Marble Mountains, the Son Tra peninsula, the Hải Vân pass or Lady Bouddha, a 72 m high white mable statue overlooking Hoi An’s bay!
So guys, when are you planning your next visit? 🙂
See you soon,
M. & Mme Shoes
Faces of Asia
Going to Hoi An :
- There is no railway station nor airport in Hoi An. The closest ones are at Da Nang, 30km north of Hoi An.
- From Da Nang railway station, taxis will propose you a ride to Hoi An for a very high price (up to 500 000 dongs). But you can also take the local bus (line 1, yellow colour). To find the bus stop exit from the station by the main door then walk straight along the avenue in front of you (Hoang Hoa Tham road) then at the first big crossroad (with Le Duan road), take on your left. You will find the bus stop (n°299) a few metres away, on the other side of the street. There is a bus every 20mn. Normal price is 20 000 dongs, but it can get up to 50 000 dongs if you are unlucky enough to meet a greedy ticket controller.
To eat in Hoi An :
- To discover the flavors of local cuisine, we recommend that you try the discovery menu of the Enjoy Restaurant, which proposes you 4 invigorating dishes. If you prefer to choose « à la carte », they also serve a delicious egg-coffee and a lot of different vietnamese specialities (like the delicious « com gà Hoi An »!) as well as European dishes. We are totally fan of their fantastic ban xeo. But the chocolat fondant is not too bad either! Their prices are middle range. More expensive than a sandwich from the market of course, but a lot cheaper than the restaurants in the touristic streets.
13, Rue Nguyen Phuc Chu – Hoi An
- For breakfast or tea time, nothing is better than the Cargo! In a wonderful building you will find a large choice of all kind of sweet delicacies…
- For ice creams, back to the Enjoy Restaurant, who offers 57 different flavors. You pay depending on the weight.
- If you feel like eating a good bánh mì, try Bánh mỳ Phượng which is pretending to make the best bánh mì in Vietnam… Like hundreds of others! Yet we found their sandwiches quite good. Worth a try.
To sleep in Hoi An :
- We stayed at the B’Lan Guesthouse, a small rather cheap guesthouse, freshly restored, quite charming and owned by a lovely family!
13$/night for a double with bathroom, hot shower and Wifi.
Nice address in Hoi An
- Worldwide famous photographer Réhahn has his best shots exposed in his gallery Couleurs d’Asie on 7, Nguyễn Huệ, tp. Hội An, Quảng Nam 563890, Vietnam.
- If you’re looking for a nice paire of hand made tailored shoes, make sure you stop at Thong‘s shop, Friendly Shoe Shop au 18 Trần Phú, tp. Hội An, Quảng Nam, Vietnam.
Bikink around Hoi An
- Vi Velo Tour proposes 3 bicycle circuits in the area. From Tra Que ecological garden to Cam Tim island or to Can Thanh fishermen area. Michel and Yvette, two adorable french expatriates, will guide you around far from the crowds of Hoi An and will share their knowledge about local life.
Cooking courses in Hoi An
- Baby Mustard Cooking Class offers traditional vietnamese and Hoi An specialities cooking classes (you can choose which dishes you want to learn to cook!) in the heart of the eco village of Tra Que, that you will visit to pick up your ingredients!
+84 93 572 57 40