Set on the banks of the Thu Bon River in central Vietnam, Hoi An is undoubtedly one of the most delightful towns in Southeast Asia thanks to the atmospheric Old Town – a former major trading port that was recognized as UNESCO’s World Heritage in 1999. The historic town of just 152,000 habitants, where dreamy canals, merchant houses, Japanese bridges and cozy restaurants always draws travelers’ attention.
Here are top reasons to pack your bags and travel to Hoi An now.
A rich history
Between the seventh and 10th centuries, the Cham controlled the strategic spice trade and with this came tremendous wealth. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Hoi An served as a busy Asian trading port attracting Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese and French merchants settled. And the resulting cultural milieu remains visible in every corner of the town from the mustard-colored shophouses to dining traditions, from folk crafts and robust coffee culture to the major landmarks. On the western end of Old Town, narrow pedestrian streets give way to an 18th-century wooden Japanese Covered Bridge featuring elaborate carvings and a Buddhist temple attached to one side while ancient ancestral homes, such as the Tan Ky House, mix together Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese architectural traditions.
Hoi An is commonly considered one of Vietnam’s best destinations for food enthusiasts and it delivers on the hype.
You’ll gobble every kind of food here, from food snacks on the roadside to noodles on plastic stools, to the fresh seafood by the beach. You can buy seasonal fruits and street food at the central market, while local signatures like white rose dumplings (made of shrimp or pork with shallots wrapped in translucent rice paper) and crispy Cao lầu (a noodle dish starring pork belly and rice crackers) can be found on most local restaurant menus.
If there’s one thing to eat in Hoi An, it must be Banh mi – the best of its kind in the world. Stuffed with pate, barbecued pork, chili sauce and fresh herbs wrapped inside crispy baguettes – can be found on almost every corner in the Ancient Town, but the best of the best are at Madame Phuong or Madam Khanh – the Banh Mi Queen.
Hoi An is also a haven for cooking classes and street food tours, with standouts like Eat Hoi An and The Red Bridge Restaurant and Cooking School delivering intimate, insightful experiences.
If you are shopaholic who always starts your trip with an empty suitcase and won’t go back home until you fill it up with gorgeous tailor-made dresses, amazing shoes, leather bags, handicrafts and beautiful bamboo lanterns and contemporary home décors. Search no more and welcome to paradise where your dream of living in a couture shopping comes true. Souvenirs and shophouses will tempt you at every corner of the town.
When it comes to tailoring, Hoi An has a reputation for being a mecca for some of the best and most affordable tailors in the world. You can easily get a tailor-made suits or dress within 24 hours. Visit shops like Sam Ao Dai, Hung An Cloth Shop, Sewing Bee Tailors or BeBe Tailors. But if you’re not in a hurry, take it easy for alterations. For bespoke clothing, go to Yaly Couture, Kimmy Tailor or A Dong Silk.
A biker’s paradise
Whether you prefer to pedal around on a bicycle or zip off on a Vespa, Hoi An’s wide open country roads are ideal for exploring on two wheels. Most hotels offer bike rentals.
It’s easy to gently bike through the Old Town, or you can cycle over to Cam Nam Village, the island just to the south across the river, for a glance at rural life.
For more adventure, a Vespa tour might be the best option. On the back of a restored 1960s-era Italian scooter, cross Thu Bon River, over a rickety bamboo bridge, across rice paddies where water buffalos eating grass on the meadow.
A variety of excursions
And if you are tired of Hoi An’s charms and grace? In that unlikely scenario, there are lots of excursions around the region.
Only 30 km from Hoi An, Da Nang with the Marble Mountains, Ba Na Hills, the famous Golden Bridge deserves a full day touring around. Or take a 2-hour drive more north will take you to Hue, the imperial capital set on the picturesque Perfume River. Spend at least one day to explore major sites such as the ancient citadels, tombs of the emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty, pagodas and local cuisines.
Located about 40 km from Hoi An to the west, My Son Sanctuary is a cluster of abandoned and partially ruined Hindu temples in Vietnam, constructed between the 4th and the 14th century by the kings of Champa. The temple complex, dedicated to the worship of the god Shiva, is regarded one of the foremost Hindu temple complexes in Southeast Asia and often compared with other historical temple complexes in Southeast Asia, such as Angkor Wat of Cambodia, Bagan of Myanmar and Ayutthaya of Thailand.