Hoi An, my favorite town in Vietnam! If I had to choose a place for a retreat to write a book, that would be it. Hoi An is an ancient port in the Vietnamese central coast. Today it enjoys a thriving tourism, helped by the UNESCO world heritage site status awarded to the old town. When I got there I understood why, the place is just amazing, the old town keep the architecture and colors of the old days. Hoi An at a first glance can be seen as a “touristy town”, but I wouldn’t describe it like that, it does attract many visitors, some of them wanting the Vietnamese Venice experience (the gondolas on the river), but the city keeps its originality and old town vibe. Also, Thanks to tourism, the old town architecture is kept, the beauty of the streets, the color of the houses, and the colors at night. It is very picturesque, and it gives some rest from the crowded bigger cities in Vietnam. Although you will be offered all sort of things in the streets, it won’t be as bad as the rest of the cities, mostly because you are already in the main attraction, the ancient town! I have been there twice and it never seizes to amaze me.
How to get there
Getting to Hoi An is not straight forward as it has neither a train station nor an airport. But fear not, because it is easy to get there, the closest city is Danang which has an international airport and a main train station.
From Danang to Hoi An it will be around 30 mins cab drive. There is also a bus service between this two cities which would be much cheaper. Taking a cab to Hoi An can be tricky as the drivers are money thirsty and the starting negotiation point can be too high and with short room for haggling. Other approaches might need to be taken to be money savvy, such as getting out of the station, book a taxi in advance (there are a few online services) or just haggle really hard. A cab to Hoi An is around 400.000 Dong (~17 USD).
Where to stay
What to do in Hoi An
Hoi An is not a place full of landmarks and must see’s, in reality, the city itself is the must see, must enjoy and must live. Going around by motorbike or push bike is really simple, the city is not as hectic and congested as Hanoi and Saigon. I managed to stay in a place that had free push bikes for hotel patrons, something I really enjoyed because it is easy to spend the whole day going around the city and surroundings. The main attraction is the Japanese covered bridge which is the symbol of the city. It was built in the XVI century by the Japanese community in the city, and its architecture style has remained during the years.
There is a night market held around the river, it is good to go to see the old town embellished by the colored lights and candlelit lanterns in the river (which is even bigger deal during full moon lantern festival). Although I refrained from buying a lantern to put on the river, as beautiful as it looks, at the end it is littering. Hoi An is also famous for the tailor made suits, even if your visit is short, you can have your high-quality suit made from one day to the other. This also applies to shoes, garments, shirts, you name it! I don’t use tie suit very often but I had mine done in my first visit :D.
An activity I really enjoyed in Hoi An was a photography workshop I took. It started at 5 am in the morning (I know!) and It was held in a fishing village near the town. Because it was so early it was great to capture the first rays of the day and see how the life in the village unwinded. I also enjoyed learning about the Vietnamese culture and how proxemics vary compared to the western world, where we are used to keeping a personal space, almost like a bubble around us. In Vietnam you can get closer to people, take photos, intrude into their personal space without them feeling annoyed, just keeping in mind to be respectful and if someone’s photo is gonna be taken, just request it. There is also a big offer of cooking classes in most of the restaurants, a great opportunity to polish your Vietnamese cuisine skills.