1. Location, Location
When visiting Hoi An the main draw is of course the Old Town with its pretty ancient yellow buildings and rows and rows of lantern lined streets. It’s a place we really fell in love with and it’s hard not to! That being said you don’t want to stay miles and miles away from the centre and have to shlep all the way in just to enjoy the peaceful cafe vibes! So, when choosing where to stay make sure you research the location. You ideally want to be inside the Old Town, somewhere along the river front or on the adjoining island called An Hoi. There are so many hotels in Hoi An to choose from but some are just that little bit too far out in the more “tacky” side of town where the hundreds of tourist tailors reside or out by the beach. Being closer into the Old Town will allow you to soak up its wonderful atmosphere as soon as you wake up!
*We recommend using the map view on Booking.com to see exactly where your chosen hotel/hostel will be.
2. Old Town Tickets
There’s big talk in Hoi An and online about the new ticketing system that has been put in place for visiting the Old Town attractions so we thought we’d give you our first-hand experience and advice!
Hoi An is brimming with historic buildings, meeting houses and temples which you can spend a whole day musing and exploring. To visit these these you must buy an entrance ticket with which you can choose five of the many attractions you wish to visit and on entering they will stamp the ticket. However, what the extremely rude, intrusive and pushy women who stand at the ticket counters at the edges of the Old Town will tell you is that you must have a ticket even to simply walk around the Old Town. This is clearly ridiculous! We had been warned by the lady in our hotel but, even so, on our first walk along the river into the town we were not prepared for the fiery women who came shouting in our faces, asking an array of questions. Being in a big group we brushed it off but we imagine as a solo traveller it could be quite intimidating. So, what you need to know is that, yes, on the day you want to visit the attractions you will need to purchase a ticket to show, but, to simply wander through those quaint Old Town streets you do not. If asked we found either just ignoring them or telling them that you’re just going for a walk work and moving swiftly on by. We came to the conclusion that they may shout and chase you but what can they really do!? If you visit the attractions on your first day just give them a wave of the ticket on your way through and this should be enough to satisfy them. Another trick would be to ask other backpackers who are leaving for their old tickets which you can also use to flash!
It’s an unfortunate situation which in our opinion is ruining the atmosphere of an otherwise beautiful town! But, don’t let it put you off! Get your powerful face on and march on through!!
3. Ride a Bike
If you’re not riding a bike through the streets of Hoi An then you haven’t experienced it properly (or so we think)! It can be hectic but this adds to the fun and its hilarious swerving between all the tourists, rickshaws and pedestrians! Its a great way to get around and explore the maze of streets in the Old Town whilst soaking up the sun. The best cycle ride, however, is to An Bang beach. It’s a really easy ride on one main road out of town. Just be sure to keep your eyes on the road and not on the amazing scenery or maybe like us almost crash into a water buffalo!
4. Visit the Night Market
As night falls, Hoi An really comes alive; the lights twinkle, the lanterns and candles float and shine all over the river and the bars and restaurants buzz. Once you’ve had your fill of Vietnamese cuisine, cross over the central bridge and you can’t miss the night market which pops up here every night. Safe to say it’s full of all the usual tourist rubbish on sale but its great for a wander and the occasional treasure is definitely there to be found. If worse comes to worse take solitude in a massive sugary doughnut and watch the world go by! Bliss.
5. Find a Happy Hour
On the same side as the night market there is now copious amounts of cheap drinking holes where backpackers and tourists alike go to finish the evening with a cool beverage, watch the world go by and reminisce on the day. There’s so many to choose from but have a wander along before you settle as a a lot of them offer good happy hours on beers and cocktails so you can always be sure to find a bargain. If you’re looking for a quiet night then those bars nearest to the bridge are more relaxed or if the drinks are flowing and you want a real backpacker haunt head right off of the bridge. There are many backpacker orientated bars here pumping out the music, just note they all close at 1am!
6. Food at Central Market
We stumbled across this place as we ambled round the market streets at the edge of the Old Town and it turned out to be the cheapest food we found in Hoi An! Walk away from the Japanese bridge and at the end of the road you will find Central Market, take one of the many entrances into the dark cave of a food market and be ready to get accosted by the literally hundreds of people selling you their dish! As with most of Asian markets, everything is exactly the same so just wander around, see what takes your fancy and take a pew!
We tried the Cau Lau here which was excellent! Although we couldn’t tell you what the name of the stool was as there were just so many – so just go and explore for yourselves and be delighted by the flavours and the price!
7. Find your Cafe
The choice of hip, modern, chillout cafes in Hoi An is almost unbearable…but in a good way! There are so many awesome places to spend an afternoon, escape the heat, grab a bowl of ice cream or a slice of cake and log on to the surprisingly good wifi. For us to recommend a specific place would do the rest of the awesome cafes an injustice as there isn’t enough time in the day to sit in all of them…much to our dismay! Plus the walk through the little lanes and streets to find your perfect spot is a treat in itself so get your walking boots on and rest when you find one you like!
(One tip we can say that for THE MOST incredible coconut and mango ice cream you must go to Hoi An Roastery! Its just divine!)
8. Visit Marble Mountain
Marble Mountain is a pretty touristy attraction but one of those that you really shouldn’t miss. If you are coming to Hoi An from the North then hop off on route from Da Nang or if you’re arriving from the South it’s worth a visit for the day or on your way up North! The views from the top of Marble Mountain are pretty awesome and the temples and caves that surround it are a great little afternoon jaunt. However, be prepared for the incredibly steep steps that you have to climb to get pretty much anywhere when you arrive! Flip flops are a no go and lots of water is required, especially when you almost die at the top from heat exhaustion…did we say it was worth it? All jokes aside, its a cool way to spend an afternoon or a morning for something a bit different and is an easy moped ride away!
So there you have it, we hope you enjoy Hoi An as much as we did! And, if you’re still unsure on whether to visit, check out our photo blog and you will surely fall in love!
C & J