What to do in Hoi An, Central Vietnam's World Heritage City

What to do in Hoi An, Central Vietnam's World Heritage City

Top Things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam

A visit to central Vietnam is not complete without spending at least a day or two in Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage City with a long and colorful past. Once considered by merchants from across Asia to be the center of the world, Hoi An is home to a number of ancient temples, shop houses, and clan houses for the different trading missions that made port in the city. Today, Hoi An is a protected city, and walking through the pedestrian-only old town is like stepping back in time. The government forbids the construction of any modern buildings in the old town in an attempt to preserve this delightful city's unique culture and history.

 traditional shop with lanterns in Hoi An, Vietnam

traditional shop with lanterns in Hoi An, Vietnam

1. Buy a ticket and explore the ancient city

 a walk through the streets of Hoi An

a walk through the streets of Hoi An

Hoi An's Ancient City is home to 22 fascinating historic shophouses, temples, and museums. A ticket to the Ancient City is required to enter these sites, although there are plenty of free things to see around the town too. A ticket is available at the entrance to the Ancient City or at the tourist center. A ticket costs 120.000 VND and is good for entrance to five sites, so if you are on a tight budget, you may have to think carefully about which sites you really want to see.

120.000 VND isn't so expensive for the value that you get out of the ticket, however. Each of the 22 sites is impressive and informative. The most famous site of all being the Japanese Bridge in the western side of the Ancient Town. This historic bridge, the symbol of Hoi An, is the only covered temple bridge of its kind outside of Japan, and was constructed by Japanese merchants who traded at the city hundreds of years ago.

The Ancient Town is closed off from traffic, making for a peaceful and relaxing walk past charming cafes, restaurants, and shops under brightly-colored lanterns that hang above the street. The town is small enough that you can easily walk, but many people choose to rent a bicycle to get around.

 Hoi An's Japanese Covered Bridge

Hoi An's Japanese Covered Bridge

2. Shop and eat at the Hoi An Night Market

 Ho An night market street

Ho An night market street

Hoi An, though small, is a city that never sleeps! After the sun goes down and the city's thousands of colorful paper lanterns are lit, the night market just across the river from the Ancient Town comes alive with activity! It's the best place in the city for shopping.

The night market has everything from souvenirs (don't forget to bargain!), beautiful traditional lanterns, and bars, to street food, local desserts, clothes and accessories.

 Beautiful lantern shops in Hoi An's night market

Beautiful lantern shops in Hoi An's night market

 Street food along the way - anyone up for barbecued octopus??  >w<

Street food along the way - anyone up for barbecued octopus??  >w<

3. Take a ride on a coconut basket boat

Coconut basket boat in Hoi An

No need to book a package tour - you can save money and visit the Coconut Village on your own!

For those who loves nature and a little adventure, don't miss out on the highly-recommended "Coconut Village" (Cam Thanh village). The Coconut Village is named so because of its location deep in a water coconut grove. Enjoy floating in a traditional handmade basket boat through the flooded water coconut forest. You will get to see a beautiful look at a traditional way of life, including trying your hand at a traditional fishing method and learning how to catch a crab. As you float slowly along the quiet, muddy waters of the coconut forest, you'll come to a bare clearing, a war site that is still scarred from bombs.

If you are lucky, your guide might even give you a little handmade gift form the forest! For the people who a little bit more adventurous, you can try spinning in the basket boat! The guide will use the oar to begin spinning the boat fast... faster... faster until you are dizzy and screaming!

 You will get to try your hand at traditional net fishing

You will get to try your hand at traditional net fishing

 Spinning in a basket boat (you better have strong arms to hold on tight!)

Spinning in a basket boat (you better have strong arms to hold on tight!)

If you want to know how and where to go by yourself >> http://acoupleofdestinations.com/blog/hoi-an-basket-boat-in-coconut-village-without-tours

4. Join the Hoi An Lantern Festival

Once a month, on the night of the full moon, Hoi An's river comes alive with light and color as hundreds of people head out on wooden rowboats to launch paper lanterns into the water to make a wish and pray for good luck. This is the most popular time to visit Hoi An, and for good reason. This special festival is a beautiful and unforgettable moment in your travels through Vietnam.

Hoi An Lantern festival

Learn more about the monthly Lantern Festival HERE

5. Go boating on the river and enjoy a Hoi An evening

Boating in Hoi An river in evening

Along the river of Hoi An City, there are so many people offering to take you on a ride along the river. It's most popular in evening when it's less hot. You will get to enjoy the cool air and a bit of night life on a local boat. The historic city is especially pretty at night when all of the colorful lights and decorated lanterns are lit. If you just want a short tour, you can bargain for a 15 to 30 minute trip up and down the river so that you can see all of the city's colorful lanterns reflected in the water.

I highly recommend to bargain the price before you hop on the boat. The rate I paid was 200.000 VND/30 mins (3 people). Maybe you can get it cheaper, but the first person I talked to gave me a much higher rate than this for 15 mins. This is the most fun during the night of the monthly Lantern Festival.

6. Chill at An Bang Beach

 An Bang Beach outside of Hoi An and Da Nang, Vietnam

An Bang Beach outside of Hoi An and Da Nang, Vietnam

An Bang beach is only about 4 km away from Hoi An's city center. Although the beach isn't so far from Da Nang, it feels far away from the hustle and bustle and the crowds of the city. This is a peaceful place where people come out and relax. It's definitely not a party beach, but more of a family-friendly beach for relaxing on the sand and playing in the water.

The sand and water are very clean, and the surf tends to be fairly calm. There are many activities that you can do at the beach such as parasailing, having a massage, taking a basket boat ride, laying on a banana boat, flying a kite, etc. It can get crowded in the evening when most of the local people like to come. 

 seashells along An Bang Beach

seashells along An Bang Beach

I hope the local people will be aware of the nature and educate their kids to not destroy the natural beauty of the beach. During the few hours that I spent there, I saw many kids (with  their parents), hold plastic bags in their hands and collecting these beautiful hermit crabs without noticing if the shells were empty or not. I hope they will be more concerned about this before it's to late and becomes empty like many beaches. Although the beach was fairly clean, I was disappointed to see many people littering and leaving their trash on the beach.

7. Have lunch at Central Market

Central market atmosphere

Central market is another popular tourist spot where you can find cheap and famous local Hoi An food. The market, located near the entrance to the pedestrian zone of the Ancient Town, has two parts. In the front you can find lots of amazing local food, and in the back you'll find the local market where people come to shop for veggies, meat, household goods, and more. Be sure to order a big bowl of Cao Lau, a Hoi An specialty!

 Chicken Cao Lau for 30.000 VND

Chicken Cao Lau for 30.000 VND

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