5 Reasons You NEED to Go to Hoi An
When researching places to stop on the popular Vietnam costal route, Hoi An is a destination not to be overlooked. This charming Asian town has the vibrancy of Asia but the pace of somewhere like Venice and in my opinion no Vietnam itinerary should be without it. You feel a million miles away from the craziness of Ho Chi or Hanoi but still mesmerised by everything that makes Vietnam special. It is the perfect place to unwind, grab a beer and just watch as this incredible place comes alive right before your eyes. Here are 5 reasons you need to make Hoi An top of your Vietnam bucket list:
1. It is just so pretty!
Honestly, I think you have to see it to believe it because not even the photos do it justice. The main old town is set along the banks of the Thu Bon River. The buildings are washed with yellow and these frame the boats and the river perfectly. Lanterns are everywhere you look; along the buildings, above the bridge, over restaurants and terraces, bringing a splash of colour to every street. The streets themselves are narrow and small but have lots of character and you come across random pagodas and temples that add yet more colour and vibrancy to the place.
If you think the town looks incredible by day then just wait until you see it by night. The lanterns in the dark bring the city to life and the reflections of them in the river make for an idyllic dinner setting. They sell lanterns for tourists to light and float on the water, which again equals for a charming night scene.
2. The food is just something else
Vietnam in general is well-known for its authentic Asian cuisine but Hoi An seems to really deliver when it comes to food. Two of the delicacies there are white rose (rice paper with shrimp in the middle) and Cao Lau, (a pork noodle soup.) Make sure you try them both! There are plenty of places to “wine and dine” along the river, but at the same time there are many markets and street sellers that offer very affordable ways to try the local dishes. They are probably better than the restaurants too!
Hoi An is a great destination to get involved in a cooking class, especially if you hope to one day recreate these palate pleasers at home. Most companies will take you to a local market as part of the class to buy all the ingredients fresh and inform you about some of the weird and wonderful foods you might not recognise. The chef will then talk you through each of the dishes and how to get the right balance of flavours and spices. On the class I went to we made fresh spring rolls with shrimp, a mango salad and chicken with chilli and lemongrass but there were plenty of options to choose from. Everything was very simple but very fresh and I would definitely try and make them again. The salad was the dish that surprised me the most as it was the one I was least looking forward to making but it was so tasty and full of flavour and turned out to be my favourite.
3. There is a beach
When you first arrive in Hoi An, I don’t think you necessarily expect it to be by the coast and so the fact that it is appeals to many backpacker and tourists. The weather is very tropical and hot so it is the perfect climate for a beach day. Situated 4km from the centre, you are graced with palm trees and crashing waves. It is the perfect place to spend a lazy day and grab lunch with a view.
4. The shopping is fantastic
Hoi An is well known for having a large number of tailors and they are everywhere! If you want a tailored suit or dress for a cheap price then this is undoubtedly the place to go. They are also well renowned for selling really cheap leather so I would advise taking a spare suitcase just to ship stuff back.
And aside from the higher end shops you are also not short of the usual tourist and souvenir style shopping. The day market and the night market offer everything from Vietnam t-shirts, to cheap jewellery, travelling pants and chopsticks all worthy of a good haggle.
5. It has so much history and culture to explore
Explored by some more than others (perhaps depending on how many whisky cokes you sink in Why Not bar) is the history of the place. City tours are available daily and teach you about the ancient town and how it came to be the colourful city it is today. You can also book to see a traditional Vietnamese show that incorporates Vietnamese bingo, a game the locals just can’t get enough of. Every night they put on cultural performances by the river that draw in the crowds and are a great way to catch a bit of evening entertainment before dinner.
Above all Hoi An is a place that offers everything and has so much variety. That for me is the key to its charm. In Hoi An it isn’t about doing, it is about simply being. And that is what makes it so special.
By Fiona Watson