Today’s article comes from Audrey Bergner, who writes over at ThatBackpacker.com. She recently spent an entire month travelling through Vietnam and today she shares about one of her favourite destinations in the country: Hoi An. You can keep up with Audrey’s adventures over on her travel blog.
If you’ve been travelling through Vietnam for a while, arriving in Hoi An is like a breath of fresh air – this little city located smack dab in the middle of the country is the kind of place that feels like a town frozen in time.
Much of Hoi An’s charm lies in its colourful colonial streets and historic buildings that date hundreds of years back to a time when the port city was still known as Faifo. History oozes from the city’s walls and it’s easy to spend hours wandering around as you soak it all in.
Here are a few reasons to love Hoi An:
Ancient temples and historic buildings
One of the more unique buildings found in Hoi An is the Japanese Covered Bridge located in the historic town centre. The Japanese bridge was built by the Japanese community in the early 1600s and it still stands today.
When you cross this bridge you’ll notice that one side of the entrance is guarded by two monkey statues while the other is guarded by two dogs. It is believed that this is because construction began in the year of the monkey and finished in the year of the dog, but the truth is that it happened so long ago that no one can say for sure.
If you are interested in doing a lot of sightseeing in Hoi An, a good option might be to purchase special tourist ticket from the local information office in the centre of town. For $6 you’ll have access to any 5 museums, temples, assembly halls, traditional performances and workshops.
Biking around town
The best way to explore the city centre is to rent a bicycle for the length of your stay – get lost in the back alleys, cycle the length of the riverfront, and then cross over to An Hoi Island which hosts a fun night market in the evenings.
Another nice aspect about renting a bicycle is that you can take a few side trips to places like Tra Que (an organic herb village about 2 kilometres north of the city), or if you are craving some time at the beach, you can take your pick from An Bang beach or Cua Dai beach which are also a short bike ride away.
The first thing you’ll notice when you arrive in Hoi An are the beautiful silk lanterns adorning the buildings across town. Their bright colours and patterns brighten up the streets while helping preserve some of the old world charm.
For those interested in taking some silk lanterns back home as souvenirs, there is the option of attending a lantern-making workshop in town, or if you’re not too crafty, you can purchase them from any of the gift shops.
Hoi An’s markets get going early in the day. If you arrive at the Central Market shortly after sunrise, you’ll find vendors setting up along the waterfront by the Thu Bon River. The market is a blur of fresh fruits and vegetables, live chickens and ducks, nuts and spices, and so much more.
The Central Market can get really busy by mid-morning, so expect to compete for walking space with motorbikes, bicycles, shoppers, and vendors swinging yokes full of produce.
Hoi An is a city for shopping. If you want to have clothes custom made for a fraction of the price you would pay back at home, then this is the place for you. There are hundreds of tailor shops in Hoi An, so don’t be too quick to settle on one.
Browse the mannequins around town, flip through the catalogues in each shop, and if you still can’t find what you want, bring in a magazine or a sketch, and tailors will work with you. Whether you’re looking for summer dresses, leather sandals, or a three-piece suit, you can have it made in Hoi An.
That’s Hoi An in a nutshell. If you’re considering travelling through Vietnam, this little city should be one of the top spots on your itinerary!
(photos supplied by Guest Author)