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How to Spend a Great day in Hoi An, Vietnam
Hoi An is a wonderful little town located approximately halfway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and about 150Km south from the ancient city of Hue. It’s a relatively small town so you can afford to take your time and explore the shops, restaurants, delightful architecture and beaches at your own pace. Many of the hotels in town have swimming pools and their own bars and restaurants so whether you’re on a short holiday or long-term backpacking, Hoi An is a perfect place to breeze through in a day or two or to really slow things down and stay for a week. In this article I’ll give you a taste of what to expect when visiting Hoi An.
Hoi An has it all when it comes to food. All budgets are catered for here. From top quality gourmet restaurants providing the best Vietnamese cuisine cooked by professional chefs with first class training; to more international-themed restaurants where you can find more familiar foods; to local family-run eateries serving up local specialities to the classic tiny-plastic-chairs-and-tables street food. Immerse yourself into the street food culture because there's no opportunity to get tempted by fast food joints in Hoi An. In fact the whole of Vietnam doesn't have a single McDonalds.
Hoi An was formerly a French colonial town and the French architectural influence is still found right throughout the very heart of the town. The big old colonial-style buildings adorning the streets may have seen better days but there’s an undisputed romanticism and rustic charm to them. It’s really worth strolling through the town both daylight hours and again the evening. The low lighting really does give the town an elegant glowing beauty.
As well as the colonial buildings, there are also some wonderful bridges in town, the best of which would have to be theJapanese bridge dating back to sometime between the 16th - 17th century. This means that this bridge was standing proud long before the French ever came and laid down their coats here.
I prefer the Lonely Planet books and this one for Vietnam is very detailed and has accurate pricing and is generally on the money with it's recommendations. A great place to start if planning a trip to Vietnam.
Hanoi’s affluent district can keep its international brands and their high-end boutique stores because Hoi An is the THE place to go for that hand-made, made to measure item. Most men wouldn't dream of leaving Hoi An without a quality new suit, and for good reason. You can choose any material, any colour, any style and have it measured to fit you like a glove. All for a lot less cash than an average off-the-peg cotton suit from your local high-street. You might need to wait a couple of days for it to be ready and you might have to go into the shop several times to be measured but you know you’re getting a great deal.
The beach is located about 3km outside of the heart of Hoi An. You can take a tuk tuk or hire or bicycle or motorbike. There’s only one road out to the beach and it’s a pleasant and easy journey to do by bicycle. When you get there just park your bike in the secure parking lot and pick a spot that suits you on the beach. The beach has the added bonus of having plenty of palm trees scattered about so there’s always an opportunity to grab some shade and escape the powerful rays of the sun.
When you've had enough for the day simply make your way back to your hotel, take a final dip in the pool and enjoy a cocktail as the sun sets.
It's like Pepsi vs Coke. Lonely Planet vs Rough Guide. Many travellers have their favourite but really they're very similar.
The popular UK TV series Top Gear does an annual special challenge. In series 12 the presenters drove from the South to the North of Vietnam on old motorcycles. Buy this and get a taste of what travelling in Vietnam is like.
See also my Hub on experiencing the best of Vietnam in 2 weeks
- Experience the Best of Vietnam in Only 2 Weeks
A detailed guide written from first hand experience of travelling in Vietnam.