On my way from Bangkok to Hanoi, I sat on the plane, talking to the Vietnamese couple next to me about where I was planning to travel during my fortnight in Vietnam. As I got to Hoi An, there was a chorus of “oooo Hoi An”! It´s apparent Hoi An is highly regarded by travellers and locals alike.
After my experience in Hue, I was very eager to make my way to Hoi An, as I had heard such great stuff about the place. My initial plan was to drive the Hoi Van Pass (as featured on a Top Gear special episode), but after my bike issues in Hue, I decided against it and got the bus (it was a sleeper bus travelling from up north) from Hue to Hoi An for 80,000 dong. Imagine I rented a bike then broke down on the mountain with no way of getting help!
If you’re going to take the Hoi Van Pass, I would recommend you go with a company called MotorVina. They are highly spoken of amongst backpackers and online reviews alike. They charge 700,000 dong ($31) to rent the bike for a day, and you can drop off in Da Nang or Hoi An. This cost includes an English speaking help centre if you need any help or experience your bike breaking down etc., and they will also drop you luggage (1 bag) off at the hotel in your arrival destination so you don’t need to carry a big rucksack on your back. I did hear of some of the hotels/hostels around Hue offering MotorVina rent at a cheaper price, so it is definitely worth asking around.
Free Bicycle Tour
Before leaving Thailand, I organised an excursion with Hoi An free tour, where a university student will bike (bicycle, not scooter) around with you and show you the sights. The tour itself is free, but you do need to go on a boat across to the island, which is a 20,000 dong fee for a return, and there is also a total of 30,000 dong for a community donation. The only other cost you will incur is renting a bike for the day, around 20/25,000 and you can get this from your hostel/hotel.
The goal of this tour is for foreigners to learn more about the area, and the university students to practice their English speaking skills, its a win-win! We had both a university student and the tour group manager, which meant we had double the knowledge as we went round the island! Great stuff!
We got the chance to make mats with the locals, weaving it between strings and using their machine to set it in to position. After this, we went to a local kitchen where we were able to make rice noodles!
Chasing the dragon
We made our way to the beautifully lit bridge that connects the old town, to the bars, restaurants and night market. Whilst we were crossing, there was a young woman having her photo taken, for a VERY long time. People were trying to squeeze through the available gaps to cross the bridge, and everyone was taking photos, so it didn’t leave much room for movement!
Luckily, Lauren and I were able to snap a quick photo whilst there wasn’t much foot traffic, but it is quite obvious in the photo that we´re trying not to laugh as everyone struggled to get photos on this side of the bridge, and others are scurrying under all the cameras!
Suddenly, the lights turned off on the bridge, much to the shock of this woman who had been having photos taken of her for the past 10 minutes, and everyone dispersed. We were heading to one of the lit up dragons as the light switched off!
An American man started running towards the next dragon, so we joined in as we raced to catch the beautiful lit up statue!
Of course, you guessed it…that light turned off too! So, we headed to the next one and it didn’t take long for us to figure out that someone had been standing next to the dragon and turned it off with a switch on the tree, just to wind us up!! Cheeky mares!
We figured out where the switch was for the dragon above, and luckily managed to get a photo of the dragon though, so it was definitely worth all the running about!
This place was stunning. The entire town was covered in Lanterns, especially one specific street near the edge of the river. Lauren (click here to check out her blog!) and I explored the town and wondered through the lantern street to take it all in.
As you walked along the river, vendors were selling candles that could be floated down the river, where you make a wish and set it off down the water. The whole town was lit up with lights, lanterns and candles, it was absolutely beautiful!
I stayed my entire time within the Old Town, and I honestly could have stayed there forever! It was a really peculiar feeling actually. Usually, I prefer the places that are less populated with tourists, and, although this was a tourist hotspot, it completely didn’t feel like it. It was so relaxed, beautiful and charming, and such a wonderful place to unwind! There is a lot of history to the Old Town, and you can see this in the age of the buildings and the places you visit. In the middle of the town next to the river, the Japanese Bridge, Chùa cầu, still stands. The town itself was used as a trading port for many centuries.
Now, Hoi An is most famous for their shops and the tailors. People travel from far and wide to get clothing tailored in this famous town! I met someone who had their bridesmaid dress made, by showing them a picture. The dress was an EXACT match, and at only a fraction of the price! I really wanted to get something tailored, but hadn’t thought ahead with an idea of what I wanted. If you are going to get an item tailored I would suggest you come with a few ideas.
River trips and fresh beer
Boats travel down the river, both day and night, to give you a chance to see the town from a different perspective. I can imagine both would give you such a different experience! At day you can see the beauty of the architecture and at night, the beauty of the lights! You can hop off the boat and head to the night market, a bustling street full of absolutely anything you would want to buy! From souvenirs andhats, to jewellery and food, you name it, they had it. The night market is a stones throw away from the main bar street, so once you’re done shopping, head down towards the river to relax with a ´fresh beer´(it just means it needs to be drank the same day!) for 5000 dong ($0.22)!
Tribee Bana Hostel
When I first arrived in Hoi An, we were dropped off at a random coffee shop and I didn’t have a clue where I would be staying. A few people had mentioned that the only place to consider was somewhere inside the Old Town. I jumped on to booking.com and booked in to a place called Tribee Bana Hostel. I later learnt that I had booked only moments after they had a cancellation. This places needs booking in advance most of the time so keep that in mind when looking to book for longer than 1 night. When I arrived at the hostel, the staff were so friendly! The entire place was incredibly clean, and the dorms were made of 4 beds (NO BUNKBEDS!!!!) and a bathroom between the four of us.
They offer different activities each night of the week, from ´fresh beer´ Mondays, to Spring Roll cookery class Tuesdays. On the Wednesday, the hostel ordered taxis for everyone as they shipped the travellers off to one of the other Tribee hostels (there were 4 in Hoi An in total). Unfortunately, I had been bitten by mosquitos earlier in the day and my unfortunate Asian mosquito allergy (I´d finally gotten used to it in Thailand!!) kicked in and I wasn’t able to go! I heard it was a fantastic night though!
I loved Hoi An!
I would recommend this place to anyone who is travelling Vietnam. I´ve never felt so comfortable in a place, so at peace yet feeling the buzz around the town at the same time! It is an absolutely wonderful city, and I will definitely find myself there in the future if I’m ever in Vietnam! I also spent SO much when I was shopping! Whoops….But in comparison to Western prices, it wasn’t that much for everything that I got!!
The wifi password for many places in Hoi An is onemorenight, and all over the town are signs stating #onemorenight, and I can see why! I even found myself saying it as I decided not to leave on the day initially planned. I ended up skipping Da Nang, and just getting a shuttle to the airport first thing in the morning to make my way to Ho Chi Minh City.
Whatever you do in Vietnam, don’t miss this place!