Beautiful beaches, UNESCO world heritage site and mouthwatering food. Do these get your interest? Then head to Hoi An for the trifecta of attractions.
Our Vietnam trip fell during the months when it rains at Hoi An. So we were very skeptical about visiting the city. However, we would say if you are in Vietnam don’t miss Hoi An irrespective of the weather.
Hoi An is a small ancient town with fusion of Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese and European architecture. The old town felt like time has stopped here. The buildings are undisturbed, streets are void of any motor traffic and restaurants are decorated with lanterns. Which is the reason it is a UNESCO world heritage site.
We were celebrating our anniversary and we treated ourselves with a wonderful stay at Ancient House Village Resort. Though it is located 5-8 km from the old town, the resort has regular shuttles in morning and evenings. (Our room was upgraded so we didn’t have anything to complain about.)
On our first day, we were lucky to get a sunny morning (lucky because it was rainy season). We decided to make the most of this opportunity and took bicycles from the hotel to ride through the countryside to the nearby beaches.
The first beach we hit, Cua Dai beach, was lined with shacks and milling with hawkers. Our hotel had given free access to one of the shacks. We tried to dabble in water but the huge waves kept us from spending much time there.
Then the horror struck. Our camera fell on the beach. It seemed okay at that time but later stopped functioning. (Sand particles had entered the sensor. We had to get it repaired in the city area next day for a hefty charge.)
We shrug off this setback and rode to the next beach. About 4-5 km away we reached the An Bang beach. This beach was more relaxed and peaceful. And we found no hawkers here. So this would be the preferred spot for more relaxing time.
UNESCO world heritage Old Town
We bought the Hoi An tourist ticket which gave access to our choice of 5 attractions of the many museums, congregation halls, temples and traditional houses.
We choose to spread our choices across the Chinese temple/congregation hall, a couple of traditional houses, the craft making workshop and architecture museum. Thus giving us a flavor of complete variety.
The trip to the traditional houses was enlightening as it showed us the confluence of domestic (Vietnamese) and foreign (Japanese, Chinese, French) styles. We were welcomed with a drink, then the host gave us an overview of the history and architecture, followed by a tour of the areas open to public. The architecture museum extended this understanding further with ancient samples and artifacts.
The craft making workshop had the artists working live on the lanterns and other artifacts. Try to time your visit such that you get to witness the traditional dance show as well. However, if you want to buy the lanterns or any other handicraft, visit the local market across the main canal. And bargain. You would be surprised how much the prices drop.
The town however comes alive in dusk. The lanterns start to illuminate the streets and the colorful reflections in the main canal is spell bounding. We roamed around the town from morning to evening just absorbing the atmosphere. It was raining half the time but that didn’t stop us. We just bought a raincoat (which was a good deal as the raincoat covered us from head to toe as well as the backpacks).
Just be aware that the town closes at 10. So make sure you shop and have food before. Else only your hotel would be able to feed you.
Visiting Hoi An is a gastronomical delight. We truly fell in love with the cuisine here. And the best part was that both the vegetarian and non-vegetarian food was equally good, which may be hard to believe in South East Asia, but it is true.
We tried few of the restaurants and the food was top notch. It felt like an explosion of flavors. The hosts guided us to the unique way of eating each dish, which was an experience in itself.
Many cooking classes are organized across town. Few classes also include a guided visit to the market. Some of the restaurants also have such classes. So you can taste the food and then attend the classes the next morning. If only both of us were carnivore, we would definitely have jumped on the opportunity.
Do you have a story to tell about your Hoi An experience? Drop in a comment or send us a mail. We will definitely reply. All the interesting tales will be published in a special feature.