There’s Something About Hoi An

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Once upon a time, the city of Hoi An, Vietnam, was home to one of the most important trading ports in all of Southeast Asia. Exotic spices and intricate ceramics passed through this city for centuries, bringing wealth and recognition to the entire region.

These days, Hoi An is still well-known. But today it doesn't trade in spices or ceramics — today it trades in tourism.

Hoi An, Vietnam

Compared to the rest of Vietnam, Hoi An is significantly more Westernized; more touristy; full of people (namely tailors) trying to sell you things. It doesn't feel like the rest of Vietnam.

And yet, there's just something about Hoi An.

Hoi An

At a market in Hoi An, Vietnam

Lanterns in Hoi An, Vietnam

Hundreds of years after Hoi An lost its prestige as a major port city in Asia, the city still retains its original architectural style and layout, leading UNESCO to name the Old Town as a World Heritage site. It's full of weathered-looking buildings, intricately-detailed Chinese assembly houses, and endless strings of colorful lanterns.

Hoi An, quite simply, is beautiful.

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam

Lanterns in Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An came at a perfect time on my Intrepid Travel tour of Vietnam — after bustling Hanoi and historical Hue, and before more modern Saigon. The fact that it was so… different from the rest of Vietnam both took me by surprise and delighted me.

In fact, Hoi An ended up being my favorite town in Vietnam. It's probably not difficult to understand why…

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam at night

Assembly house in Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam

Lanterns in Hoi An, Vietnam

 

Despite the fact that Hoi An is more touristy than other places I visited in Vietnam, I have a feeling that it would be impossible to resist its charms.

THINGS TO DO IN HOI AN

Get tailor-made clothing — Hoi An is known for its tailors. In fact, there are so many of them that competition has become incredibly fierce. It can be daunting to find a tailor that's good (good quality, decent price, etc.), but if you do, definitely have fun getting some custom clothes or shoes made. I can recommend Yaly, which has multiple locations around Hoi An and in-house tailoring teams. They are very professional, and won't ask for any money up-front.

Visiting temples/assembly houses — There are temples, pagodas, and Chinese-style meeting houses dotted all over Hoi An. It's worth paying to enter at least one or two of these, as they are beautiful. Notice the huge coils of incense that can take weeks to burn.

Sign up for a cooking class — Hoi An is also known for its food scene, and this is a perfect place to take a Vietnamese cooking class. I took one at a locally-owned restaurant called The Tropics and had a great time (and also a great meal).

Hang out by the river — Hoi An is situated on the banks of the Thu Bon River, which becomes quite lively in the evenings. Restaurants and boats light up with fairy lights and lanterns, people dine on outdoor terraces, there's live music and partying on boats and in clubs, and you may even see good luck candles floating across the water.

Take a countryside bike tour — Lastly, the countryside around Hoi An is pretty much the quintessential Vietnamese countryside. Take a bike tour and cruise through rice paddies, see local colorful cemeteries, and maybe even join in on a soccer game with some local kids.

Which Hoi An photo is your favorite? Is it a place you'd like to visit?

 

 

*Note: I visited Hoi An as part of a complimentary tour of Vietnam and Cambodia with Intrepid Travel. As always, though, opinions are completely my own.

If you'd like to book this same tour, check it out here.

Vietnam Express Southbound tour

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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39 Comments on “There’s Something About Hoi An

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  1. Oooooooooooh! So many lanterns! What a gorgeous place. I have read a lot of bloggers who went to Hoi An and everyone felt the same – expecting to not really dig it because it’s so Westernized, but everyone seems to love it!

      Yeah, it’s one of those places that – in comparison to the rest of Vietnam – doesn’t immediately sound like the best place in the country. But I LOVED it so much.

    I think like you (and probably everyone else) Hoi An was our favourite place in Vietnam, closely followed by just about everywhere in the central highlands. Your pictures make me feel like I need to go back tomorrow!

    You photos are so colorful! Vietnam is definitely on my list of places to visit.

      As it should be! I really loved it and would definitely go back.

    What awesome photos – great job capturing the colours. Agreed – it’s just a magical place. So touristy yet still captivates everyone who’s been there, which is quite a feat!

      It IS quite a feat, I agree! Though, I tend to not mind really touristy places so long as they are still very unique (for example, I loved Venice to pieces). But I haven’t really met anyone yet who disliked Hoi An!

    Such gorgeous photos! This was my favourite place in Vietnam too. But it was raining the whole time we were there, so it wasn’t quite as pretty, but still pretty gorgeous! I loved all the little French bakeries too!

      Aww bummer about the rain! But glad to hear that you loved Hoi An, too.

      And YES! The bakeries!!!

    Hoi An is kind of like Pai in Thailand. They are both so touristy but everyone loves them.

      I haven’t been to Pai, but yes, I hear similarly great things about it all the time.

    I probably would’ve enjoyed my time in Vietnam more if I had spent a week or two in Hoi An instead of just a month each in Hanoi and Saigon. I definitely could’ve used a smaller city to help me relax a bit.

      Perhaps! Though of course not every destination is for every person. I would definitely recommend some time in Hoi An next time, however!

    There really is something about Hoi An Amanda. Even from just seeing the photos I can tell. Its so pretty and colourful with all of those lanterns. Is it like that all year round do you know or was it just for Tet?

      I know that there ARE lanterns year-round in Hoi An, but I think there were extra strings of them up for Tet when I was there.

    We really loved Hoi An too! The old buildings and street markets are a photographer’s dream. Great photos!

    Vietnam-how I long to visit! I really want to go to Hanoi since I’ve heard the French colonial era is still very strong but Hoi An looks positively charming as well.

    Even if a place is super touristy, in a country like Vietnam your tourist dollars help support so many individuals and for that I don’t necessarily mind going to the tourist mobbed places in some instances.

      Well, and to be fair, “touristy” in Vietnam is defined quite differently than “touristy” in, say, Italy! Hoi An was definitely my favorite city in Vietnam!

    MY brain is just invested with colours from these photos

    Beautiful photos Amanda!

      Thank you! It was easy to take good ones here.

    Love your photos. I keep hearing how wonderful Vietnam is to visit and now I can see. Must plan a trip. Thanks!

      Hoi An especially is just gorgeous!

    […] religious gatherings for the ethnic Chinese population from the Fujian area of China that lived in Hoi An, and was later converted into a temple. The most impressive part of the site is the ornately […]

    We are here now and I remember reading your post on it but you know when you don’t really “get” the pictures until you’ve been there?! Your photos are amazing!!! Anyway the whole reason I came to this post is I keep thinking, this place is so wonderful but SO TOURISTY, more than anywhere else in Vietnam! It’s really surprised me, but it’s good to see I’m not the only one. And I too absolutely adore the place! 🙂

      Yeah, it’s definitely more touristy than some other places in Vietnam. But it really didn’t bother me at all, because I thought it was such a cool city!

    What are the beach areas like in Hoi An? Are they far away from the city centre??

      I didn’t go to the beach at all in Hoi An, so I’m afraid I don’t know! After a quick Google search, though, it looks like the beach area is about a 15 minute drive from the city center.

    We’ve been in Hoi An a few days now and we’re loving it. It does ‘feel’ different, but its so relaxing and pretty. We found Banh Mi Phuong which Anthony Bourdain labelled as the best Banh Mi in Vietnam and i have to say he was right. We’ve had some close runners up but ther banh mi there is amazing!

      Yum! I enjoyed my time in Hoi An so much – glad to hear you’re also having a good time there!

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