Hoi An – A Little Piece of Heaven

Hoi An – A Little Piece of Heaven

img 1904 Hoi An   A Little Piece of HeavenAfter spending the first two nights of our Vietnam tour in Hanoi, and another in Halong Bay, we travelled south – half way down Vietnam’s coast to our third destination; the hippest heritage town on the Vietnam trail – Hoi An.

vietnam oct 08 092 2 Hoi An   A Little Piece of Heaven

I was totally captivated from the minute I set foot in Hoi An.  It was dusk as we walked beside the Thu Bon River which flows through the town; flickering candles floated on the water and colourful lanterns were strung from moss-covered rooftops across narrow streets.  We’d arrived in Hoi An on night of the full moon.p1030320 Hoi An   A Little Piece of Heaven Magical.

Held on the 14th day of every lunar month if you’re heading Hoi An way it’s worth checking the calendar to work this night into your schedule.  If you’re looking for a full moon party this isn’t it. Tonight is for townspeople to honour their history and ancestors and I suspect to draw in a few visitors too.  The ancient streets are illuminated with hundreds of lanterns, their reflections casting multi-coloured ripples across the water and a soft glow over the town – fluorescent lighting is not allowed.

vietnam oct 08 090 2 Hoi An   A Little Piece of Heaven

The Vietnamese, dressed in traditional costume, play beautiful, lilting traditional music aboard a floating wooden junk; the children show-off martial arts and perform plays.  In the old quarter it’s pedestrians only until 9:30 pm which adds to the peace and tranquillity. We wandered spellbound through the streets, amazed that somewhere so unique and fascinating still existed.

Four years later I’m happy to say not much has changed – the lantern shops have moved to the other side of the river and there are more tourists now but Hoi An remains as enchanting as ever.  It’s also incredibly photogenic.

dsc 0043 Hoi An   A Little Piece of HeavenThe town, which once traded in spice and silk, is a UNESCO heritage site and has been beautifully preserved; its pagodas, temples and the many traditional dwellings remain much as when they were originally built although many now function as restaurants and shops.

p1030199 Hoi An   A Little Piece of HeavenVibrant plants trail from balconies down ochre, moss-covered walls.  souvenir sellers wearing coolie hats mingle with tourists posing for photos – at a small price of course. Lots of little shops crammed into the labyrinth of streets and alleyways sell local crafts, lacquer-work and silks.  Hoi An is very art orientated.

dsc 0141 Hoi An   A Little Piece of HeavenThere’s culture to discover too.  Walk along the main street, one up from the river and you can’t fail to miss the Japanese Covered Bridge.  A symbol of the town, this wooden structure once connected the old Chinese quarter to Hoi An.  Built in 1593 by the Japanese community, it houses a shrine to the Tao god, Bac De.  Free to cross but if you stop to take photos you could be asked for a small admission fee.

img 1813 Hoi An   A Little Piece of Heaven

Phuc Kien Assembly Hall is the grandest and largest of four assembly halls in the town and home to elaborate carvings, shrines, Chinese dragons. Conical incense burners are suspended from the ceiling – yellow tags dangle from the centre inscribed with prayers and wishes – a prayer lasts as long as the cone smoulders. It’s very fragrant inside.  Enter the building through an ornate gateway from Tran Phu Street.

img 1816 Hoi An   A Little Piece of HeavenHouse of Tan Ky  is a traditional ancient Hoi An home and built around a small courtyard; ceilings are embellished with delicate crab shell designs and the pillars with mother-of-pearl inlay. On the walls are markers showing the height of past flood waters – lets just say the electrical sockets are all fitted at over six-foot and the furniture is easily moved up to the second floor.  When we were in Hoi An in 2008 the river would frequently flood; one day we’d be sitting outside a bar watching the world go by the next day it would be accessible only by sampan.

dsc 0236 4 Hoi An   A Little Piece of Heaven

Hoi An is bursting at the seams with tailor shops.   Be warned though, you do get what you pay for and it’s worth buying the best fabric you can afford, however, you can also pay over the odds so shop around.  At some of the smaller shops it’s worth having something made just for the banter – we had lots of giggles with a very cheeky seamstress and I came away with some linen trousers that fitted perfectly.

Vietnamese food is delectable with zingy, tantalising flavours drawn from fresh, locally grown herbs; lemon grass, Vietnamese mint, coriander and Thai basil.  Choose from subtly spiced stir-fries with rice or noodles, the freshest of fish, delicate soups and steamed vegetable rolls – all delicious. Don’t worry that your tailor-made clothes won’t fit you when you get home – Vietnamese cuisine is incredibly light and healthy.

dsc 0188 Hoi An   A Little Piece of Heaven

Some of the best eateries we found were The Cargo Club who serve up traditional Hoi An specialities, Rose Dumplings, pastries, and other Vietnamese favourites in a beautiful old shop-house. The best tables are on the balcony overlooking the river.   Before and Now on Le Loi Street is one of the more popular bars in Hoi An with pool table, video screens and good music – you’ll hear it before your see it.  The upstairs restaurant serves excellent local cuisine or pizza and pasta if you fancy a change from Vietnamese – although why anyone would beats me.  The best place we ate at was Lantern Town where the food and service were excellent.  The Miss Hoi An cocktails were pretty good too.  There are great bars all over town, we liked Tam Tams – the cheapest beers we saw were in the bars overlooking the river next to the market and worked out at around 35p a bottle.

Finally, if you just want to chill then you can do that too – rent a bike or hire a pillion ride on a scooter and head the 2-3k to Cua Dai Beach.  Here you can kick back and relax on the pristine sands of one of the best beaches in Vietnam – be warned though – you may have to share with the occasional herd of cows.vietnam oct 08 007 101 Hoi An   A Little Piece of HeavenFrom Hoi An we headed south to the city of scooters, Ho Chi Minh City - or Saigon, as it’s still called by many, to see in the New Year Saigon Style.

34 Comments

  1. what is the best hostel to stay at in Hoi An? I am looking to move there for 6 months or so and would like to start off in a hostel while I get used to the city. Can anybody recommend a good hostel that you could bear to live in for a month or two?

    Reply
    • Hi Maxwell – thanks for dropping by. I haven’t had any experience of hostels in Hoi An – the smaller hotels are excellent value so it might
      be worth spending a couple of nights in one of them while you search for something long-term. A shout out on Twitter might get some
      results too. Good luck and have a fantastic time in Vietnam.

      Reply
  2. i hope to enjoy Hoi An as much as you did as im going there next month.
    nice read =)

    Reply
    • Wow thank you! – I’m thrilled that you’ve nominated my blog. I’m not sure that I can accept the ABC award as I’ve already been nominated by Restless Jo – just
      haven’t got around to writing it up yet. Now with two awards I really should do something about that.

      Reply
      • of course you can accept twice! just mention me and Jo as both awarding it to you! and congrats twice!

  3. Excellent review and great pics. I will be arriving in Da Nang on Monday and I plan to take a day trip to Hoi An. Did you visit the Cham Islands off the coast?

    Reply
    • Hello – so glad you like the post :) I didn’t get to the Cham Islands – are you planning to visit them?

      Reply
  4. Don’t the lanterns in Hoi An create a magical scene? I have a series I’m hoping to do very soon devoted just to them.

    Thanks for your well-done series here! Makes me long to stroll on Hoi An’s quiet lanes…

    Reply
    • Thank you for your lovely comment Tricia. I still have Halong Bay and Hanoi to write up. Keep me posted on your Lantern post, I’d love to see that…

      Reply
  5. Lovely post and beautiful images!

    Reply
    • Thank you – it’s a magical little town

      Reply
  6. All these posts of places I need to go. What a beautiful place…It is definitely very photogenic like you say. I had to share a beach in Malaysia with some cows though too so it’s not too bad ;)

    Reply
    • They were nice cows hope yours were too!! Hope you get to visit Vietnam – it’s a wonderful place

      Reply
  7. Definitely makes me rethink my plans of hiking Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia =) … lovin the spirit of the pics, thumbs up! ^^ What’s your next destination?

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comments :) Hoi An’s a fab little town and Hue, the old imperial capital, is about 130k north so two places worth visiting that are fairly close to each other.
      Next destination is a week in Tenerife next month so a little different – I’d like to spend some time in the National Park around Mount Teide. I look forward to hearing about your
      SE Asia trip.

      Reply
      • Tenerife is beautiful, my dad shot an amazing picture of the night sky on the mountain… you should definitely plan some hiking, although the beach is tempting =)

  8. I absolutely LOVE the picture of the lanterns! And then I got hungry reading about the food available. We’re down in Chile and the food options aren’t as diverse and tasty as in other countries :-)

    Reply
    • I don’t think I could ever tire of Vietnamese food – and so healthy too!

      Reply
  9. An excellent post Suzanne. This makes my efforts look very amateur but is great to read. Maybe I can learn a little from you. We really enjoyed the whole trip. It was very educational but quite hectic. Thanks for visiting my blog and your kind comment.

    Reply
    • I think I can learn from your photography David – you have some excellent shots. I’m so glad you enjoyed reading the post it makes all the effort worthwhile. We enjoyed our trip too and like yours was quite hectic, we were ready for a rest when we got home. I shall definitely be heading back to your blog on a regular basis.

      Reply
  10. I so loved Hoi An when I was there and its great to see that it doesn’t seem to have changed too much in the last 8 years!

    Reply
    • I do too – it’s so different from anywhere else I’ve ever been

      Reply
  11. Randomly came across your blog and thought it was great. Im traveling to Hoi An in March and was wondering where you stayed or what area is best to stay?

    Reply
    • Hi and thank you for the comment! Accommodation depends on what you’re looking for from your stay.
      E-mail me at travelbunny@live.co.uk and I’ll let you have more info.

      Reply
  12. Sounds and looks wonderful. Great photos and great post (Hope I get to see it for myself one day).

    Reply
    • Hope you do too Kat – you wouldn’t be disappointed, thank you.

      Reply
  13. Oh Suzanne, what a lovely piece! I SO want to go there and see those bobbing candles and lanterns. Love that little childs lit up face.

    Reply
    • Thank you Jo :) It really is a dreamy little place – I love it there and the people are lovely too.

      Reply
  14. I love Hoi An……x

    Reply
    • It’s brilliant! The road from Danang is filling up fast with hotel chains – hope it doesn’t spoil it. x

      Reply

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