After visiting Hanoi for a couple of days before heading out for an overnight tour on a boat on Ha Long Bay, it was time to head to the UNESCO World Heritage Site city of Hoi An, Vietnam. If Ha Long Bay is the #1 attraction in Vietnam, Hoi An is probably #1A.
Formerly a 15th & 16th century port city, Hoi An’s “Ancient Town” has become a living museum and major tourist stop. The nearest airport to Hoi An is in the city of Da Nang, Vietnam’s third largest city, about 45 minutes away. There is no public transportation from Da Nang airport to Hoi An, but most hotels will arrange private car transport for $15-$20 each way.
There are a few “must do’s” in and things to know about Hoi An:
- Spend an afternoon and evening in the Ancient Town. Enjoy the living museum, and see the lanterns lit up at night. You have to pay a small fee to get in (about $6), but your ticket lasts for three days, provides entry into many of the old homes, and is for unlimited use during that time.
- Get a hand-made leather bag, or tailor-made clothes. Much of the stuff you will see in the USA, Europe or Australia is made here, so it will be the same quality for a fraction of the price.
- Take a hands-on cooking class or walking food tour. I highly recommend Eat Hoi An, as their food tour was one of my favorite culinary experiences on my travels.
- An Bang beach is only 10 minutes away by taxi (for about $4), or 45 minutes by bike. Additionally, many hotels in Hoi An also offer free shuttle service to and from the beach. A nice relaxing morning on the beach will set you up for another evening of exploring.
Behold, the Ancient Town of Hoi An, by day and night:
As I was only 8 days into a 7-week trip, I didn’t want to bring new nice clothes around with me for that long. I did, however, have the need for a nice new weekender bag, so I purchased this. It is real, hand-made leather, and cost all of $90. The 1.5L water bottle is for size comparison, with bags of this size and quality being $500 up to many thousands in the USA:
My friend Amanda, who was living in Singapore at the time, joined me in Hoi An for the weekend, and got a bag of her own. She picked out each of the individual components she wanted, and they hand-made this bag for her in only 24 hours. Due to being specifically made for her, hers cost a bit more, but still only about 10-15% of what she would have paid in the states for the same bag:
Some highlights from the Eat Hoi An food tour:
And finally, An Bang beach, just a few minutes away:
Hoi An is a true gem. If you go to Vietnam, Hoi An is a must. 2 full days should be the absolute minimum, but you could easily spend a week in this place, and not regret a minute of it.
Michael Prodanovich is a contributor to Point Me to the Plane, and author of The Ultimate Guide to Free Travel