Dating back to the 15th century, this port was the heart of Vietnam’s trade for 400 years. Thanks to the preservation of the Old Town, Hoi An is teaming with historical architecture, with Chinese shophouses and temples, French colonial buildings, and ornate Vietnamese tube houses lining the streets. While public transportation within the city is sparse, walking or cycling will paint a unique and vivid picture of this ancient city.
Eat Cao Lau
This noodle dish is a must-eat for anyone visiting Hoi An, as the ingredients that go into it can only be sourced here. It may seem odd, but it is the water that makes them so unique. The lye water from the local Cham wells is full of ash, which comes from the wood of the Cham islands. The well itself is a well-kept secret, so you’ll just have to have some faith in your chef and enjoy these noodles while you’re here. You can find the best bowl of Cao Lau at Ngon Villa within the city.
Take a bike tour
Pushbikes are the main mode of transport inside the centre of Hoi An, as cars and motorbikes are banned. There are many places to rent bicycles and many English-speaking tour guides are willing to show you around. The surrounding area is full of charming villages, so all you need to do is hop on your bike and venture out through its narrow backstreet and alleyways until you reach the country lanes. From here you’ll be able to explore its lush landscape, full of rice paddies and winding waterways.
Hoi An barbeque
Street barbeque is a permanent fixture in Hoi An’s food scene, with small charcoal braziers lining the bank of the Thu Bon river after dark. Grilled pork, chicken or prawns make up the range of barbequed meats, along with some herbs and greens on the side to wrap in rice paper. At Ngon Villa, we’ve taken traditional Vietnamese street food and turned it into high-end cuisine, using the freshest products and recipes that have been handed down to us through generations. You can try our approach to the Hoi An barbeque, with our table BBQ experience.
Find the source of Vietnam’s fresh veg
The real key to Hoi An cuisine is the abundance of fresh vegetables available to us. Hoi An prides itself on local rice paddies and free range chickens. Many vegetables can be sourced from Tra Que, the small farming community between town and An Bang beach. Visitors are free to wander the farms and chat to the villagers.
Visit the spa
If you find yourself stuck indoors on one of Hoi An’s rainier days, or you just fancy indulging yourself in a bit of relaxation while you’re on holiday, check out one of Hoi An’s many spa and wellness centres. While many hotels and resorts offer their own spa treatments, Hoi An is full of local day spas, which may offer a more authentic experience.
Fix up look sharp
These days, one of the marks of Hoi An is its famously affordable tailoring services. The streets are littered with tailors, from small, family run businesses to larger, more corporate affairs. They all remain very cheap and quick though, and can often speak French and English, as well as Vietnamese. Your custom made suit or dress can usually be created and picked up within 24 hours, or delivered to your hotel.
Take a craft class
Along with Hoi An’s many tailors, a large portion of the shops are non-profit organizations, selling souvenirs made by disadvantaged and often disabled locals. You can support these causes in two ways: By buying the souvenirs, or joining the traditional Vietnamese painting or lantern-making classes that they hold.
Galleries and museums
For an insight into Hoi An’s rich culture, you can visit one of the many art galleries in the Old Town, where notable Vietnamese artists display their paintings and photography for sale. The larger portion of this work depicts traditional Vietnamese life. If that doesn’t take your fancy, however, you could try the Museum of Trade Ceramics or Hoi An Museum of History and Culture, for a different perspective of the town.
Scuba diving and snorkelling
With a rich sprawl of coral reefs and warm, tropical water, snorkelling and scuba diving are a must for the more adventurous traveler. There are hundreds of different varieties of tropical fish and coral lining the ocean floor in Hoi An, with the Cu Lao Cham Marine Park just 21km from Hoi An’s Old Town.
Take in the city on a walking tour
As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hoi An is teeming with history, through its colorful streets and grand designs. Another perk of Hoi An’s no-auto policy is the ability to take it all in on foot. The city has such an eclectic mix of architectural designs, across French, Japanese, Vietnamese and Chinese heritage buildings, all of which can be discovered simply by wandering around.