Disclaimer*: this post is long, we were always eating/drinking coffee, or finding new places to eat/drink coffee.
The original plan for Hoi An was to stay for a maximum of 4 days and I know people who have spent just one day here, but we absolutely fell in love with it. So much so that we had to stay for a week!
We were very lucky to stay in some great hotels and home-stays in Hoi An. We were based in Banana Homestay for 4 days and absolutely loved the friendliness of our host, Flower. She was always so helpful and really made us feel at home. Rooms are spotlessly clean, breakfast is tasty and you are really made to feel special when you stay here. A double room cost us 197,000 VND per night (around £6.57).
The next place we stayed was an absolute treat – Lantana Riverside Boutique Hotel and Spa. This was booked for us by my incredible momma (she has great taste). We spent two nights here and haven’t slept so well since we left the UK! This hotel has it all; a great breakfast, comfy clean rooms, great spa and pool facilities and even a 2 for 1 drinks Happy Hour!
Things to do (and see!)
- My Son Sanctuary
My Son Sanctuary is another UNESCO World Heritage Centre that I knew I had to visit. The sanctuary was a religious site for Champa dynasties and burial-place for Cham royals from the 4th-14th Century AD.
Nowadays, a lot of the temples have been partially or fully ruined, after the American bombing of the complex. However, restoration work is ongoing and the site is definitely worth seeing!
To visit My Son, you can take a tour or rent a car/motorbike/driver to get there independently. It is advisable to visit either early in the morning or after 2pm when the tours have finished. We chose to visit at 6am with a sunrise tour, which meant the site was very quiet and the temperature was much more bearable than it would be later in the day. Entrance will cost you 150,000 VND (around £5) and you can visit daily from 6am – 5pm.
2. Lantern Festival
Held every month, the Hoi An Lantern Festival is an age-old tradition, now turned into more of a tourist attraction. Lanterns are lit and set into the river as an offering to the Gods and the townspeoples’ ancestors.
We extended our stay in Hoi An partly to see this festival and although we enjoyed it we didn’t notice much difference from a normal night in Hoi An. If you don’t happen to be visiting Hoi An on a full moon date, you aren’t missing too much – lanterns are still lit every night after dark in the town.
3. Night Market
From 6 to 9pm every night, you can stroll Hoi An’s Night Market, buy some trinkets and sample the local delicacies. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, this may not be the best place for you to eat – most food stalls serve dishes like whole frogs and other odd types of meat. I struggled to find vegetarian-friendly food here, so I ended up having dessert for dinner (ice cream rolls and banana crepes, very healthy).
4. Go to a tailor’s – or three!
Hoi An is famous for the reams of tailor shops lining the streets, so don’t be surprised to leave the city with a few new pieces of clothes (or an entire wardrobe).
There are so many tailors to choose from that it can be hard to know where to go, but we walked around a few and settled on Sky Line Tailors. Mrs Dung who owns the shop is amazing; she made us laugh, understood exactly what we wanted and produced some brilliant clothes at fair prices. We walked out with a playsuit and bikini (mine) and a shirt and shorts (Freddie’s). Then I went back a few days later and bought a dress! I can’t recommend her enough, we received such great service.
5. SuperFit Gym
This may not be an activity for everyone, but we had been seriously neglecting exercise and needed to get back to it. Finding a decent gym in Asia has been hard, meaning we have often sacked off working out, but finding this gem gave us a bit of a kick up the bum.
Day passes will set you back 100,000 VND (around £3) and this includes use of all the machines, weights and group classes.
We visited both Cua Dai and An Bang beach and both were lovely, however An Bang won for us. It was cleaner, quieter and less noisy. Get there to see sunset – it’s a beautiful place to relax and watch the sun go down.
Coffee Shops (I have had to subsection this because there were so many!)
We drink a lot of coffee, but we picked up a Coupon Book from Hoi An Express (you will find them scattered around some cafes/ near tourist information shops) which gave us DISCOUNTED coffee… so of course we drank more than usual. (I have marked those with discounts available using the coupon book with *)
1. The Espresso Station
A recommendation from a friend, and a very good one too. The coffee here was slightly more expensive than most places in Hoi An, but well worth it for the great quality. They had the usual Vietnamese coffee, Western coffee but also some rogue drinks like a Pink Latte (beetroot flavoured) and a Charcoal Latte. Grab yourself some of the peanut cookies too, they were delicious!
2. Hoi An Roastery* (20% off)
Under the same management/ ownership as Cocobox, there are 8 Hoi An Roastery’s to choose from!
3. Cocobox* (20% off)
Great coffee, just like Hoi An Roastery and a great selection of sweet treats. We loved the Banana Bread with jam (you get an entire loaf of the stuff!)
Eat Up, Drink Up!
1. Rosie’s Cafe
Named after the movie Love, Rosie, I instantly loved this place. Breakfast here was a delight and the French Toast was the best I have ever had!
2. Minh Hien
A lovely little vegetarian restaurant where you can eat outside in a relaxing, plant-filled area. The veggie fare here was filling, cheap and so varied! Even if you aren’t veggie, give it a try, there’s so much to choose from and the dishes have so much flavour.
As you walk through the Old Town in Hoi An, you may come across a small, unassuming little cafe with hoards of people queueing for a lemon-ginger iced tea – if you do, you have found Mot. I ate here twice and drank so much of the iced-tea that the staff started giving me strange looks every time I asked for another glass.
4. Cafe 43
Cheap, but gorgeous food. This is a no-frills restaurant that doesn’t disappoint.
5. The Deck at Hotel Royal
We treated ourselves to a cocktail here during their Happy Hour to see the sunset on the rooftop. Cocktails were good, but the pool-side water show was even better, we were transfixed.
The best place I have been in Vietnam so far, without a doubt. It may be slightly too touristy at times, but the magic of the Old Town at night and the lanterns floating through the river is something I’ll never forget.