SD › Hoi An Travel Guide
Updated: September 29, 2019
The 60 best hotels, restaurants, shops, bars, clubs, shows, tours, places, and things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam.
This former port city on Vietnam’s central coast is one of the country’s top tourism destinations for good reason. It has everything: An incredibly atmospheric historic district, sandy beaches and turquoise water, an estuary with coconut groves and colorful fishing boats, vast swathes of emerald green rice paddies, a vibrant culinary scene and bountiful shopping. There are even mountains and Hindu ruins not too far away.
The revival of the Ancient Town, recognized in 1999 as a Unesco World Heritage site for its historical mix of architectural styles, put Hoi An back on the map. In the 1600s and 1700s its port was a hub for global trade and a melting pot of Japanese, Chinese, and European cultures. The settlers built long, wooden merchant houses and ornate temples and assembly halls.
Now the business of Hoi An is tourism. The pagodas have been restored and most of the shophouses have been converted to restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and hundreds of tailor and leather shops. Imagine Epcot, but with actual heritage buildings, and all the trappings of mass tourism — convoys of idling tour buses, multitudes of flag-following package tours, especially from China and South Korea, and a profusion of souvenir and kitsch shops. To avoid the crowds, it’s best to explore the Ancient Town early in the morning or to perch above it all in the evening on one of the waterfront restaurant balconies.
The surge in popularity — visitors nearly doubled to 5 million from 2016 to 2018 — is, for now, counterbalanced by an abundance of charm. The Ancient Town is unique for its constant parade of Vietnamese women in flowing ao dai silk tunics, posing for photos along the river in groups. It’s also known for its distinctive silk lanterns, glowing nearly everywhere, from the bows of rowboats shuttling tourists on the river, to the facades of the mustard-colored French colonials.
The World Heritage area, including a buffer zone, is nearly 3 square kilometers. The Ancient Town protected core is 0.3 square kilometers and is roughly bounded by the Thu Bon River in the south, Phan Chu Trinh Street in the north, Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street on the west, and Hoang Dieu Street on the east. Hoi An is a 45-minute drive south from Danang International Airport, which has multiple direct daily flights from Ho Chi Minh City in the south and the capital of Hanoi in the north. Several budget airlines like Jetstar and VietJet serve the region.
Like much of Vietnam, Hoi An has two seasons: hot, and hot and rainy. The rainy months are typically October through January, and the most moderate temperatures (mid to high 80s) are from February to April.
Multitudes of residents and entrepreneurs have hopped aboard the tourism juggernaut by turning homes into guesthouses known as homestays. There are hundreds of options, from a charming room with an en suite bath upstairs in a family’s house to one of a cluster of bungalows run by a budding hotel magnate. These rooms, and a host of hostels, are the cheapest options. On the other end of the spectrum, the luxury segment is also expanding, with some of the most exclusive resorts sprawled on the shore north of town. Hoi An has several sections that suit a variety of tastes: in and around the core (within steps or blocks of the World Heritage site Ancient Town), along the Thu Bon River and its tributaries (with views of fishing boats and gliding birds), in the countryside (neighboring rice fields and lolling water buffaloes), or at the beach (looking out to the Cham archipelago).
1. Heron House • An My • $$$
On the edge of the area’s largest swath of rice fields, this two-story French colonial farmhouse is draped in bougainvillea, shaded by coconut palms, stuffed with antiques, and completed with a swimming pool. Guest rent and luxuriate in the whole house, with staff to make breakfast and sunset cocktails, and poster beds and standalone bathtubs of brushed concrete lording over the three bedrooms. • +84 (0) 91 6110987
2. Beachside Boutique Resort • Thanh Tan Beach • $$
Bright and breezy with colorful floor tiles and maritime motifs, the hotel’s 18 rooms overlook a sapphire swimming pool in the courtyard or the turquoise sea across the road, where the owners also operate the wonderful Salt Pub. After a comfortable sleep, walk over to the open-air restaurant for a tasty Western breakfast before lounging in the soft sand. (For a rustic but equally pleasant stay, try Tan Thanh Garden Homestay nearby.) The location is more laid back than the party scene a half-mile north at An Bang Beach. • +84 235 3757 777
3. Vinh Hung 1 Heritage Hotel • Ancient Town • $$$
The converted 200-year-old shophouse is the only place where tourists can stay overnight in the Ancient Town core. Museum-like with its columned front parlor and handsome wooden rooms, there is no pool or gym. Opt instead for a regimen of cocktails on the balcony overlooking the busy, historic lane. The half dozen rooms are often fully booked for months ahead. • +84 235 3861 621
4. Victoria Hoi An Resort • Cua Dai • $$$
Unfurled east of town on a peninsula between the river and the sea, this grand getaway includes 100-plus spacious rooms designed with a blend of French colonial and Asian architectural styles. The grand pagoda-like main building leads to an ample palm-fringed pool and outdoor dining. The grounds mimic a seaside village with brick paths and fish ponds interlacing seaside bungalows. The sumptuous banquet of a Sunday brunch will keep you so stuffed there will be no hope of a Sunday afternoon swim on the adjacent beach. • +84 235 3927 040
5. Ha An Hotel • Old Town • $$
In the French Quarter right next to the historic core, the hotel mirrors the town’s heritage streetscape with mustard-colored facades, columned porches, and wooden doors. Check into one of the 24 handsome rooms, decorated with local pottery and prints, after a complimentary juice and fruit plate. The front garden is flanked by a gazebo with a pool table and a restaurant that opens onto a compact pool. • +84 235 3863 126
6. Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai • Dien Duong • $$$$
Perhaps the most opulent retreat in Hoi An. Designed over 85 lush, beachfront acres with everything from expansive infinity pools to a spa inspired by the mindfulness philosophy of Thich Nhat Hahn, the Zen master and peace promoter. A mix of modern sleek with traditional Vietnamese, the tiered villas come with elevated poster beds, sunken living spaces, and eggshell lacquered woodwork. With water sports on the private beach, tennis courts, restaurants and bars, and a cooking academy with classes and pop-up dinners, there’s hardly reason to leave. But personal concierges will recommend diversions in town just a 10-minute drive south. • +84 235 3940 000
7. Almanity Hoi An Wellness Resort • Tan An • $$$
With a Japanese influenced design, the streamlined and pragmatic style of the 138 rooms compliments the sustainability bent, with farm-to-table restaurants and inclusive spa treatments. Tucked into city streets several blocks north of the Ancient Town, the large, white-tiled lobby leads to an oasis of a pool edged with coconut palms. • +84 235 3 666 888
Hoi An Restaurants
For the most part, Vietnamese food is fresh, flavorful, healthy, and cheap. There is a cornucopia of options, from the fascinating mobile kitchens crammed onto sidewalks to the growing cast of trendy fusion restaurants occupying converted merchant houses. Each region of Vietnam has its specialty dishes, and one of the most famous in Hoi An is Cao Lau — a bowl of thick rice noodles, soy pork slices, rice flour croutons, and garden greens. The vibrant culinary scene gets better every year, with Vietnamese chefs trained in America and Europe returning home to make their mark as restaurateurs. Top-notch Western style restaurants are mushrooming as newcomer French and Australian entrepreneurs join their more established countrymen. Craft beer is finally permeating the town. Most of the tourist restaurants are concentrated near the Japanese Covered Bridge, but you’ll find culinary treasures from the rivers to the fields and the beaches.
8. Thirty Seven Woodfired Grill + Bar • Ancient Town • $$$
This fusion of Argentinian, Mexican, and Vietnamese easily rivals the finest steakhouses. The menu ranges from duck breast to tiger prawns and lotus seed hummus. Go for the beef. The hanger steak is exquisite — aged Australian black Angus fired in an Argentinian grill and served with chimichurri and peppercorn sauces and fries dusted with parmesan. Beside the Thu Bon River on the east edge of the Ancient Town, dining stretches from sidewalk tables to the riverside terrace out back. Grill fueled by nut and coffee wood and coconut husks. • +84 778 769 037
9. Mai Fish • Ancient Town • $$
Like Thirty Seven and the popular Mango Mango, this is one of chef Duc Tran’s creations and his take on more traditional Vietnamese fare, just west of the Japanese covered bridge. The artfully presented pan-seared red snapper is fabulously flaky and flavored with a pineapple-tomato-ginger sauce. The duck practically falls off the bone in the creamy curry. Its craft beer lineup includes Hoi Artisan Brewery’s Mango Chili Pale Ale. Ingredients are sourced from local farmers and fishermen. The interior is at once serious and informal, with dark ceiling beams and hand-carved tables and chairs, and red accents on the yellow walls. • +84 235 3925 545
10. Nu Eatery • Ancient Town • $$
Tucked in the labyrinth of Hoi An’s back lanes, west of the Japanese bridge, sits this lemon-colored converted house with three small rooms and a balcony for dining. Owner Phuc Ngo calls the modern Vietnamese fare, “a mix of everything,” starring an avocado salad with sweet potato, fried egg and lima beans, and vegetarian rice with charred eggplant and mustard greens. Much of the menu can also be found at his The Sea Shell restaurant north of the old town. The steamed buns with pork belly, pickles, and spicy mayo are a must. • +84 825 190 190
11. Co Mai • Ancient Town • $$$
Find this gastronomic gem on a corner next to the Hoi An Market and definitely select the tasting menu for a bounty of traditional Hoi An dishes. They just keep coming — banana flower salad; a medley of fried and spring rolls; a soup of crab, chicken, and quail egg; braised pork; Saigon Marseille curry; barracuda in banana leaf; and then there’s dessert. The locally-sourced menu evolves with what’s in season. Fittingly occupying a 200-year-old former spice house. • +84 235 3928 188
12. Morning Glory • Ancient Town • $$
On a main artery in the old town, the outside tables are the perfect perch for gazing at streams of tourists and strands of glowing lanterns. Owner Trinh Diem Vy is the local doyenne of dining with nine restaurants and counting, including the food-court-meets-street-cart expanse called Vy’s Market across the river. The stuffed squid with pork is divine, sweet and spicy, with caramelized onions and just the right dash of chili. And try the namesake green, a resilient stalky plant that’s a mainstay of the Vietnamese diet, sautéed in garlic and bacon. • +84 235 2241 555
13. Minh Hien III • Ancient Town • $$
Head through the restaurant into the dreamy garden and grab a table in the cottage-like dining room. This vegetarian delight offers an impressive variety that even a carnivore would like, from spicy grilled stuffed tofu to sautéed pumpkin with roasted peanuts. (Another veg option is Am Vegetarian near the rice fields north of town, which is packed on the Buddhist holidays and has a sensational seaweed pancake.) • +84 90 566 7743.
14. The Hmong Sisters • An Bang Beach • $$
An ideal spot to kick back and savor the coastal breezes and azure views from the lineup of shaded restaurants on An Bang Beach. The fine list of wines complements the savory sharing plates like the grilled mahi-mahi, homemade snail Toulouse sausage, and New Zealand lamb chops. The Mediterranean flavors, sand in your toes, and traditional Hmong handicrafts add to the ambiance. • +84 91 485 2366
15. Hoi An Market • Ancient Town • $
One of the most atmospheric places for sampling the staples of Hoi An. Come in from the back through the market crowded with tables of exotic fruit, past the stalls of trinkets and spices, and into the barnlike main hall. Sit at one of the 60 brightly-lit glass hutches and try the cao lau and mi quang rice noodle dishes or the white rose dumplings (rice dough filled with minced pork or shrimp and topped with fried shallots). • +84 235 3861 323
Where Locals Eat in Hoi An
In most of the eateries packed with locals, hardly anyone speaks English. Don’t be deterred. You may not know what exactly makes up a dish, but point at a picture on a menu or a plate on a nearby table and partake of incredibly tasty and inexpensive traditional cooking. Foreigners have united with locals in a host of place where popular traditional foods are served. But there are plenty of spots off the tourist track where you’ll get a lot of curious looks and an astonishing experience. In the morning, eateries often serve one type of food only like banh mi or rice crackers or pho. At night, don’t be startled when shouted cheers start echoing from large tables; every few minutes they’ll yell out the count from 1 to 3 — mot, hai, ba, followed by yo! — and chug a glass of beer.
16. Banh Xeo Hai Dao • Cam Son • $
The specialty in this brightly-lit open room of metal tables and plastic chairs is banh xeo — pancakes made of rice flour and egg, fried in skillets and slotted with bean sprouts and river shrimp. Take a seat at the front; the smoke is a bit thick in the back from the dozen burners at the frying station, where multitasking cooks ladle batter, jiggle pans, toss fillings, and fling out little half moon shaped wonders. Also savor one of the other four things on the menu, pork satay — thin, grilled slices you roll up in dry rice paper with pickled carrots and cucumber, and dip in peanut sauce. • +84 90 531 5450.
17. A Roi • Cua Dai • $$
All along the coast of Vietnam, you’ll find places like this seafood restaurant: bright lights, open front walls, fluorescent lights, and cascades of tanks and buckets filled with fish, eels, shrimp, oysters, lobster, and snails. Diners first pick out their live catch, then take a seat and welcome a crate of warm lager set on the floor, with a bucket of ice for the glasses. You can’t go wrong with the grilled scallops or steamed crab. • +84 510 3927 818
18. Co Luan • Cam Kim Island • $
Good bet you’ll be the only Westerner at this breakfast over the river at a little house on Cam Kim Island. A husband and wife grind rice into milk and griddle it into delicious dishes served on their concrete side porch. The first is bahn dap, plate-size rice crackers you smash into pieces and dip into fermented fish sauce. The other is bahn beo, a saucer of steamed rice milk topped with a pork-shrimp mince, pepper, and fried shallots. From 6 to 9 am. • +84 766732043
19. Bahn Mi Phuong • Ancient Town • $
Bahn mi is the national sandwich, and you’ll find some of the best in this two-story shop on Ancient Town north side. Put on the map a decade ago by traveling chef Anthony Bourdain. It’s a baguette, spread with pate and mayonnaise and filled with pickled vegetables, herbs, cucumber, meat or egg, and drizzled with dashed chili and soy. Line up for the bahn mi ga (with chicken) and eat it on the sidewalk or upstairs in the cramped dining room. • +84 905 743 773
20. Cao Lau Lien • Old Town • $
Wedged onto the sidewalk of what is known as Cao Lau Street, this longstanding food stall is one of several serving the dish most emblematic of Hoi An’s multinational heritage. Cao lau’s thick rice noodles harken to Japan, the soy pork to China, and the croutons to France. Add fresh greens, lime, and chili to the bowl and take in the scene — elderly sisters orchestrating from a steaming cart, diners hunched on little red plastic stools, and young chickens pecking around the metal tables. North of Ancient Town. • +84 782 672 587
21. Mi Quang Hai • Ancient Town • $
Take a break from the heat at this little back alley eatery in the French Quarter that serves mi quang, sort of like cao lau (see above item) but with shrimp and quail eggs. The yellow-noodle dish comes with airy rice crackers to scoop up the contents. • +84 235 3914 406
22. Com Ga Ba Buoi • Ancient Town • $
Often eaten on special occasions, Hoi An chicken-rice is a version of the Chinese dish from Hainan, but shredded into strips instead of served in chunks. This tiny green house is a great spot for a communal lunch at round tables. The chickens are butchered in the corner. Dark strips of liver are added to the plate. (At Long Com Ga, in a nearby back lane, the distinguishing ingredients are raw onions on top with a side of carrot and papaya salad.) • +84 90 576 79 99
23. White Rose Restaurant • Cam Pho • $
This rice dough creation is pinched into a shape that, with some imagination, resembles a rose. Locals will tell you that many eateries in town get the dumplings from here. Basic setup, but its worth a visit to see the fountainhead of these translucent beauties, sprinkled with crispy shallots and dipped in fish sauce. • +84 90 301 09 86
Hoi An Shopping
For luxury and budget travelers alike, Hoi An is a shopping Shangri-La. The town has built itself into the capital of bespoke clothing in Vietnam, with more than 600 tailor shops. Tailors can turn around suits and dresses in a day, but allow at least two days to get the fitting right. For off-the-rack options, there is no shortage of souvenir stalls stuffed with fruit-print shirts, dresses, and balloons. Make a bold fashion statement and get a banana outfit; you’ll see whole families strolling around in them. There is also a growing boutique scene being developed by Vietnamese and expat designers, and a variety of indigenous handicrafts.
24. Yaly Couture • Ancient Town • $$
With expert handiwork and exceptional fabrics, Quynh Trinh’s tailor stores are busy with Vietnamese and foreigners looking for formal wear and bespoke clothing. Trinh was a pioneer of the tailoring boom in town, opening the first shop catering to tourists in the mid 1990s. She now has 380 tailors and three Yaly locations, with expansive showrooms and attentive and efficient staff. • +84 235 221 2474
25. Reaching Out Arts & Crafts • Ancient Town • $$
At this combination craft workshop and showrooms, you can see the skills of Vietnamese with disabilities on display at workbenches tapping brass rims on ceramic cups and embroidering napkins. Browse the downstairs showroom’s beautifully designed teapots, ceramic cups, and place settings, including a bowl with a small hole on the side for resting chopsticks across the top. Upstairs you’ll find gorgeous textiles like bedspreads and patchwork table runners. • +84 235 391 0168
26. Chula Fashion • Ancient Town • $$$
The rooms on the bottom floor of this historic house just north of Hoi An Market are adorned with racks of colorful and bold haute couture inspired by Vietnamese culture. Especially eye-catching are the sleeveless polka-dot dresses and red floral pants that Spanish couple Laura Fontan and Diego Cortizas create in silk, organza, and taffeta. Garments are hand made locally. The brand also has stores in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. • +84 90 506 59 89
27. Sunday in Hoi An • Ancient Town • $$
With chic and functional homewares sourced from villages across Vietnam and Southeast Asia, this sunny shop in the core of the old town is a craft-seekers’ delight. Seagrass carrying baskets and brushed concrete mugs are standouts amid the artful displays. Owners Van Anh Duong and Huong Le buy directly from artisans or supply them with designs for new creations. • +84 385 571 673
28. Precious Heritage Museum • Ancient Town • $$$
You’ll see French photographer Réhahn’s portraits of Vietnamese villagers displayed in high-end hotels from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Buy them in sizes ranging from postcards to large metallic-paper prints at his gallery and museum in the French Quarter. It’s free and filled with images, costumes, and stories collected during his visits to the country’s 54 ethnic communities. His most famous portrait is that of an elderly woman in a conical hat covering her forehead and mouth with her hands, entitled “Hidden Smile.” • +84 235 6558 382
29. Hoi An Night Market • An Hoi • $
The main night market, on An Hoi Island across the river from the Ancient Town, is ideal for shopping for the town’s signature silk lanterns. The district is alight with glowing lanterns every night and even more so when building exteriors are dimmed during the full moon festival. Shaped like garlic and teardrops, the lanterns are displayed at the top of the market near the river suspended in wooden stalls, appearing like hot air balloon rallies in freeze-frame. Nightly after 6.
30. The Quiet American Cafe & Bar • Ancient Town • $
For a bit of spice, pick up some handmade Chili No. 5 from the front room of the shophouse that holds the café and bar. The 200-year-old building is a prime example of the town’s Chinese heritage and long wooden shophouses with ornate rafters and stone courtyard. The jarred puree is made of chilis from Dalat with garlic and sesame seeds. • +84 93 487 68 15
Hoi An Bars and Nightlife
It gets dark every night around 6 and the town starts to shut down around 9, but a growing number of bars stay open late. The craft beer trend recently hit the scene, with new bars featuring Vietnamese brews on tap. Locals still mostly drink regional beers like Tiger — a thirst quencher with ice on a sweltering day (tap water may be unsafe, but the ice is fine when shaped in cylinders made in factories with filtered water). Residents warn against hiring for rides the local men parked on motorcycles outside tourist bars. There are a number of live music venues at An Bang Beach on the weekends. The speakeasy-like bars are inside the old city. The riverside restaurants in the Ancient Town offer the best people watching, and the boisterous backpacker bars are across the river on An Hoi.
31. SecretEATS • Old Town • $$
Take a boozy mystery tour through the old city with the experienced designers of this underground dining and drinking outfit. Along with a handful of fellow urban explorers, you are supplied with only a meeting spot and time, then are led on a three-hour discovery of bars and secluded chambers at five locations. The cocktails are designed for the occasion like a spiked iced coffee in a wood-planked loft of a designer boutique. • +84 93 2571190.
32. Market Bar • Ancient Town • $$
On a terrace at the front of the Hoi An Cloth Market, this open-air bar with big wicker sofas has a growing list of wines by the glass and bottle. It gives you a fascinating view of the parade of people and influx of motorbike traffic below at the intersection by the bridge to Cam Nam Island. (They have a second terrace with a Latin restaurant and live music, Market Lounge, next door.) • +84 98 580 77 83
33. Tadioto • Ancient Town • $$
With the motto “for thinkers and drinkers”, this whisky bar in the French Quarter is hidden behind a clothing boutique. It has an impressive selection of Japanese scotches, like Suntory’s Hibiki and a growing lineup of artisanal gins. Tadioto’s ramen and sushi bar in the handsomely appointed courtyard is just before the bar. • +84 0869 997 586
34. Hoi An Beer House • Tan An • $$
Originally called Hoi An Brewery (it doesn’t actually make beer), this new bar with brick walls inside and an astroturf beer garden out front has BBQ, foosball, darts, and scores of craft beers in bottles and on tap. From the owner of Mia Coffee, Le Quang Huy, who plans to have 50 Vietnamese draft beers by Fall 2019. • +84 090 555 20 61
35. Bungalow Beach Bar • An Bang Beach • $$
Not actually on the beach but definitely a bungalow, this funky little roadside joint about a block from the sea offers 20 local craft beers on tap, several from Danang’s 7 Bridges up the road, and a house IPA made by Furbrew in Hanoi. • +84 235 3919 988.
36. Soul Kitchen • An Bang Beach • $$
Named after The Doors song, this restaurant and bar is a hub for live music — duos, DJs, bands, jam sessions — Wednesday-Sunday nights at An Bang Beach. With seating under thatched umbrellas stretching from the sandy beach to a green lawn, and an open-air dining and drinking area, it’s also a soothing spot for a late afternoon cocktail or bottle of wine. • +84 (0) 9 0644 0320
37. King Tiger Tiger Bar • An Hoi • $$
If you like laser beams, pumping music, and a slippery dance floor, head across the river from the Ancient Town to this little nightclub inside the De Vuong 2 restaurant. The motto is “Don’t be a pussy. Be a Tiger!” It sells mixed drinks by the bucket. Popular with the backpacker set. (A second location west of the bridge.) • +84 93 542 37 21
38. The Hoi An Cigar Club • Ancient Town • $$
Ensconced in the upper floor at the back of Thirty Seven. The dim lighting and leather seating is perfect for puffing Cuban cigars and sipping imported rums and whiskys, as well as a very smooth Vietnamese craft rice liquor, Son Tinh Original Ruou. • +84 778 769 037
Hoi An Cafés
Coffee is a social event in Vietnam, and the number of local and specialty cafés has exploded this decade. The French colonizers brought coffee to the country in the 1800s. Now it’s a major industry, with farms supplying the world with beans and homegrown chains like Highlands and Cong Caphe, as well as innumerable independent cafés, dominating the market. The cappuccinos, Americanos, and the like are top-notch, often made with coffee beens grown in the Central Highlands and roasted on-site. Make sure to try the distinctive Vietnamese drinks, served hot or on ice, from phin café, brewed on top of your cup in a perforated metal cylinder, to café sua da, a decadent mix of espresso and condensed milk.
39. Mia Coffee • Old Town • $$
This handsome two-story wrapped by terraces on a corner in the French Quarter sources beans from the mountains of Dalat and roasts them daily on-site. One of the first specialty coffee shops in town when owner Le Quang Huy opened in 2012. Popular with locals and expats alike. Now open at night with burgers and craft beer on tap. • +84 90 555 20 61
40. Cong Caphe • Ancient Town • $$
This chain is popping up across the country and is famous for its retro Vietcong-era decor and coconut coffee. Take a seat on the curb, watch the tour groups file by, and languidly scoop out slushy spoonfuls of this mouthwatering coconut-milk-and-cream with coffee milkshake. • +84 91 186 64 93
41. Sound of Silence • Cam An • $$
Order a cappuccino or a coconut coffee from the counter at the front and walk through the stone courtyard up to a table overlooking the sea. Perfect spot for savoring both brew and view. • +84 90 636 94 84
42. Reaching Out Teahouse • Ancient Town • $$
The teahouse employs deaf and mute workers who use sign language and provide customers with notepads to communicate. Try the tea and coffee tasting sets in the courtyard in the back. The social enterprise also runs a ceramics, homewares and jewelry workshop nearby. • +84 90 521 65 53
43. The Espresso Station • Old Town • $$
On a side lane just north of the Ancient Town, it’s a great place to chat with fellow travelers or read at the natural wood tables under shade trees. Try the egg coffee, with egg yolk and condensed milk whipped into a creamy almost fluffy drink, served hot. Signature drinks include a pink latte with steamed milk, beetroot, and no caffeine, and frozen coffee cubes in hot creamy milk. • +84 90 569 11 64
44. Xofa Cafe • Cam Chau • $
This is your standard Vietnamese street side cafe: hard wooden seats, English isn’t spoken, and the coffee is the more bitter Arabica variety. You pay about the third of the price in the specialty cafés and get to sit around a pond with large white and orange fish. • +84 (0) 91 717 1161
45. The Hill Station • Old Town • $$
Know for its Italian coffee and homemade cakes, this cafe is in one of the most picturesque heritage buildings in town. The moldy facade of its two stories is sectioned into three arched doorways below and three large, arched windows above. • +84 2356 292 999
Things to See and Do in Hoi An
Though it doesn’t have bike lanes, Hoi An is picture-perfect for cycling. Most hotels and homestays include bikes as part of your stay. There are also bike tours you can book through online travel sites like TripAdvisor. An even more intimate connection with the place comes from leisurely walks through the Ancient Town, especially when turning into narrow passageways and exploring the warren of back lanes. It’s best to avoid the throngs of tourists in the late morning and evening, when they cram the most picturesque spots like the Lantern Bridge and the Japanese covered bridge.
46. Ancient Town Tour • Ancient Town • $
Strolling is free, but you’ll need a ticket to enter any of the two dozen shophouses, temples, assembly halls, and museums inside the Ancient Town. Buy a book of five tickets at a tourism booth. Make sure to visit Tan Ky house with its intricately carved columns and beams and open-roof courtyard, and Phuc Kien, one of five assembly halls built by Chinese merchants, with a maritime theme. Don’t miss the Japanese covered bridge, the town’s most iconic landmark, originally built in 1593. Hire a guide at one of the ticket booths or better yet, arrange a tour with the Quang Nam Tourism office at least a day in advance. • +84 235 391 6961
47. Guided Bike Tour • Ancient Town • $$
Grasshopper Adventures offers a fantastic half-day countryside tour on top-flight mountain bikes to Cam Kim Island south of the old town. You might be lucky enough to get a guide raised on the island, making even more enriching the ride over waterways and through farm fields, and the stops at a family temple, a shipyard, and in-home businesses making rice crackers and rice paper, sleeping mats, and rice wine. • +84 93 203 42 86
48. Self Guided Cycling • Hoi An • $
You can’t go wrong veering off main roads onto reed-fringed estuary paths and back lanes where locals live in little houses with their front rooms open to the world. Make sure to pedal into the rice paddies between the town and the beach at Tra Que. Ride under canopies of coconut trees and through acres of green fields patched with fish ponds. You may run across a religious ceremony at a community temple or several water buffaloes cooling off submerged up to their nostrils.
49. Kim Bong Carpentry Village • Cam Kim • $$
For adventurous craft hunting, ride to the end of An Hoi Island over the narrow metal bridge to Cam Kim Island and head east along a riverside path to Kim Bong village and Huynh Ri carpentry workshop. The family’s ancestors have, over the centuries, carved the intricate rafters and pillars of pagodas in Hoi An and the former imperial city of Hue. The showroom is crammed with carvings large and small, from water buffaloes to seated Buddhas and wooden-slat bird cages fashioned around curling tree roots.
50. Huynh Van Ba’s Lantern Making Workshop • Cam Son • $$
There is no shortage of classes to take, ranging from the Thuan Tinh Island Cooking Class to the Taboo Bamboo Workshop, both east of town in the Cam Thanh area. At Huynh Van Ba’s lantern workshop north of the old town you can create your own symbol of Hoi An. Ba invented the mechanism that allows the silk globes to collapse inward for easy toting. The hour-long classes progress through cutting bamboo strips to gluing silk swaths or attaching tassels to them. • +84 935 360 197
51. Basket Boat Ride • Cam Thanh • $$
For an entertaining mix of kitsch and culture, hire a coracle boat — a round bamboo basket — to explore river channels off the Cam Thanh community east of town. The boats for centuries were used by fishermen in the sea. Now fleets of them float through the watery groves, the boatmen singing and rocking to music to the delight of shrieking tourists.
52. Hit the Beach • Hoi An • $
The sea is never cold, and at times, like spring, it’s clear and calm. The beaches have multiple vibes, from swanky at delux resorts to bohemian at An Bang bars. For the mellow feel, find shaded lounge chairs at Tan Thanh Beach or Hidden Beach, where the sand is clean and the surf is mild. Help local fishermen launch bamboo basket boats into the sea, or sit back and stare at the Cham Islands on the horizon and the skyscrapers of Danang in miniature up the coast.
53. Hoi An Memories • Cam Chau • $$
Hike over to Hoi An Impression Theme Park, on an island in the Thu Bon River, to witness a musical extravaganza. The massive stage of the 3,300-seat open-air amphitheater holds a life-size ship and a replica of the ancient town waterfront. A cast of about 500, including scores in Ao Dai and illuminated conical hats, tells the story of the port’s evolution nightly in Hoi An Memories. • +84 904 636 600
54. Bai Choi • Ancient Town • $
During evening strolls, you’ll repeatedly wind up at one of the busiest intersections in town, the five points where locals gather for a sort of singing bingo at a small square with elevated bamboo huts. Join in. It’s called Bai Choi. Sit on a mat or platform and buy cards from the attendants who keep score as MCs sing humorous tales of love in Vietnamese.
Things to See and Do on the Outskirts of Hoi An
You can book tours with any number of operators in the tourism kiosks in the old town, or through online travel and “experience” outfits like TripAdvisor, Klook, and Airbnb. Or just aim for a particular place on your own and let serendipity be your guide. There is an abundance of history, culture, and natural wonders within an hour’s drive or boat ride. The main ride hailing service is called Grab; download the app and book rides on motorbikes or in cars. Your hotel or homestay can also arrange for a driver for a day.
55. Distillerie d’Indochine • Thang Binh • $$
This tropical watering hole and boutique hotel is one of the rare craft distilleries in Vietnam, producing Caribbean-style rum made with sugar cane from nearby fields. Tours and tastings of the Sampan Rhum varieties every day but Monday. The two-story Colonial-style distillery and bar stands out amid the rural seaside community threaded with narrow, rutted roads about 10 miles southeast of town. The attached Mediterranean style villa has three double rooms downstairs and an apartment upstairs with a sea view from the terrace. • +84 (0) 3 3453 5241
56. My Son Sanctuary • Duy Xuyen • $$
A fascinating archeological complex of Hindu temples, built for Cham kingdom rulers between the 4th and 14th centuries, about 25 miles southwest of town. The area was heavily bombed during what the Vietnamese call the American War. The surviving brick monuments are mostly crumbling and sprouting vegetation, though a number have been restored. Crowds are thinner during the early morning. • +84 235 373 1309
57. Cham Islands • Hoi An • $$
Take a half hour motorboat or the far more interesting morning ferry, stuffed with live chickens, cases of beer, and other supplies for this military outpost. With a couple of small villages and no cars, the hilly island is perfect for lolling away a day or two, sampling grilled sea urchin at a seaside restaurant and contemplating wooden boats with eyes painted on the bows bobbing in the azure bay. There are a variety of homestays around the main pier, which gets busy in the morning with snorkeling tours from the mainland. Unesco designated the islands a Global Biosphere Reserve in 2009. • +84 235 366 6333
58. Son Tra Peninsula • Danang • $$
Sticking out from the Danang metropolis, this site of a former US military base is now largely protected as a nature reserve. Take a motorbike up its steep and winding cliffside road, Hoang Sa. Stop at one of the country’s tallest Buddhist statues at the Chau Linh Ung pagoda. Continue east to the loop at the InterContinental resort entrance, and take the eastbound lane to a massive marvel of roots and limbs known as the 1,000-year-old banyan tree. At the end of that road is a trail snaking a half-hour hike down a forested hill to rocky cliffs jutting into the fizzing sea.
59. Sun World Ba Na Hills • Danang • $$
On a mountaintop overlooking Danang, this fairytale land of faux castles, cable cars, and cobble stone lanes is becoming one of Vietnam’s top tourism attractions. The over-the-top facsimile of a European village is replete with a three-story underground amusement park, a towering Buddhist pagoda, and a viral sensation called Golden Bridge — a curved walkway seemingly held aloft amid the forested peaks by two giant sculpted hands. • +84 236 3791 999
60. Cua Dai Fishing Village • Duy Hai • $$
Just after sunrise, this boat-yard and fish market is a riot of chugging trawlers unloading their glistening catches, and armies of gloved women hawking baskets of crabs, squid, eels, snails, and long silver fish. Buyers from area restaurants come early. One of the most astounding sites, no matter the time of day, are nets as big as tennis courts suspended over the water by bamboo poles and lowered to catch fish and shellfish.
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