The Bucket List Experience That Offers Something for Everyone — Fabulous Hoi An
Hoi An in Vietnam’s central Quang Nam Province is located near the mouth of the Thu Bon River. It was a vibrant international hub of trade from the 15th to the 19th century when it linked shipping routes from around the world. But in the 20th century, other ports that were more accessible to large sea-faring vessels, like Da Nang, became more popular.
The final nail in the coffin for the trading post was when the Thu Bon silted up. Hoi An was left largely untouched by modern development until it attracted attention as a tourist destination almost a century later. Modern-day visitors are charmed by its lantern-bedecked streets and the beautifully preserved yellow buildings that get covered with bright pink bougainvillea flowers in the summer.
No matter your age or interests, it’s impossible not to fall in love with Hoi An. There’s something for the whole family, from lazy beach days to outdoor activities, fabulous food, and shopping.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Hoi An Ancient Town was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. It is regarded as a uniquely preserved example of a small-scale Southeast Asian trading port of its period. As such, it reflects a blend of mainly Japanese and Chinese culture with later European influences.
The town comprises tiled, timber frame buildings in tight rows on narrow pedestrian streets still in their original plan. Wooden components of the buildings are carved with traditional motifs. There are various religious buildings, an open market, and a ferry quay. It also boasts an 18th-century wooden Japanese bridge and pagoda.
A second UNESCO World Heritage site, My Son Sanctuary, a historic Hindu site, and ruins can be found 40km outside of Hoi An. It was constructed between the 4th and 14th centuries by the Champa Kings.
Part of what makes Hoi An such a unique destination is that breathtaking countryside and beautiful beaches are situated adjacent to city vibes. Active visitors can cycle through rice fields or kayak down the river. And there are two world-class golf courses within minutes of the town: Montgomerie Links and Danang Golf Club.
An Bang Beach is probably the most accessible and popular beach. It is lined with bars and restaurants, and there are lots of family-friendly facilities available. English is ubiquitous, and the growing resident ex-pat community means fewer touters disturb your relaxation. Loungers and umbrellas can be hired for a small fee, and beach toys for the kids can be picked up cheaply at beachfront shops.
And if all of that sounds too much like hard work, Hoi An is also known for its many luxury spas.
The region is considered one of the best foodie destinations in Vietnam, and you’ll find street food vendors and restaurants offer excellent fare at very reasonable prices. Some also offer cooking classes, which have become a popular tourist pastime. Join a class or request one exclusively for your group or family. (Arrangements can usually be made to include children.)
Vietnamese food is a remarkable convergence of East and West, and each village has its unique specialty. A much-loved example of a traditional Hoi An dish is Cao Lau, which consists of noodles, sprouts, and greens topped with slivers of pork and seasoned with chili, basil, and mint. A boiling vegetable broth is poured over it, which cooks the meat and softens the vegetables. Scattered crispy fried dough squares complete the dish.
Bánh baovạc (shrimp dumplings), and bánh xèo (rice crepes filled with seafood or meat) are also you’ll find only in Hoi An. But kids will love ordering Banh Mi — the French baguettes available all over Vietnam with all kinds of fillings. And for less adventurous eaters, Western-style dishes are readily available.
Hoi An is also known as one of the best places in Vietnam to get good quality, affordable clothing made. There are innumerable streets lined with tailors who will make up your chosen designs from whatever fabrics you select within 24 hours. It’s great entertainment for children and teenagers who can create their own designs and watch them put together in front of their eyes.
For the Younger Kids
Both adults and kids will appreciate the Vietnamese water puppet shows performed three or four times a week at the Hoi An Theatre. They last about 45 minutes and involve live music and singing in addition to the colorful wooden puppets.
Youngsters will also be charmed by Hoi An’s lanterns. They can attend classes to make their own or buy them from the many vendors on the riverbanks. At night they can light them and watch as they float away down the river.
Traveling to Vietnam Post-COVID
Hoi An has no airport or train station, but Da Nang is only 40 minutes away and has both. Flights from Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and other major cities are usually available daily, and taxis and buses to Hoi An are plentiful. At the time of writing, Vietnam is still closed to tourists. You can register here for weekly updates.