An independent travel guide to Hoi An with candid reviews and recommendations. No sponsored content, no advertorial.

Best of Hoi An

Hoi An

Last updated 18 Aug 2015

The best things to do during a visit to the charming old merchant town of Hoi An.

There are loads of things to do in and around Hoi An so it’s easy to spend at least three days here. And even if you’ve decided to do nothing much at all, Hoi An is a great place to chill as well. Don’t rush it.

Here are some of our favourites -

Old town tour

It may be lacking in context, but it’s the only one on offer and taking a good look inside the grand old merchant residences and pagodas is interesting even with the scant information that’s made available. Duc An, Tan Ky and the Tran Family Chapel are most likely to show some enthusiasm for sharing some history.


Vietnam,Hoi An
Photo: Mark BowyerHoi An's old town

The Fujian and Cantonese Assembly Halls are in the old town centre and also worth a look.

Cam Kim Island

The packed barges that leave from Hoi An’s old town near the market are headed to Cam Kim Island that sits in the middle of the Thu Bon River. The boat ride is great fun. Pack your bicycle and spend a few hours cycling around the island. It’s beautiful and the riding is easy.

My Son

monument,Vietnam,ruins,My Son,Cham
Photo: Mark BowyerMy Son, outside of Hoi An

The Cham ruins at My Son are the most important remnant of the mighty Cham civilisation that once presided over much of southern Vietnam and parts of Cambodia. War and time have taken a big toll on My Son but if you’re headed to Angkor Wat during your travels, these ruins will help connect some of the historical dots.

Local fare

Cao Lau, White Rose and My Quang are some of the Hoi An specialties not to be missed.

Cooking classes

Red Bridge, Hai Cafe and Secret Garden run some of Vietnam’s best cooking classes combining market visits with classes built around group participation.

On the beach

Hoi An,Vietnam,Cham Island boat trip
Photo: Mark BowyerCham Island

In summer, the crowds flock to the coast just 5kms from Hoi An. Long time favourite beach, Cua Dai, has been blighted by erosion following overdevelopment. So travellers are heading north to An Bang.

White sand and sun abound in the hot months - April to August - though things turn decidedly less inviting as the monsoon hits and cooler temperatures kick in.

If time permits, Cham Island is unspoiled and good for snorkelling and diving.

Shopping

You don’t need our help here. Check lots of places and look carefully at quality. There are plenty of bargains to be had but not everyone leaves ecstatic about their Hoi An shopping experience.

All up, Hoi An is one of the nicest places in Asia to spend time exploring history, walking, cycling. eating and stocking up the wardrobe.


And the not so good.....

A merchant town

Travellers have made Hoi An a shopping mecca - so don’t be shocked by its commercialisation. It still feels good to us. Although tourist stalls have now conquered a very high percentage of the town’s shopfronts, a surprising amount of real local life is still visible on the streets and in the market. And it’s hard to imagine how else this town could have been preserved at all.

Some context

Hoi An,Vietnam
Photo: Mark BowyerMr Le from Tran family chapel fills in some of the historical gaps

We bang on about this throughout Vietnam - but like its neighbour Hue, Hoi An underdelivers for travellers with a real interest in history. Hoi An’s contemporary rationale may be built on history, but available information is basic in the extreme.

Ominous beach developments

It might have been assumed that the development of beaches around Hoi An might show some sympathy with the character of the town - small, low rise and boutique. Instead, massive unsightly hotels are more the norm on the road to Danang. And Cua Dai beach has fallen victim to severe erosion. Heavy machinery now works along the beach in a desperate effort to push back the development-induced erosion that has seen it all but disappear.

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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