Hoi An our ideas guide

Hoi An in 72 hours - suggested itinerary

22 Nov 2010
Stay 72 hours in Hoi An and make the most of one of Vietnam's favourite travel destinations. It’s easy to spend a full week in Hoi An - especially in summer - less than three days really won’t do this place justice. This itinerary assumes travel in the warmer months from March to September when beach conditions are at their best and assumes you’ll be in the old town for four nights.


Briefing

Hoi An may well be Vietnam’s most popular travel destination - and for good reason. Even so, there are plenty of things to do here that many travellers miss in part because they don’t leave enough time. We recommend you spend a minimum of 4 nights in Hoi An in summer and 3 in winter. If you like the beach, a summer week will pass very quickly. There’s no harm in staying longer. Just being here is a delight and the longer you stay, the more absorbed in the comfortable rhythm of the place you’ll become.


Travel tips

- The season in which you travel will impact on how you choose to do your cycling. You’ll want to avoid strenuous cycling in the scorching midday heat of summer. Early mornings and late afternoons are perfect. The damp and cooler winter will be less draining but may also be less picturesque.
- Quality bicycles aren’t easy to come by in Hoi An. Fortunately the rides are easy so a substandard bike is no excuse for not cycling.
-This itinerary can easily be done by bike and everything in the old town can be done on foot.


The itinerary

Day 1 Hoi An’s old houses, assembly halls and museums.
Cycling: Easy


Commence your three days in Hoi An with a morning cycle, walk or cyclo around town visiting the main market as well as Hoi An’s main historic houses and pagodas. Hoi An’s market remains wonderfully local and vibrant despite tourism’s transformation of the town.

Hoi An,Old House,Tan Ky,Vietnam
Photo: Mark BowyerTan Ky Old House
Of the old houses, we recommend Tan Ky, Duc An’s and Phung Hung - these are the most interesting and they haven’t been totally consumed by their souvenir shops. Duc An’s house is a particular favourite - with no souvenirs for sale at all, a wonderfully eccentric host and an amazing role in Vietnam’s revolutionary history. 

The Fujian and Cantonese Assembly Halls are also worth a look.

Hoi An’s museums are modest affairs and can easily be knocked over as you wander  through the old town. The Museum of History and Culture does little justice to the town’s history or culture and the Ceramics Museum isn’t much better. But they do go some way towards providing some historical background.


You’ll need to buy a ticket from one of the many stalls around town to get into these places.

For lunch, we recommend Ly's cafe or Mermaid Restaurant - both local institutions that have been feeding travellers since the early 90s. Try the local specialties cao lau, wontons and white rose.

In the afternoon, scope out your preferred shopping options. This will give you plenty of time to survey a range of different tailors and have everything tried and tested well before you leave.

If shopping isn’t your thing, you might prefer to further explore the old town or cycle into the picturesque surrounding countryside.


Late afternoon drink at Mango Mango.

Dinner at Mango Mango (fusion) or Secret Garden (Vietnamese)


Day 2 Cham ruins of My Son, An Bang beach
How? Car or tour van to My Son. Extremely keen cyclists sometimes cover this 80km return journey on a bike.

Depart hotel at 7am for the journey to the Cham ruins at My Son (1 hour). Central Vietnam was once the centre of the vast Cham kingdom that covered southern Vietnam and parts of Cambodia. My Son was the holiest site in the kingdom.

Cham,Champa,Hoi An,monument,My Son,ruins,Vietnam
Photo: Mark BowyerMy Son
You can rent a car for the My Son trip for less than US$40, or take one of the very inexpensive tours that leave each day. Leaving early will afford better light, fewer people and cooler conditions.

After returning to Hoi An, head to Ba Le Well restaurant for a fabulous local lunch experience.


Take a rest after lunch or stroll around the town before heading out to An Bang beach for an afternoon dip and sunset. An Bang beach is a favourite with the locals and the late afternoon summer beach festivity is great fun.

La Plage cafe is a good place to base yourself for your afternoon at An Bang.

Grab a local seafood dinner ordered from one of the local beachside restaurants or head back into town and sip a refreshing glass of white wine at White Marble, Hoi An’s only wine bar. If the wine is going down well, stay on at White Marble for dinner.

Day 3 Cooking class, Cam Kim Island cycling


Hoi An’s setting makes it one of the best places in Vietnam to take a cooking class. Most include a visit to the local market and all are targeted at interested travellers rather than culinary masters. Red Bridge includes a visit to the Tra Que vegetable garden in its longer class and the boat trip to Red Bridge cooking school is a nice addition. Cooking classes at Secret Garden and Morning Glory restaurants also receive very good reviews.

Cam Kim Island,Hoi An,Vietnam
Photo: Mark BowyerThis memorial in the middle of a rice paddy marks a 1968 attack on US troops by Cam Kim's VC forces
You might like to relax a little after your cooking and class and lunch.  At around 3pm, head down to the port near the market on Bach Dang St with your bicycle for the short local ferry ride to Cam Kim Island. The ferries are leaving all the time. Once on Cam Kim, jump on your bike and ride wherever you like for two or three hours through rice fields, villages and along riverside paths. Don’t forget the camera!

Start your final night in Hoi An with a drink at Brother’s Cafe - the former French era police station is probably Hoi An’s most spectacular bar and restaurant space and it’s priced accordingly. Check the menu and stay on for dinner - or if you’re feeling like some western cuisine, Senses restaurant at Life Resort is nearby. Casa Verde and Cava are about 10 minutes away on foot.



Addresses -

Sights
Duc An House - 129 Tran Phu St
Tan Ky House - 101 Nguyen Thai Hoc St
Phung Hung House - 4 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St   
Fujianese Assembly Hall - 46 Tran Phu St
Cantonese Assembly Hall - 176 Tran Phu St
Museum of History and Culture - 7 Nguyen Hue St
Museum of Trade Ceramics - 80 Tran Phu St

Restaurants and bars
Ly’s Cafe - 22 Nguyen Hue St
Mermaid Restaurant - 2 Tran Phu St
Mango Rooms - 111 Nguyen Thai Hoc
Secret Garden - Alley 60, Le Loi St
Morning Glory - 106 Nguyen Thai Hoc St
Ba Le Well - Alley at 38 Phan Chu Trinh St
La Plage Cafe - An Bang Beach   
White Marble - 98 Le Loi St
Brother’s Cafe - 27 - 31 Phan Boi Chau St
Senses - 1 Pham Hong Thai St
Cava - 53 Nguyen Phuc Chu St
Casa Verde - 99 Bach Dang St
Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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