Hoi An Ancient Town is one of the prettiest Vietnamese towns that we visited during our 3 months of Vietnam travel. Hoi An Vietnam is a UNESCO town that is full of hidden treasures down small alleyways past colonial homes and ancient crumbling traditional Vietnamese homes. The river with its bobbing colourful lantern boats is a drawcard more so at night when the lanterns twinkle as the boats ply visitors up and down the Thu Bon River.
A relatively small area Hoi An Ancient Town has become one of the busiest tourist spots in the country. You can understand why once you visit, it is a ‘living museum’. The 800 + traditional homes have been well preserved and they share neighbourhoods with Chinese temples, shophouses, French colonial buildings, markets and of course the river that runs through the middle seperating the Old Town with the New Town.
We could wander for days through Hoi An Ancient Town not really understanding what we were looking at. To understand Hoi An better we reached out to Klook who offer many Vietnam tours and other hundreds of city tours around the world. One of their top things to do in Vietnam is walking tours and one of their popular ones in Hoi An is the Hidden Hoi An Walking Tour that includes a boat ride down the Thu Bon River. Klook hosted us on their Hidden Hoi An Walking Tour and as always our opinions are our own.
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- 1 Our YouTube Video of our Hidden Hoi An Walking Tour:
- 2 Did you know:
- 3 Our Klook Hoi An Walking Tour Experience
- 3.1 Cao Lau Noodles
- 3.2 Sweet Potato Rice Paper
- 3.3 Phin Espresso and Drip
- 3.4 Statue of Kazimera Kwatrowsa 1944 – 1997
- 3.5 Vinh Hung Hotel
- 3.6 The Japanese Bridge
- 3.7 Interesting Facts About Conical Hats:
- 3.8 Hoi An Traditional Art Performance Theatre
- 3.9 1 Hour Boat Ride up the Thu Bon River
- 3.10 Lantern Boats
- 3.11 Quang Dong Temple
- 4 How To Book Your Hidden Hoi An Walking Tour
- 5 Klook Tours in Hoi An
- 6 Activities & Experiences
- 7 Tours & Sightseeing
- 8 Best Food & Must Eats
- 9 Vietnam Tours
- 10 Our Thanks
- 11 Pinterest
Our YouTube Video of our Hidden Hoi An Walking Tour:
We met with Tony our guide who advised us that we were the only ones on the Hoi An walking tour that afternoon. Our own private tour with our own private guide, what could be better. The walking part of the tour is around 2 hours, Hoi An Ancient Town is 2 km square, and the boat ride lasts for an hour.
Not only did we learn about Hoi An and her stories and culture we were also able to explore alleyways and small businesses along the way that we did not know about.
Tony stated ‘to understand Hoi An better we need to revisit the past’.
Did you know:
- Before Hoi An became a part of Vietnam it belonged to the Champa Kingdom. It was known as “Lam Ap”.
- During the 15 to the 19th century, Hoi An was an important South East Asia trading port trading in ceramics and high-quality silk
- Fai Foo was its original name
- Hoi An means ‘peaceful meeting place’
- Hoi An was the home of the first Chinese settlement in Southern Vietnam
- Due to the collapse of the Nguyen Dynasty and the silting up of the Thu Bon River, Hoi An ceased its importance as a trading port during the latter half of the 18th century
- Hoi An has stayed intact as during the American War it escaped the attacks that other parts of Vietnam endured
- Since 1999 Hoi An has been a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site
- There are 1,000 houses that are over 100 years old
- Up to 3 families would live in one house at a time
- To rent a traditional house in the Ancient Town costs USD5,000 per month
- the new side of Hoi An Ancient Town is only 15 years old, it was once gardens and orchards
Our Klook Hoi An Walking Tour Experience
Cao Lau Noodles
Wandering down one of the back streets in the Hoi An Ancient Town we came across a local Cao Lau Noodle Maker.
The Cao Lau noodle (pronounced Cow Lao ) is one of Hoi An’s speciality dishes. Cao Lau translated means ‘high floor’ which relates to only the rich could afford to eat the noodle dish in local restaurants on higher floors, commoners would sit on the ground floor amongst the dust and mud.
Cao Lau noodle is made from rice flour and costs USD 1.00 per bunch. You can see the yellow colouring that comes from tamarind. The noodles can only be made from water from the Ba Le well, not local water straight from the tap. The Ba Le well was made by the Champa people in the 10th century.
The soup-like cuisine is made with sliced roast pork, crispy pieces of pork fat, greens, herbs and bean sprouts. The noodles are then added to the dish.
There are vegetarian options available as well.
When you travel through Vietnam you will notice the different tastes in the cuisine. Food in the north is salty, in the centre of Vietnam the food is spicy and in the South, it is known to be sweet.
Sweet Potato Rice Paper
Continuing our wander through the back streets we came across a beautiful lady with a welcoming smile making sweet potato rice paper. We have found that Hoi An people are very open and pleasant and very willing to share their story with you. The lady sits at the front of her home every day making sweet potato rice paper. She does not sell to any local restaurants, her sales are from the locals of Hoi An. You can see the rice paper drying just opposite her house.
We learnt that the sweet potato rice paper is better for people who have diabetes than the normal white rice paper that you can buy in most shops.
The cost of the dried sweet potato rice paper is VND 6,000 or USD 0.26 per paper.
Phin Espresso and Drip
Have you tried Coconut Coffee?
If you are visiting Hoi An pay a visit to Phin Espresso and Drip at 132/7 Trần Phú, Phường Minh An, Hội An, Quảng Nam, Vietnam.
Be prepared to change your usual coffee order after you have tasted Coconut Coffee. Cost VND 50,000 USD 2.20.
Want to know more? Watch our YouTube video on how they make this unique blend.
Statue of Kazimera Kwatrowsa 1944 – 1997
As we wandered further we came across the statue of Kazimierz Kwiatkowski who was a Polish Architect. In 1980 he moved to Vietnam and worked on 3 ancient complexes in conjunction with UNESCO.
These three complexes were:
- My Son – a complex of 70 Hindu temples created by the Champa People just north of Hoi An
- Hoi An Ancient Town
- The City of Hue
Vinh Hung Hotel
Vinh Hung Hotel is at 143 Tran Phu St., Hoi An, Vietnam. The Vinh Hung family are the richest in Hoi An.
Taken from the website of the Vinh Hung Hotel:
“In 1992, Mr. Trieu Quoc Hung bought the house 143 Tran Phu which was formerly owned by a Chinese merchant.
In 1994, the house was converted into the 12-room hotel, namely Vinh Hung 1 Hotel.
In 1996–1998, the hotel proudly welcomed the delegations of the Embassy of Hungary, the Embassy of Japan, the Embassy of Italy and other national and international high-profile politicians.
In 2007, the hotel has still preserved its unique character and historic architecture despite undergoing a major renovation and rolling out 6 well-furnished rooms. The whole wooden structure of the hotel simply exudes history and mystique – you may hear echoes of the former residents as they negotiate spice deals with overseas traders.
“We consider this 2 century-year-old house as a heritage museum where we welcome all visitors,” said the owners, Mr. Hung and his wife, Mrs. Mi.”
Tony (our guide) stated that the actor Michael Caine stayed there when he was making “The Quiet American” movie.
The Japanese Bridge
The iconic Japanese Bridge in Hoi An is one of the most popular sights. To cross the 18th-century bridge you first have to pay a sightseeing fee. With Klook the sightseeing fee is included in your tour cost.
Otherwise, the cost is VND 120,000 (USD 5.00). The cost of the Sightseeing Ticket helps preserve the bridge and buildings in the Old Town. The ticket covers 5 entrance fees to the bridge, historical homes and museums. If you want to visit more than 5 you will have to pay the entrance fee pertaining to the site.
The Japanese built the Bridge in the 18th century as a means to cross to the Chinese quarter over the river. You will notice there are 3 carved symbols at the entrance which were placed there to commemorate the opening of the Bridge by Nguyen Phuc Chu Lord in 1719.
Also at each entrance, you will notice two statues of dogs and two of monkeys. The Bridge started construction in the Year of the Dog and was finished in the Year of the Monkey. The two Chinese symbols also represented the years that the Japanese Emperors were born.
Interesting Facts About Conical Hats:
The Conical hats that the Vietnamese wear are used for:
- a sunshade
- protection from the rain
- a fan when it is hot
- a scoop for water
- a basket
- a fashion item
Hoi An Traditional Art Performance Theatre
Located at Bạch Đằng, Phường Minh An, Hội An, is the Hoi An Traditional Art Performance Theatre. We had a few minutes to spare before our boat ride so Tony our guide managed to get us in to see the final few minutes of the local traditional art performance. You can see a snippet of the performance in our YouTube video.
Dramatic folksong performances accompanied by local traditional Vietnamese musical instruments have been performed in the theatre since 1996.
1 Hour Boat Ride up the Thu Bon River
We had the boat to ourselves for the hour as we sailed up the Thu Bon River just before sunset. The South China Sea is 6 – 7 km away. We passed local villages that lined either side of the river watching them go about their daily life.
We passed the Hoi An Memories complex that has a performance each evening featuring 500 professional dancers and actors in an open air theatre that seats 3,300 people. It is the largest performance in Vietnam and covers 400 years of Hoi An’s growth.
As we headed back into town many lantern boats were making their way to the Old Town in readiness for the evening. For USD10 you can hire a lantern boat for 30 minutes. They take a maximum of 6 people.
Quang Dong Temple
We still had one more sight to see which was the Quang Dong Temple at 176 Tran Phu Street Hoi An. It is also known as the Assembly Hall of the Cantonese Chinese Congregation. Today it is used as a meeting place and a place for worship for the Chinese living in Hoi An. It’s beauty has attracted many tourists.
How To Book Your Hidden Hoi An Walking Tour
If you would like to enjoy a Hidden Hoi An Walking Tour:
Klook Tours in Hoi An
Activities & Experiences
Hoi An Memories Show – performances by over 500 professional dancers highlighting 400 years of Hoi An’s history.
Create your own Vietnamese Lantern during a 2 -3 hour class.
Tours & Sightseeing
My Son Archaeological Park Morning Tour By Bus. The UNESCO site has over 70 Hindu statues and temples in the jungle outside Hoi An. My Son is also known as Little Angkor Wat.
The Cham Islands are part of the UNESCO World Biosphere Park. A great opportunity to view rare marine life and animal sightings whilst snorkelling and swimming and enjoying wandering the island. Lunch is included.
- Discover daily lives of Vietnamese fishermen and their families at Phuoc Hai fishing Village
- Take the ferry to nearby fish market of Duy Hai village and marvel at the freshest catch of the day
- Visit local fish sauce producer and see exactly how this ubiquitous condiment is made!
- Fish with traditional fishing nets and paddle in the traditional Vietnamese bamboo basket boat
- Travel to Cam Tanh rice farmlands, see how rice is farmed the local way
- An English speaking guide will take you to every destination and give you valuable insights
Best Food & Must Eats
- Learn more about Hoi An’s culture, cuisine and history on this tour
- See Hoi An from a different perspective – and watch as the city turns into a vibrant night market
- Visit the bustling local markets in Hoi An and taste some locals snacks served in the alley street stalls
- Have dinner at one of the local’s homes to the day to day life in Hoi An
- Witness the multi-ethnic and very rich culture and history as you explore the charming city
Vietnam is a Home to the famous Vietnamese coffee and world-renowned Pho noodles. Vietnam’s eclectic food scene is only one of the reasons you should pay a visit. The country’s turbulent history alone can spark one’s interest enough to try to slip through the narrow Cu Chi Tunnels or roam the cities where French colonial structures stand tall to this day. Hop on a scooter and traverse the chaotic streets of Ho Chi Minh if you dare, or take a trip from Hanoi to see the emerald waters and limestone formations of Halong Bay. No need to worry about breaking the bank during your stay – Vietnam’s affordable prices make it an ideal destination for backpackers and budget travellers alike.
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Our many thanks to our tour guide Tony for a very informative and enjoyable afternoon. We also thank Klook for hosting us on this unique tour of Hoi An.
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