Are you considering visiting Hoi An in 2023?
Sammie Pearsall from the rambling renegade fell in love with Hoi An and visited many times over the years. Sammie shares with us her love of Hoi An.
We also fell in love with Hoi An and spent 3 weeks staying in the old town and out at An Bang Beach.
We hope you enjoy Sammie’s article on Hoi An as much as we have.
There was a time in my life when I was working in a circus in Macau where I could travel easily on the weekends due to our close proximity to dozens of countries such as Cambodia, Thailand, South Korea, and more.
But it didn’t take long before I started hearing about my cast’s favourite weekend getaway, Hoi An Ancient Town. It seemed like a magical place to me. Being from Chicago, it sounded like a dream. Described to me as a place where cars weren’t allowed to go, streets filled with people walking aimlessly to coffee shops, and home to a very special culinary fusion sandwich (Bahn Mi), it isn’t a dream, it’s a glorious reality. And after I visited, it seemed justified to have Hoi An, Vietnam as a steady yearly contender for best places to visit.
Hoi An Ancient Town was the place to go at the time and still is the place to be. I dream to visit again after my countless weekend escapades for coffee, Bahn Mi, and gorgeous tailor-made dresses.
What is Hoi An Ancient Town
Hoi An Ancient Town was classified as a National Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985 and a World Heritage Site in 1999 and has been wonderfully preserved and protected since.
From day to day, there are multiple collaborations taking place between the stakeholders to maintain the authenticity and integrity of the town. As the town continues to grow in popularity and recognition, the adverse effects of tourism and nearby urbanization are controlled and monitored by authorities and the local community. Meaning this lovely little town is protected by the big boys so as of right now, it isn’t going anywhere. You can tell all your friends and family to check it out after you fall in love and don’t have to feel any remorse about popularity eroding its charm.
The Ancient Town of Hoi An is loved by locals and tourists as a colourful well-preserved South-East Asian trading port. As you walk the lantern-lit streets you can appreciate the original old wooden buildings, some dating back to the 17th century. It’s remarkable. As you wander into the little shops you feel as if you’ve entered a different era untouched by the rush of modern-day living. Locals take to the sidewalks to enjoy their coffee. Shop owners are more than happy to speak to visitors about the nuances of their handcrafted goods.
Hoi An Ancient Town is a Car-Free City
That’s right. No Cars. Hoi An Ancient Town is a relic of the world where you can only get around on foot. It’s a holiday for your eyes as you’re free to imagine life without the noise and congestion of cars in every direction. This leaves you spoiled to look up as you walk with zero fear of walking into traffic. Something I most often have to remind myself of while meandering in the big city.
Where is Hoi An Ancient Town
Hoi An Ancient Town is located in Central Vietnam in the Quang Nam province near the mouth of the Thu Bon River. It’s only 29 kilometres from Da Nang which takes about 45-50 minutes by car. Most likely you will be arriving from the airport in Da Nang and need to take a bus, taxi, or private shuttle to get to the Ancient Town.
Why Visit Hoi An Ancient Town
Hoi An is a place unlike anywhere I have visited before. Of the 34 countries I’ve visited, I would choose to come back to this little town again and again if given the chance.
The Ancient Town of Hoi An is exceptionally quaint. You can spend a weekend here or enjoy an extended week’s stay in Hoi An, but no matter the time, you will leave feeling rejuvenated and alive. The main reasons to go are to experience the amazing well preserved port city, the unique cuisine, and the endless amount of shopping you can do.
Besides being a cultural jackpot, the scenery of Hoi An is enough of a reason to go and visit. The Hoai river running through the town gives breath to the tranquil lifestyle of the Vietnamese people and if you explore just outside of the Ancient Town you can experience soft sand beaches and fairytale-like countryside villages.
Hoi An Ancient Town is easy to find, easy to get to, and a wonderfully affordable place to visit.
Things to see in Hoi An Ancient Town
Japanese Covered Bridge
One of the most recognizable and honoured symbols of Hoi An. The temple is located on a bridge over a creek built in the 17th century by Japanese Merchants, rendering its name The Japanese Covered Bridge. You’ll see gorgeous wooden paintings and sculptures of Japanese style, this site is considered one of the only architectural buildings left in town to have Japanese Heritage.
Phuc Kien Assembly Hall
Built in 1697, as a worshipping ground to the Sea Mother Mazu who blesses and protects the businessmen who travel and work at sea. It is a relic of religion in Hoi An and is considered one of the top sites to visit in Hoi An. Nowadays it is not only a site of religious belief but also a clubhouse for the Chinese community who come from Phuc Kien (the Fujian Province of China) to connect and help each other do business.
Tan Ky Ancient House
Located smack dab in the middle of the Ancient Town of Hoi An, Tan Ky was built in 1714 as a typical Hoi An Ancient tubular house (characterized as very narrow but very deep). It has the honour to be visited and adorned by domestic and foreign leaders all over the world. It is considered a “living museum”, it is a unique combination of 3 cultures; Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese and has been well-intact for over 200 years. Surviving multiple floods, it’s a miracle you can still walk through to appreciate different architectural elements as well as its’ intricate interior design.
Precious Heritage Museum
One of the greatest things you can do in Hoi An Ancient Town is at absolutely no cost to you. Curated by a french photographer, Réhehn, the museum is a collection of photographs, rare artefacts, and traditional costumes worn by women of ethnic Vietnamese Tribes. Réhehn has a passion for cultural preservation that emanates. He wants to educate the public with beautiful well-curated displays covering 54 ethnic Vietnamese groups. It’s truly worth a visit to appreciate and understand the beautiful culture surrounding you on your trip to Vietnam.
Hoi An Central Market
Take a deep breath and dive into all that is the Hoi An Central Market. It’s a frenzy of everything you can imagine and nothing you’ve seen before. Even if you have zero intention of buying anything, it is worth a visit to see this enormous operation. It spans 5 streets of the central district covering everything from street food to intricate local fabric to weird and amazing souvenirs you can bring back for the neighbours. My favourite thing about it is the handmade jewellery. It’s unbelievably cheap and every piece is unlike anything I’ve bought before. As I said, even if you have no intention of buying anything you might want to grab a few dong on your way out the door.
Lune Center for Performing Arts
The first of its kind, the Lune Center is a bamboo theatre built for the local artist community and has since become a home for the Vietnamese Bamboo Circus. It’s located where Hoai River and Thu Bon River meet and effortlessly fits into the background of the Mystical Hoi An scenery. I highly suggest heading to the Lune Center to see whatever performance they are showing but if the timings don’t work out, visiting the theatre is a unique experience on its own. The design of the theatre is inspired by the full moon and it’s a magical palace to watch the sunset fall over the old town.
What to do in Hoi An Ancient Town
For a complete, well-curated list of Things to do in Hoi An click HERE
- Explore the carless streets
- Have clothes tailor-made
- Walk along the Hoai Riverbank
- Drink Vietnamese Coffee
- Try a Bahn Mi sandwich
- Rent a bike to explore
- Buy leather hand made goods
- Relax in a rooftop cafe
- Get a Vietnamese Massage
- Light a lantern on Hoai River
- Take a boat tour of the Ancient Town
- Check out the nightlife at Tiger Tiger
- Eat at Mango Mango
- Learn to cook Phõ
- Take the best nighttime food tour
Hoi An Ancient Town is my favourite place to visit in Vietnam. It’s quiet enough to give a sense of relaxation at all hours of the day but is vibrant enough to keep you going at night if that’s what you’re into. There isn’t another place like it, you feel the history as you walk the streets and get an overwhelming sense of welcome from the local community. There is a commonality of appreciation that vibrates through the old town. Whether you’re looking for food, culture, shopping, or scenic views you’ll be well-taken cared for in the Ancient Town of Hoi An.
Bio for Sammie Pearsall
Sammie Pearsall is a travel and circus blogger living a nomadic lifestyle. Currently roaming the United States while training for the circus, she writes about her past travels, travel tips, and odd circus life. Sammie started the blog as a way to keep her family back home in Chicago in the loop about her life travelling the world and it has grown into a professional blog. You can follow her travels and her circus life teasers on Instagram and Pinterest
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General Information on Visiting Hoi An Vietnam
The closest airport is Danang located 30 km away. You will need to allow 1.5 hours for travelling from Danang to Hoi An.
Air Asia, the budget carrier, flies to Danang from various Asian cities.
We use Skyscanner to research and book our flights at all times.
Private transfers are available from Danang Airport to Hoi An.
Bus, train, ferry travel throughout Asia can be booked here:
Wondering when the best time to travel to Vietnam? Read here for further information.
Accommodation in Hoi An
If you would like to stay on the beach outside the Ancient Town read our review here of the Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort & Spa.
Our hotel recommendations for staying in Hoi An:
Emm Hotel – loved this funky-designed hotel, with a swimming pool, fitness centre, spa and wellness centre and the Spice Viet Restaurant that serves excellent local cuisine. The location is great too only 200m from the Ancient Town.
Ha An Hotel – located in the heart of the Ancient Town, colonial architecture and a swimming pool and restaurant.
For more hotel accommodations in Hoi An you can review the accommodation available here.
We always recommend taking out travel insurance as soon as you book flights, tours, cruises and accommodations.
Travel insurance offers protection when things go wrong before or during your travels, that is why we highly recommend that you take out travel insurance.
My Son Archaeological Morning Tour from Hoi An
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