10 FUN LOCAL THINGS TO DO IN HOI AN, VIETNAM

Categories:Travel Guide
admin

We’ve spent A LOT of time in Vietnam and Hoi An is definitely one of our favorite cities. On our first trip,  we only spent a day and a half there. But we loved it so much we chose to go back again.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT HOI AN IS THAT IT HAS TWO SIDES, AND FOR THIS REASON, SOME PEOPLE EITHER LOVE IT OR HATE IT. I JUST THINK YOU NEED TO KNOW HOW TO SEE IT THOUGH.

The first time I traveled to Hoi An, I loved it. For one, we spent the entire week prior motorbiking through the rural villages of Central Vietnam.

This was truly an off-the-grid adventure so when we ended the trip in Hoi An, it was refreshing to have basic things like a heater, a hot shower, and essentially be in the comforts of the second world again.

On our second trip, I loved it again, but we also felt a little cynical with how commercialized Hoi An has become. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an incredible place to see, but there’s a strong division between the locals and the facade of nice restaurants the locals put on for the tourists.

When I travel, I love to immerse into the local way of life, so seeing tons of tourist traps feels more like a faux cultural experience. Personally, I feel limiting myself to these kinds of experiences is a bit shallow particularly because Vietnam has such a rich culture and offers some of the best food on this planet. Therefore, you won’t find me recommending any burger joints, etc.

Here’s a list of Hoi An activities and tips that hopefully can guide you to some richer experiences. You’ll find there are plenty of local things to do in Hoi An. 

1. INDULGE IN THE WORLD’S BEST BANH MI SANDWICH

hoi-an-vietnam-attractions-9

One of my favorite things to do in Hoi An is enjoying all the amazing food. If you’ve never had Vietnamese food, shame on you. Ok, just kidding, but seriously, it’ll change your life. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite cuisines on this planet, and one of my favorite foods on Earth is a Banh Mi sandwich.

The first time we went to Hoi An, we tried Banh Mi Phoung which has become insanely famous after appearing on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. He proclaimed this the best sandwich he’s ever had and after that the rest is history.

Our first time at Banh Mi Phoung years ago, it was mind-blowing. We dreamed of the day we’d return. But sadly, when we returned, we felt like it just wasn’t as good as last time, nor as good as its competitor the “Banh Mi Queen” at Madam Khanh. I recommend trying both but we both thought Madam Khanh’s sandwich was a little better. Banh Mi Phoung can get a bit crazy too so if you’re not aggressive, you’ll find yourself getting passed over by guys hopping off their motorbikes to pick up a quick bite.

2. WALK THE STREETS BEHIND THE CANAL

hoi-an-town

The Hoai River is one of the most famous canals in the world. One of the best things to do in Hoi An is to walk the back streets along the canal, behind the pretty touristy restaurants. It’s here that you’ll see the locals, the neighborhood, and get a sense of REAL Vietnamese life.

We got a few odd looks, though as if we’d wandered outside the theme-park boundary. But it’s real. And if you go at night, the canal is beautifully lit up and the backstreets are a bit quieter and more interesting to observe life on this side of the world.

3. RENT A BICYCLE

There are a ton of different Hoi An sightseeing opportunities for the average tourist and traveler, and one of the best ways to experience the culture is via bicycling. Depending on where you stay, some places will even rent out complimentary bicycles. But I personally love bicycling through the rice paddies and the backstreets in the villages and up toward Cua Dai beach. Waking up, grabbing some breakfast and starting the day off with a morning or afternoon bike ride through the local villages and the rice paddies is a truly special way to experience the city.

4. WALK HOI AN ANCIENT TOWN

hoi-an-street_treasures-of-indochina

Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage site because it’s an incredibly preserved ancient trading town from the 15th to the 19th centuries. The homes and colors of the streets are all indicative of the many cultural influences upon this tiny port town. The architecture and the streets are small and narrow so it’s fun to spend hours simply wandering the streets in and out of shops and cafes.

5. TAKE A TRIP TO MY SON

my-son-hoi-an

If you haven’t been to Cambodia and seen the ruins at Angkor, here in My Son, you’ll find Champa ruins similar to those in Angkor.

My Son is quite close to Hoi An so you can reach My Son either on bicycle or through driving. If you book the tour Adventure Bike Tour from Hoi An to My Son Temple, you’ll find that it also takes you to My Son.

MAJOR TIP: DO NOT GO TO MY SON IN THE SUMMER.

Summers in Vietnam are brutal and although we went to My Son in March, it was still dreadfully hot. I can’t imagine the peak of summer. We were too miserable to really even enjoy it. Perhaps mornings or late afternoons are a better time to go in the middle of the summer if you must. But just be mindful of the heat. Vietnam gets hot.

6. HOI AN FOOD TOUR

We took the original Hoi An Food Tour and just loved it. Even though we were quite familiar with Vietnamese food, we still learned a lot from this tour. The local insight is great and you’ll be sure to fill up on some excellent food.

One of the stops on the Hoi An Food tour is the local market. You can find a ton of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as stalls with local dishes

7. TRA QUE VEGETABLE VILLAGE

Tra Que Vegetable Village is a must for anyone interested in truly absorbing the maximum amount of culture. One of the things I love the most about Vietnam is its simple and organic reliance upon the Earth. Its cuisine is so earthy and natural. Nothing is overly processed and the dishes emanate the most aromatic enticing smells.  You can walk to the local market and find herbs that just don’t exist in the West.

Tra Que Vegetable Village offers amazing insight into the healthier and simpler lifestyle in Vietnam. At Tra Que Village, in addition to local farm tours, you can also take cooking classes

8. STAY LOCAL

Where you stay can make or break your entire trip. Hoi An offers a selection of different kinds of accommodations. The first time we went to Hoi An, we stayed at a typical beach resort called the Hoi An Beach Resort.

Our last trip, we stayed at local place in the rice paddies called Hoi An Ancient House Village Resort and Spa.

Both of these places are totally different, but we enjoyed the second place a lot more simply because it felt more local. There are a lot of beautiful beach resorts in the area, but don’t be tempted to stay at a flashy place simply because it look the nicest. All in all, we enjoyed the local experience better. And besides, the room at Ancient House was a lot more gorgeous. Although I’m tempted next time to check out the Nam Hai but it’s a bit far away in Da Nang, although its reviews are outstanding.

9. TALK TO THE LOCALS & CHECK OUT TAILOR SHOPS

Hoi An has over 200 different tailors. We simply enjoyed observing the interesting shops around town.

Yaly is one of the more popular shops. You can walk in and see knock off design books scattered everywhere with tourists from around the world flocking to either fulfilling orders as buyers or to simply get designer dresses made.

10. GET SOME PERSPECTIVE

Honestly, one of the coolest ways to soak in Hoi An is to see it from above. If you’re a photographer, this is a no brainer, but photographers are often experts at seeking out novel perspectives.

The dense network of buildings and homes make for a fascinating display of color, textures, and contrasts. The best way to view the different perspectives of the city is to simply wander Old Town and to snag a seat at a second othird-flooror restaurant.