10 FUN LOCAL THINGS TO DO IN HOI AN, VIETNAM
Weâ€™ve spent A LOT of time in Vietnam and Hoi An is definitely one of our favorite cities.Â On our first trip, Â we only spent a day and a half there. But we loved it so much we chose to go backÂ 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 traveledÂ to Hoi An, I loved it. For one, we spent the entire week prior motorbiking through the rural villages ofÂ Central Vietnam.
This was truly an off-the-grid adventure soÂ when we ended the trip inÂ 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 AnÂ has become. Donâ€™t get me wrong, itâ€™sÂ an incredible place to see,Â but thereâ€™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, soÂ 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 wonâ€™t find me recommending any burger joints, etc.
Hereâ€™s a list of Hoi An activities and tips that hopefully can guide you to some richer experiences. Youâ€™ll find there are plenty of localÂ things to do in Hoi An.Â
1. INDULGE IN THE WORLDâ€™S BEST BANH MI SANDWICH
One of my favorite things to do in Hoi An is enjoying all the amazing food. If youâ€™ve never had Vietnamese food, shame on you. Ok, just kidding, but seriously, itâ€™ll change your life. Honestly, itâ€™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 Bourdainâ€™s No Reservations. He proclaimed this the best sandwich heâ€™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 weâ€™d return.Â But sadly, when we returned, we felt like it just wasnâ€™t as good as last time, norÂ as good as its competitor the â€œBanh Mi Queenâ€ at Madam Khanh. I recommend trying both but we both thought Madam Khanhâ€™s sandwich was a littleÂ better. Banh Mi Phoung can get a bit crazy too so if youâ€™re not aggressive, youâ€™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
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. Itâ€™s here that youâ€™ll see the locals, the neighborhood, and get a sense of REAL Vietnamese life.
We got a few odd looks, though as if weâ€™d wandered outside the theme-park boundary. But itâ€™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.Â 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 is a UNESCO World Heritage site because itâ€™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 itâ€™s fun to spend hours simply wandering the streets in and out of shops and cafes.
5. TAKE A TRIP TO MY SON
If you havenâ€™t been to Cambodia and seen the ruins at Angkor, here in My Son, youâ€™ll find Champa ruins similarÂ 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 tourÂ Adventure Bike Tour from Hoi An to My Son Temple,Â youâ€™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 canâ€™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 justÂ 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 youâ€™ll be sure to fill up on some excellent food.