Mustard yellow houses with colourful wooden slats, little streets to stroll around. It’s as if we are in the French Provence. But the buzzing crickets are cyclo taxis shouting beep beep beep when they pass you by. And the purple lavender fields are bright green fields with morning glory. Hoi An might look like the Provence but don’t be fooled. This jovial town has a lot more chili peppers up it’s sleeve.
The Old Town
What you’ll love about the old town is that it has been pedestrianized. This is quite a relief because if you have visited other cities in Vietnam, you know they are jammed with traffic. But in Hoi An you can safely wander around in the middle of the street while admiring the French colonial houses. And while you’re at it, take the time to actually visit the houses. Because behind these French facades lies a world in which Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese elements are mixed. Get your ticket for 120.000 dong at one of the ticket boots in the city. The ticket gives you access to dozens of houses, congregation halls and museums. However you’re only allowed to enter 5 different spots with one ticket. So you’ll have to decide which ones to visit. Luckily, we’ll help you decide.
The Assembly hall of the Cantonese Chine Congregation has a garden with an over the top mosaic fountain with dragons.
The Fujan Phuc Kiem Assembly hall however has a wonderfully kitsch pink gate. Both are absolutely worth a visit.
The Tan Ky house is another must visit. Seven generations have lived in this house and they had an eye for details and design. It’s a great example of how Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese building styles were combined. Pay particular attention to the wooden panels with laid in mother-of-pearl patterns. Unfortunately, the house has become so popular that guides are trying to lead you to the gift shop in less than 2 minutes. Just ignore them and take your time to look around. The Quan Tran Tuc house and the Tran family chapel are very similar to the Tan Ky house but with less delicate details. We would recommend you to skip these.
Don’t forget to see the Japanese Cau Nhat Ban bridge which lies at the Thu bon river.
The riverside is a great place to go for an evening stroll and some drinks by the way. Stop by Mango Rooms at happy hour, they have top-notch cocktails.
Hoi An was one of our favourite foody places in Vietnam. And that is part due to local legend Vy. She opened her first restaurant, The Mermaid in 1992. It’s a cozy restaurant where you should definitely try the fried wontons and green mango salad with shrimp.
But if you’re up for a fancy night out, go to the renowned restaurant Morning Glory. It’s a full house every night and for good reasons. Be sure to try the delicate rose dumplings with shrimp and the squid filled with pork.
If you want to learn how to prepare Vietnamese food yourself, you can also take a cooking course. The lessons Vy gives have become so popular that might have lost a bit of their original charm. Which is why we opted for the Green Bamboo cooking class given by Van. She only takes in small groups who get to cook in her own kitchen. You’ll get to cook in a fun and more intimate atmosphere.
Stay a bit longer
Hoi An is one of those place you’ll end up staying longer than you had planned. So make sure you spend multiple days here. This way you can spend a day at Ang Bang beach, go on a motorbike trip to My Son or have some clothes made. Oh and don’t forget to go on a late night stroll to marvel at all the lanterns.