Hoi An is known for its well preserved ancient town and the beautiful river that borders the town. The ancient town is so very beautiful and the lanterns bring a fabulous feel to the town. I was so excited to explore Hoi An and sadly it was my least favourite place in Vietnam.
Everything I had read about Hoi An, and all the travellers I had spoken to, rated Hoi An on the top of their Vietnam travel list. Even though we had some lovely experiences and ate some amazing food in Hoi An, we left quite disappointed. The town did not feel in any way authentic and it is extremely touristy, including the prices. We stayed for 5 nights and after two days I was ready to leave, the weather didn’t help as it was very rainy and the town had no electricity on the first day we were there. All things aside let me share with you the wonderful things we did do when in Hoi An and if you do visit I would love to hear from you what you did love.
We stayed in a lovely homestay, which was a 5 min stroll to the Ancient Town. Our homestay was called Hoa Mau Don Homestay, and we had a huge room here with beds for everyone, a large bathroom and a view to the street. Our rooms were cleaned each day and we had a small fridge in our room. Across the road was a small convenient store and we were able to walk to many local restaurants and spas. The two sisters that ran the homestay were very quiet and friendly. They organised transport two and from DaNang for us and also organised train tickets for us. One thing I wish it had included was breakfast, that would have made it almost the perfect place to stay.
Eating all the Food
The food in Hoi An was delicious and we had many fantastic meals. Try to eat where the locals eat so your meal is authentic and well priced. We had our best meal at Bale Well, which is down a long alley and is a hive of activity and delicious smells. There is no menus and you are served the local speciality which is pork skewers which you wrap in greenery then a crispy panckae then a rice paper roll. There is also spring rolls as a side dish and then mango ice-cream comes as dessert. We had a huge feast here and it was a meal to remember.
Join the huge queue at Banh Mi Phuong for the best pork baguette sandwich that you will eat in Vietnam. From our homestay, we could walk to the local eatery Café 43 and next door was No.41. The food was very cheap and we had really good meals at both places.
Next to the Ancient Town are fresh food markets where the locals shop, there is also another local market a little further out of town. Both places are great for picking up fruit to snack on and they also have places to sit down for a counter meal.
The Ancient Town
The picturesque Hoi An ancient town is made up of many car and bike free streets. The town is lovely to walk around in the day and night. The lanterns are all lit up at night time which makes for a lovely place. To enter the town centre each adult is meant to have purchased a town ticket. These tickets are about $10 each and are not regulated at all. To enter the temples and old houses in the town you need a ticket. There are 5 entries to the ancient buildings on your entry ticket. We didn’t use all our tickets as we felt it was all much of the same – temples and old houses. The town tickets aren’t monitored and one isn’t really needed but it is a way to support the preservation of the town. The Japanese Bridge and the town bridge are worth visiting. The shops within the Ancient Town are generally more expensive than other places we have visited. We didn’t eat in any of the Ancient Town restaurants as they were too expensive. The Ancient town is very much a tourist destination and the experience didn’t feel very authentic at all.
Visiting Marble Mountain
We caught a taxi from Hoi An to the Marble Mountain and explored the area on our own. There is no need for a guided tour here or to book into a bus tour group. We spent about three hours walking all over the mountain taking the stairs to the peak and exploring caves and temples on the Marble Mountains. There are many many steps all over the mountain so be prepared for a lot of walking and it can be hot so take lots of water. There is a shop selling drinks at the tops. There is an elevator that takes you part of the way which you pay extra for. We didn’t use the elevator but many did. It doesn’t take you very far and there are still many steps to conquer after leaving the elevator. Marble Mountain was a highlight of our Hoi An visit.
Tailoring and Leather Goods
We had plans to have clothes made but the prices are really cheap and we had read mixed reviews on the end results. We decided on having some shoes, a bag and a wallet made. The process took 2-3 days and we chose the Friendly Shoe store as they offered the guarantee that if you didn’t like the end product you did not pay. The selection of bags and shoes to be made is as large as your imagination. There are piles of catalogues to look through or you can bring a picture from the internet. Once your foot is measured you return the next day for a fitting of the shoe that has been made overnight and then if any adjustments are needed the pick up is the day after. We had great successes with our leather shoes and accessories.
Our Honest Hoi An Verdict
After chatting with many others they have had similar feelings to us regarding Hoi An. I feel the town has been hyped up and my expectations didn’t match my realities. I hope our honest opinion can help you decide on how long you spend in the town. I am glad that I did visit Hoi An as I would be fovere wondering what it was like. rWe did visit in December and the weather was a major factor on why we did not fully enjoy the town. The beaches were not suitable for swimming due to the weather and many activities we had planned, like bike riding and touring the local farming areas and beaches. I am sure with the right sunny weather that we would see the town in a different light.
Where are you heading to in Vietnam next?
Have a read of our other Vietnam adventures:
- Ho Chi Minh City
- Can Tho – the Mekong
- Cat Ba island – Halong Bay
- Preparing for your Vietnam Trip