Local Insight: Hoi An

attractions - Saigon/HCMC: June 1, 2016

Travel to Hoi An if your idea of fun is relaxing picturesque settings and good beaches - and if you want to visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is showing signs of getting overly busy, but such is the price to pay when a gem gets discovered. However, the low season here does not mean bad weather, as with most resorts. From May to July, the crowds thin, but the weather remains perfect. Diving conditions are at their best and hotel prices are as cheap as anywhere.

Photo by Jean-Marc Astesana

The old part of Hoi An is, of course, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and and many visitors come for this reason. Entry into the old town is via the Covered Japanese Bridge; star of so many posters and postcards. It is very pleasant to walk round this part of Hoi An and will afford you many photo opportunities and some of the cheapest beers in the world. 

“From May to July, the crowds thin, but the weather remains perfect.”

Over the last 20 years Hoi An has developed a highly successful tailoring business. In the time the number of tailors’ shops has risen from just a few to 400. No matter which hotel you stay at, they will recommend the “best” one. Truth be told, many are much of a muchness. In fact many outsource the work to the same central tailoring factories. It is possible to get excellent clothes made at incredibly cheap prices. Some will claim to do the job in 24 hours, but it’s always best to allow three days and several fittings; the stitching will benefit for it. Good recommendations would be Yaly, Kimmy or A Dong Tailors. The other big industry here is the manufacture of silk lanterns. They are everywhere and really do make Hoi An look special in the evenings.

Photo by tefl Search

Hire a motorbike to get around town, it is the best way to travel. A word of warning though, check any bike thoroughly before leaving the shop. Many have no brakes and/or lights, they will change it if you insist, but always better to get it right, first time. Try different shops. 

The most popular beach here is Cua Dai, but it can get over-crowded, noisy and is suffering from a certain amount of beach erosion at the moment. However just 4 km out of town you will come across a casuarina-lined white sandy beach, called An Bang. On the way out to it, stop off at Cafe 339 and enjoy terrific food and a family run atmosphere. This beach is much nicer and has one of the best bars in town, La Plage. Driftwood Cafe does the finest wood-fired pizzas in town, try the Peking Duck Pizza, its real winner. Other nearby restaurants offer fantastic seafood selections. The Cham Islands, just off shore, provide a scenic back-drop. 

An Bang Beach, Hoi An, Photo by sweet redbird

For a really great wine bar in town, try the White Marble. Downstairs houses an excellently stocked cellar. Upstairs is a superb restaurant. For a better restaurant setting though, there are other really good ones by the waterfront. They make for a very picturesque setting when the sun goes down and the lanterns light up. Possibly the best here and indeed as good as any in town would be Mango Rooms. 

“Driftwood Cafe does the finest wood fired pizzas in town, try the Peking Duck Pizza.”

Hoi An is a truly special place, devoid of the smog and crush of Ho Chi Minh City, not too spoiled by tourism and as pretty as a picture.