Step back in time to the beautiful streets of Hoi An Ancient Town. The well-preserved winding lanes lined with shophouses, shrines, temples, and pagodas secured Hoi An Ancient Town a UNESCO World Heritage title in 1999.
With only 2 wheeled and foot traffic, Hoi An Ancient Town contrasts vastly to other towns in Vietnam. Wander at your leisure or take a guided walking tour to feel a genuine sense of Hoi An’s international trading days through the 16th and 17th centuries.
What makes Hoi An Ancient Town an essential stop on your Vietnam itinerary?
Before we begin.
To enter Hoi An Ancient town, you’ll pay a fee of 120,000 Vietnamese Dong (US$5.30/ AU$6.50 at time of publishing).
Keep your ticket handy. The entrance fee allows multiple entries into Hoi An Ancient Town during your stay. It also allows free entrance in the 1st 24 hours to 5 of the 21 museums, assembly halls, monuments and communal houses throughout the town. The map provided with your ticket helps with initial bearings.
Where to start.
Ticket offices are positioned around the town’s perimeter so buying a ticket isn’t difficult. If arriving by taxi, most drivers will drop you at Sông Hoài Square at the western end of town. Here you’ll find a ticket office, but if you don’t see them, they’ll see you.
On entering, traders in their well-preserved shop houses immediately begin their work on you. Clothing, jewellery, paintings and all manner of traditional Vietnamese products line the streets. Don’t be afraid to haggle, prices are at a premium in this tourist driven area.
The Japanese Bridge.
Take Nguyên Thi Minh Khai Street toward the Japanese Covered Bridge passing Câm Phô Communal House, a central meeting place for villagers to share information, discuss issues and determine outcomes. Câm Phô Communal House displays antiques originating from China and Japan.
Halfway across the Japanese Covered Bridge take a moment at the shrine of the monster, Cu. Blamed for all the good and bad Vietnam experienced, Cu died when the bridge was built.
It is said, this huge monster with its head in India, tail in Japan and nether regions in Vietnam couldn’t endure the pressure the bridge placed upon the weakest part of its body. 🙁
Boat cruises along the Hoài River come in all shapes and sizes. Intimate boats for 2 to large party vessels cruise along the river in the wake of traders from the past. Walk the river’s edge, select your boat and climb aboard, it’s as simple as that.
Releasing paper lanterns over the river brings good luck and at dusk, you’ll see newlyweds in small vessels with their paper lanterns, complete with photographers to capture the moment.
A demonstration using the traditional square fishing nets displayed in the river takes place twice daily. For a more in-depth look at traditional fishing, Jack Tran’s Farming and Fishing Life 6 hour day trip comes highly recommended.
The restaurant options are endless and the competition fierce so anywhere you choose for Vietnamese food will be delicious. The most important thing is not to miss the local Hoi An specialties.
Cao Lau, made with pork and served with fresh herbs and croutons is Hoi An’s famous noodle dish. Rice flour mixed with water from a secret ancient Cham Well just outside of town give the simple noodles a unique texture and flavour. The pork’s richness, the herbs’ freshness, and the croutons’ crunch make this dish particularly noteworthy.
Banh Bao Vac are small, white, pork or prawn dumplings dubbed White Roses by the French. The secret recipe for Banh Bao Vac has been handed down through generations of a single family. Now in the possession of 3rd generation Tran Tuan Ngai, it’s his responsibility to provide the delicious white flowers to the entire city of Hoi An.
Banh Bao Vac also relies on a well outside of town. The water is filtered and purified 15-20 times to make the 5cm round dough discs light and fluffy. Topped with crispy fried shallots, the dumplings are dipped in a delectable sauce of chilies, lemon juice fish sauce, and sugar.
Join Hoi An Food Tours for an evening and you’ll enjoy both of these dishes. From 5 pm, wander with your guide stopping at stalls and restaurants, ending the evening sending off paper lanterns for good luck.
If you prefer to try your hand at traditional Vietnamese dishes, almost every restaurant has a cooking class notice at their entrance. If you’ve found a favourite restaurant or dish, a class can be arranged, often with just 2 people.
For a home cooking experience, Hoi An Mama Home Cooking Class gets rave reviews. There is no market tour, you’re collected from your accommodation by moto and taken directly to Mama’s home.
Mama’s roots are in Hue, considered the culinary centre of Vietnam. After years as a street food vendor, she has opened her home to travellers to share her home-style recipes and provides them in English to take home.
Tailoring, Design & Production.
Hoi An is well known for its tailoring. The textiles, quality of make and speed of completion all make Hoi An a fantastic location to take that magazine cutting, a sample of your favourite outfit or be fitted for a European suit for a fraction of the price.
Hoi An Ancient Town is not our recommendation for the best possible deal on tailoring, you can find the best prices in the streets outside of Ancient Town, but what can be found are some very talented Vietnamese designers.
Leathergoods stores offer a bespoke service if you have time, and what’s better than handmade footwear?
You’ll see a lot of repeated products through Ancient Town but you’ll also find unique pieces it’s unlikely you’ll find elsewhere.
At the lantern workshops, they’ll make to order. Choose your colour, size, and design. Lanterns can be collapsed for ease of packing or they’ll ship for you, saving you the hassle.
Looking for a place to stay? Check out our recent review of Palm Garden Beach Resort & Spa.
Hoi An Ancient Town takes you back in time and should definitely be visited in both daylight and evening. Hoi An Ancient Town: it’s a place we love….