I loved Hoi An. I wrote all about that love and how I got my groove back here. If you are heading to the picturesque Hoi An whether it be for just a few days or longer then here are 8 musts that you have to do or eat while there.
My Son Sanctuary
If you have time than visiting what is affectionately known as Vietnam’s Angor Wat is a must. I would recommend going early morning in a private car. For $35 we got a driver and a car to take us which meant we arrived before the tour groups. The price to get in is expensive at 115,000 dong but worth every penny. By arriving at 6 AM (when the temple opens) it also meant fewer crowds and the heat wasn’t as bad. Cause let me tell you, even at 7 AM we were SWEATING.
The temples of My Son were built between the 4th and 13th centuries by the king of Champa and they were dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva. Today they are partially ruined (in due part to bombings done by the US during the war) but also they were abandoned. It takes about an hour to get there from Hoi An and the drive in beautiful. The sight of the temple is small and can be done in an hour but we took an hour and a half (cause pictures).
Many of temples were damaged during the war and are somewhat small compared to Angor Wat (the same builders) but are breathtaking in their own right. My Son was a burial place for kinds and national heroes during the 4th-13th centuries and at its peak had over 70 temples. Today there is just a handful and you can get up close and personal to the temples. Seeing the Sanskrit and intricate details. It was an experience to explore on our own.
Dinner at Claypot Restaurant and Water Puppet Show
A few times a week Hoi An there is a Water Puppet Show. Water puppetry is unique to Vietnam and can be expensive. In Hoi An it was just a few dollars and a 30-minute show (versus an hour and a half shows in the bigger cities). It was interesting… I’m glad we did it but once was enough. The theatre is walking distance from the Ancient Town. There are about 7 acts and before each one there is a prerecorded recording that explains a basic gist of what you are about to watch. The skill of the pupperty is incredible and it is a unique experience but I’m glad it was just 30 minutes.
After enjoying your culture part of the evening, just a ten-minute walk away from the theatre is one of the best meals you’ll have in Hoi An. Claypot Restaurant became one of my favorite places to eat and we ate there 6 times during our three weeks in Hoi An. The woman who runs it makes every single dish by herself. Which means, don’t expect quick service but it is worth it. If you do go make sure to order the dish the restaurant is named after a clay pot. My favorite was the aubergine/eggplant and pork claypot. In addition, you HAVE to get the chicken curry. It was the unique dish I had while traveling. In fact, I still dream of it. In addition, they offer fresh beer for pennies and homemade peanuts.
The beach isn’t that far away from Ancient Town but embrace your inner beach bum and stay in a homestay for 2 days. Not only do you get a different experience but you will be feet away from the blue waters of a private beach. Our last 4 days in Hoi An we spent our afternoons on a lounger, reading, and dipping in the warm waters for $20 a night PLUS breakfast. It was also here where we discovered the deliciousness of Mangosteens.
Top Tip: If you end up going to the beach for a day and want to rent a lounger, walk away from the “beachfront” where the restaurants are. All the loungers out front are being rented for 100,000 Dong for the day. Just a 5 minute walk away you will see more chairs that cost a mere 7,000 Dong instead. Plus, it won’t be as crowded!
2-4-1 Cocktails and Nu Eatery
It doesn’t matter the time of year but Hoi An loves a good Happy Hour. No matter what side you are on in Ancient Town, expect 2-4-1 cocktails. So go on, have a fun night out but before you do make sure to eat at the incredible Nu Eatery.
With two locations, expect a line at the one in Ancient Town. Nu Eatery offers a modern and fusion twist on classic Vietnamese dishes, this place was an Instagrammer and Foodie dream. With A+ aesthetic and ingredients, this place is a MUST. In fact, Sean ordered the same dish TWICE the two times we went. That never happens.
Marble Mountain Day Tour
My only regret about doing this excursion as that I didn’t have enough time to truly explore all that it offers. My dad and stepmom came for a long weekend so once again, we got a private car. For a big car and driver, it cost us $50. This also included a drive of Hai Van Pass.
Marble Mountains is closer to the city of Da Nang but well worth the drive. It is a cluster of five marble and limestone hills and were named after the 5 elements. All the mountains have cave entrances and tunnels. Fun fact is there are also several Buddhist sanctuaries that can be found in the mountains.
Before going make sure you have a water bottle because you will be climbing and walking a lot. Do yourself a favor and pay to take the elevator up. Save your energy for the other steep stairs to be had. We only had about an hour and a half to explore and it was not nearly enough. What we were able to see was so beautiful and incredible. Including views of the sea. PS make sure to combine this trip with a visit to the Giant Buddha!
Fun Story: I went against my better judgment and climbed up the stairs called “Heavens Gate.” In my experience whenever an activity or path is called Heaven anything it always means expect a whole lot of steep stairs and I was right. 5 minutes of steep incline I did see heaven as I almost died from a combo of heatstroke and out of shapeness but the view was very pretty (not pictured because I was dying and sweaty in that picture). So enjoy this one instead.
Renting a Bike
Hoi An does get a little chaotic but compared to other cities in Vietnam is calm. Which is why you will see plenty of foreigners and locals on a bike to get around. Taxies are hard to get even though there are plenty of them, they want the big ticket prices. If you haven’t ridden a bike in awhile, don’t worry it really does come back to you. That and the locals know to give you a bit of space but be aware of your surroundings and the scooters. I got burnt by an exhaust engine from a scooter in a mishap but that’s because he wasn’t paying attention. When he noticed he was extremely apologetic but it was a little too late.
There are plenty of bike tours that you can do and some go as far as Hue but that didn’t sound like my kind of fun. We rented bikes for a dollar a day or .50 if it was just a half day and it took about 5-10 minute ride into Ancient Town versus a 30-40 minute walk. For me, I loved riding a bike after the first day. Yes, my body was sore and boy did my bum hurt but there was something about being on that bike that had my confidence grow. It also helped that it was affordable and even if my bum hurt a little, it was much quicker than walking which after a big meal of Rose Dumplings and cocktails!
Also, don’t be surprised if a person on a bike tries to get you to follow them to a tailor. Just say no and keep peddling away.
Stay at Jade Hotel
Okay so this is biased and I know I already talked about my love of this hotel here but I honestly loved this place. Rooms were basic but clean and the bed was the best one we slept on during our travels in Asia. That and the customer service was A++. Anything we needed the Front Desk or Sally arranged from recommendations to cars and tours plus they had a pretty decent burger!
There Breakfast was delicious and the pool was the nicest one we’ve had. Its location is also perfect if you want to go to the beach or Ancient Town. Both being a fairly equal distance to one or the other.
Hai Van Pass
The next time Sean and I see Hai Van Pass I want to do it on a scooter as we saw it by car and train and it was stunning. This is considered one of the most scenic drives in Vietnam with breathtaking views. If you have time, scooter it all the way from Hue or Vice Versa. If you don’t book a private car like we did with my Dad and do it. It’s gorgeous and make sure to read up on the history of the region to fully appreciate it.
When in doubt, just walk and explore a new place. Some of my favorite moments were just wandering the streets of Hoi An and looking at all the colors. So take a stroll, grab a drink and soak up the beauty that is Hoi An. I adored it and I hope you will too. Any questions put them below!