I spent only 2 days in the ancient town of Hoi An. It is a UNESCO world heritage site. The town is vibrant in the noon time and well-lit in the evening. Hoi An is one of the liveliest towns I have been to so far.
Conveyance from Danang Airport
Like in Hanoi, there is no direct bus from the airport to Hoi An. There is a bus stop around 2-2.5 km from the airport.
The convenient way is to call a taxi from your hotel. My hotel charged me 500000 VND for pick up and drop both after bargaining. They had quoted 600000 VND in the beginning.
The problem is far more than is in Hanoi. The simple reason being, Hoi An is a town and not a city. There are so many tourists in the town who you can talk to and get help about directions, food, etc.
The accommodation is cheaper in Hoi An as compared to Hanoi. You can book a 4-star property for as less as 800000 VND per night. I stayed in a 3-star villa for 500000 VND per night (including complimentary breakfast). The Villa was beautiful, had a spa and a pool. The room was gorgeous and had a balcony. Most of the accommodations provide free bicycles to the guests. In Hoi An, you can book Airbnb property as well for the same rate as the hotel. Majority of the hosts provide complimentary breakfast.
One tip here - Book your accommodation as near as possible to the ancient town as you will be spending most of your time there only.
Almost all hotels and Airbnb properties provide free bicycles to the guests. If the Old town is less than 2-3 km from your accommodation, you can ride to and from the Old town.
If you plan to go to the beach, coconut forest, vegetable village, etc., then renting a motorbike from your hotel is highly recommended. The traffic is not like Hanoi, which makes it easier to drive there. The rent is 120000-150000 VND per day.
Hoi An is very famous for food, particularly street food. Being a vegetarian, I can write only about vegetarian/Indian restaurant.
The only restaurant where I had my lunches and dinners at was Ganesh Indian Restaurant (24 Trần Hưng Đạo, Phường Minh An, Hội An, Quảng Nam). I am not lying when I say that not a single time did I see any other Indian there during the two days that I had my meals there. I felt proud to see the tourists from various parts of the world coming here and enjoying the Indian food. The restaurant is a very basic one, no ambiance and all. It is popular only and only for the delicious food it serves.
Try out the Paneer mutter, dal tadka, kadhai paneer with paranthas/rice. After eating here, I did not even try finding out any other vegetarian restaurant. The cost for two for a meal is less than 200000 -300000 VND (without alcohol).
For non-vegetarians, Hoi An is famous for Cao lầu. It is a Vietnamese noodle dish consisting of pork and greens.
Just like Hanoi, you can buy local currency either from the airport or any bank in the town. There is no substantial difference in the rates.
Things to do in Hoi An
The town is a UNESCO world heritage site having more than 2000 years of history. It truly is a beautiful old town. It was an important trading port from the 15 th to 19 th Century. The town still has its traditional wooden architecture intact.
When you reach the old town entrance, look for the ticket counter (I bought it from Tran Phu, Phuong Minh An). You need to buy an entrance ticket to the old town. The price is 120000 VND only. The ticket gives you entry to any five attractions mentioned in the brochure given by the ticket control staff. You have to buy one more ticket if you want to visit more than five attractions. The brochure also has a map and details of shows and activities like music, dance, pottery, etc. in the town. Most of them are for free.
The ticket is valid for 24 hours. It means that entry is not allowed to any of the Old town attractions 24 hours after issuing the ticket. But, the ticket gives entry to visit the old town (minus attractions) for as many days you are there. In fact, you need to buy a ticket only and only if you want to visit tourist attractions. The money collected helps in the maintenance and upkeep of the attractions.
One tip here - Park your bicycle near the ticket counter for 15000 VND. It is better to park it at the entrance as the town will be best seen on foot.
Attractions that I visited in the old town
It is a landmark attraction in the town. It was made by the Japanese in the 18 th Century as a way to reach the Chinese quarter across the water. Japanese architecture still remains intact. Today, the bridge has become synonymous with Hoi An.
When entering from either side of the bridge, you will see dog and monkey statues on both sides believed to guard the bridge. There is a small temple on the bridge dedicated to the God of Weather, Tran Vo Bac De. The people pray here to fend off any approaching disaster. When you walk on the bridge, you can feel the vibrations as if it is going to break now...but, the historical piece remains intact.
You need to show the entrance ticket when you enter the bridge. They cut one part (implying one attraction visited) from the main ticket.
Hainan Assembly Hall
The hall was built in 1851. The hall has a section dedicated to 108 Chinese merchants who were killed because they were mistaken for pirates. The hall is well maintained and worth a visit. Look for the spiral incense sticks on the ceiling. They are quite fascinating.
Duc An Old House
The house is 100 years old. The current owner Mr. Tram is the sixth generation of the family who has been living in the same house. You might be able to meet him at the entrance. He is funny and friendly. The house showcases old but appealing pieces of furniture, cup sets, etc. There is a small section that sells clothes and souvenirs as well. You might be fortunate to meet Mrs. Tram in this section. She is a friendly lady who told me about her husband and 2 beautiful daughters who live in Danang. She explained the Chinese birth chart which reveals one's animal sign. You can buy a coin having your animal (horse, ox, goat, etc.) sign inscribed.
Hoi An Museum
This museum is worth a visit. The museum explains Vietnam's History in detail. There are interesting pieces of history kept in the museum. I spent an hour and a half there, without getting bored.
One tip here - Taking the audio guides in the form of the mobile device from the museum counter is recommended. It is available in languages like English, French, German, Japanese, etc.
There are many other old houses, assembly halls, and museums which you can visit such as an old house of Tan ky, Old House of Phun Hung, Cantonese Assembly Hall, Fujian Assemble Hall, etc.
Since you must have already done the day cruise in Hanoi, experiencing a night cruise is worth it in Hoi An. In the middle of Thu Bin river, you will be at complete peace despite of the fact that roads surrounding the river are extremely vibrant. The only thing you can hear is the noise of the wind. It is marvellous to see everything so well lit around while you are in the middle of river.
The cost is 150000 VND for two for 30 minutes.
One tip here - Take a photo just when you come under the bridge adjoining the two sides if the river. Take a photo with the bridge above your head with 'HOI AN' written on it...
As the sun goes down, the old town is beautifully lit up with silk lanterns. It is such a pleasure to the eyes. Originally, the lanterns were used to light up the houses. Although there are not a lot of things that you do not get in Hanoi, the market itself is a pleasure to roam around. During the weekend, you might get to see the live music, dance on the roadside. I got to watch a really nice performance by a dance group.
One tip here - Buy whatever you want, from Hanoi. There is very little scope for negotiation in the old town.
This, I would say, was one of the best attractions. It was peaceful, noisy and fun. I was surprised that a lot of tourists I met did not have this on their list of attractions to cover. I experienced Halong Bay, Trang An, Night Cruise... but, Coconut forest is a different category. You need to go here either by motorbike or taxi. You can ride a bicycle as well if you are sporty. The forest is around 7-8 km from the old town.
You cannot reach here by simply using GPS. You will find some places liked coconut village, coconut forest homestay, etc. in the google maps. You will need to ask people there and go deep in the lanes. Fortunately, the second lady that I asked the directions turned out to be the one operating the boat tours. I followed her motorbike and reached the starting point.
The rates that these boat owners will quote is exorbitant, something like 200000 VND for 45 minutes to 1 hour. I bargained and did it for 120000 VND per person. You can always ask for an extended time in the waters if it seems difficult to bring down the price. In any case, you should have the extras for the same price or the same for a lesser price.
You will find yourself sitting in a basket boat, which is the main differentiator. The rower will take you through the beautiful narrow path of, what they call 'forest'. It is charming and soothing. The rower, after 15-20 minutes, will then take you to the noisy center. You will see a fisherman casting the fishing net in the most stylish way and hauling it in. He will then give a chance to the tourists to do the same for some 50000 to 60000 VND. On the other side, you will see a man whirling his boat at the same place rapidly. Oh! It was so engaging,
not for the faint-hearted though
Tip your rower as the place is visited by fewer tourists as compared to other attractions.
One tip here - Your rower will give you a sudden surprise by rapidly circling the boat the around. Sorry for spoiling the surprise, but you might as well tell the rower in advance not to do that. If you are not prone to vertigo etc., don't miss the fun!
Le Loi Fashion
There is something new that you will see here. All the paintings are hand embroidered. It is not as simple as I am writing it here. You will experience it only when you go there and watch. The beauty is that you will not understand if it is embroidery. You will think of it as a normal oil painting, yes, even after going nearer. You will realize the truth when you see the women doing the embroidery in the store. Photography is strictly not allowed.
It is a special souvenir to take back home. The paintings have so many shades to it that will leave you spellbound thinking as to how did the women gave it multiple shades. For eg., There was a painting of an old lady. You will be thrilled to see the way the embroidery has minute details on the face like wrinkles, lines, etc. I liked this painting the most.
The price of the paintings starts from 1000000 VND (for a small one).
Tailor-made Silk dresses
Every 6 th or 10 th shop in the old town is a tailor shop. Yes, tailormade clothes are that popular here. However, I personally did not really find it worth the money charged. I was asked to pay 700000 VND for a solid color knee-length silk dress, with no print, no unique style.
An Bang Beach
Go here either early in the morning or an hour before the sunset (preferable). The beach is not a must visit. Go if you have 2 hours in hand. You can relax on the shacks by paying 20000 VND per shack. Get a can of beer and watch the people swimming. The beach is suitable for swimming.
Tra Que Vegetable Village
This can be completely skipped. It is a farm with 'organic' vegetables being grown. The farmers here claim that no pesticides are used to grow the vegetables. If you are lucky enough to meet a farmer, you might as well see the different vegetables being grown there. Also, if you are luckier, you can find someone there to help you have a buffalo ride there. I could not find anyone there except a couple of old farmers. Now, I am sure it would have been difficult to converse with them, even by speaking broken English.
Hoi An has a nightlife, worth exploring. There are a number of clubs in the old town. The best ones are Q-Bar, Mango Mango, White Marble Wine Bar, etc. Most of these open at 11 pm and closes at 2-3 am.
Lastly, if you have time in hand, you can go for a half day trip to the marble mountain in Da Nang.
There is this old city of Hue as well, which is 120 km from Hoi An. Hue is a UNESCO world heritage center. It is suggested to go to the above attractions in guided tours.