We made a recent couple trip to Hoi An to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. It was only our second ever couple trip, since the kids were born. Our first was about 3 years ago when our friends got married in Bali. It was great to trek around Hoi An unsaddled with fussy kids, since we did a LOT of walking. I would say Hoi An is manageable with kids, just perhaps with more rest stops at cafes and restaurants.
Ancient Town of Hoi An
The hotel had a free shuttle to Hoi An daily, so we took the 10am shuttle there, and had a great time exploring the sights till we were totally exhausted and caught the 830pm shuttle back to the hotel.
What are some things to do in Hoi An? We have come up with 7.
- Take in the quaint sights of this picturesque ancient town, from the touristy but significant covered Japanese bridge, to just about any shop along the street.
2. Tailor some shirts and dresses
The hubs made 4 work shirts at about US$25 each, 2 casual short sleeved shirts, and a pair of trousers (at Peace Tailors, pictured below). What impressed us the most was how FAST the service was. We arrived at one shop at 1030am, took his measurements, returned at 2pm for a fitting, and then ALL the clothes were ready for collection at 330pm! We think that this is only possible because the tailors are located about half an hour or less away from the tailoring shop fronts, and motorbikes can bring the measurements and materials to and fro in a jiffy. In Bangkok, the tailors (factories?) are likely to be located at least an hour or more away from the shopfronts, without factoring in the legendary clogged road ways in that city.
Hoi An is famous for its tailors, and even locals from Hanoi and Ho Chih Minh city bring their cloth and measurements all the way to Hoi An for tailoring at the best price and quality.
I tried searching around for a tailor to make an evening dress and work dress, but most of those I encountered (including Peace Tailors) quoted me extremely high prices. Totally by chance, I walked past a shop that quoted me about half the price that the rest of those ‘famous’ on TripAdvisor were quoting, so I took a chance, and was pleased with their service and the eventual dresses! Processing the order was similarly lightning fast. Apparently, this is possible for tourists who pay a higher price. For local Vietnamese, they pay significantly less but wait about a week. Talk about demand elasticity!
3. Eat Bahn Mi
This is the stall that was made famous by Anthony Bourdain. The ladies preparing the Bahn Mi were very serious, working fast but very deliberately.
Bahn Mi Phuong is at “2B Phan Chau Trinh street”, near the crossroad of Phan Chau Trinh and Hoang Dieu. They have super long opening hours, from 6am to 10pm, and many locals stop by on their motorbikes to grab a quick bite throughout the day.
The most amazing thing about Bahn Mi to us was how affordable it is (ranging from US$1 – $2), with meat, egg and pate inside. A whole meal, if you eat say 2.
We stumbled upon this other Bahn Mi stall called Phi Bahn Mi, which was along this street with many regular families. As we ate our Bahn Mi, the family opposite was winding down after the work day, and eating their dinner. It was really interesting to observe the entire family just living life.
Possibly like many other Vietnamese eateries, this shop operates out of the family’s living room. Hence the wedding photos and 55th wedding anniversary banner of the grandparents. We lingered there at length because there was a sudden downpour, and had a good time chatting with the couple who operates the stall (nope, one child was enough for them because it was simply too expensive to raise more than one. Guess they were referring to the piano and tuition classes we observed when we walked down the rest of that street!).
4. Try a local dining establishment
I liked the Morning Glory restaurant but my hubby found it too touristy. I thought the prices were very reasonable, and the decor quirky.
The food was also very hearty, and came at an affordable price of US$3-5, if I remember correctly. Look at all the seafood, for that price! That was a dish of seafood with white noodles.
This dish below is called Cao Lao, made of soft pork slices, pork crackling, bean sprouts, lettuce and herbs in a bed of yummy white noodles. This version was served in style!
5. Visit the local museums
The price of the ticket into the Ancient Town allows one to visit a few museums. One of those we visited was the Trade Ceramic Museum. Most of the museums are housed in what we would call ‘old shophouses’ in Singapore.
6. Buy some local Vietnamese coffee.
We chanced upon this very interesting coffee shop, which also sells cashew nuts (local produce of Vietnam) and honey from bees that take nectar from coffee flowers.
The hubs had a long chat with the owner of the shop, who had been to Singapore before, and was very knowledgeable about his products, and told us quite a bit about coffee growing in Vietnam too. These are the experiences that make travelling interesting!
We bought quite a lot of honey (right of photo above) as souvenirs for friends and family too. Not the typical Vietnamese souvenir but hey it’s local produce!
7. Stroll down the river after dark
Hoi An’s river is very picturesque albeit touristy.
Hoi An is famous for its silk lanterns, which adorn almost every eatery along the river.
Come nightfall, many start to peddle paper lanterns that can be lit and sent down the river. Rather pollutive I’m sure, but it does make for a pretty sight.
This is what we saw at a corner of the night market. Really beautiful.
We were exhausted after walking almost non-stop from 1030am to 730pm. So we decided to treat ourselves to drinks at a posh looking Restaurant that also serves fusion food, right by the river front, next to the bridge. It was a great place from which to people watch, and recover some energy to walk back to the shuttle stop for our bus back to the hotel at 830pm!
Hoi An is certainly worth a visit and we wouldn’t mind returning with the kids when they are slightly older and have better stamina to walk, walk, walk!