If you want to experience the charm of Vietnam, then Hoi An Ancient Town needs to be at the top of your bucket list.
This beautiful historical UNESCO site is a great place to experience an old town of Vietnam and explore nearby places like:
- a bike ride through rice fields
- visit nearby ancient temples
- cool off at the local beaches
But if, like us, you enjoy festivals, then make sure you book your stay to experience the Full Moon Lantern Festival.
And spending six days in Hoi An gave us the opportunity to explore more of the local area. It’s one of the reasons we love slow travel.
How to Get to Hoi An Ancient Town
Flying will always be your best option when travelling in Vietnam. As most major roads are substandard for bus and car travel, the trains slow, so flying will save you time and stress.
For us, we used Vietnam Airlines to Da Nang Airport.
While the flights never seem to run on time unless it’s between Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, the flight was cheap. Especially when booked in advance.
Da Nang is a 30-minute drive to Hoi An Ancient Town.
We booked Adventure World for our transfer to Hoi An Ancient Town as well as a day tour to the MySon Temples.
Hoi An Tourism also provides a lot of options for organizing airport transfers saving you time trying to find transport.
They also offer guided tours with local history, which is significantly cheaper than joining a tour group.
Where to Stay in Hoi An
Ancient House Resort and Spa was chosen for us by Adventure World. Once again, the accommodation was perfect as the room was spacious, the bathroom generous, and a massive king-size four-poster bed complete with mosquito netting.
Ancient House is named due to the original 200-year-old house still on the property, where the fifth-generation owners still live.
They have a free shuttle bus for the 1.5kms to Hoi An Ancient Town, or you can use one of the hotel bikes.
You can also catch their shuttle bus to and from the local beach.
Highlights of Hoi An Ancient Town
Hoi An Ancient Town was once a port city on the Thu Bon River trading in spices.
The old town, now a world cultural heritage site, takes you back to a bygone era of Chinese, French and Vietnamese architecture. As you wander the narrow streets and canals, the well-preserved buildings create a colourful atmosphere.
The People’s Committee of Hoi An asks you to pay an entrance fee to visit the old town, about USD6. The ticket provides the ancient town with funds to maintain the buildings and ensure the beauty of the ancient town is maintained.
To learn more, click here Hoi An Ancient Town Fee.
It is a small price to pay and gives you access to some of the many cultural museums, houses, temples and old shophouses.
What to See in Hoi An Ancient Town
From Chinese shophouses and temples to ornate French buildings and Vietnamese tube houses, makes spending a full day in Hoi An Ancient Town is so worthwhile. Some of the old houses and shops date back eight generations.
The pace of life here is slower, and the traffic is less hectic.
Finding your way on foot is easily done as no cars or scooters are allowed in the old town. Or you could try a cyclo tour.
And make sure to explore some of the small alleyways off the main streets. Some dead ends, others with small shops and eateries.
When it’s time for a break, there are plenty of:
- local coffee houses with their own roasteries
- lots of small to medium size restaurants to try local food
- the local fresh market for seasonal food.
Japanese Covered Bridge
The Japanese Covered Bridge is a prominent landmark of Hoi An Ancient Town, and dates to the early 17th century.
When walking along the inside of the bridge, you’ll find a temple dedicated to the northern God Tran Vo Bac De, who is said to be the god of weather.
And as Hoi An is an ancient port town, this god was significant to visiting sailors.
If you want to cross over the bridge, you need to have purchased a Hoi An Ancient Town entrance ticket.
Shopping and Art
There are a wide variety of shops, from mid-range to high-end featuring artwork, silks, and personalized tailors.
Plus, Hoi An Ancient Town is the perfect place to organize the making of a new suit or dress made for your measurements. But there are plenty of premade to try.
Where and What to Eat and Drink
There are many Cafes with coffee roasteries selling locally grown beans. If you love coffee, then you have come to the right place.
What we loved were the rooftop cafes. Entering a cafe on one of the main streets, we were invited to head up the two flights of stairs to the rooftop. We enjoyed looking at all the lanterns one evening as we drank our coffee. Perfect.
After wandering as you do, we crossed over the Thu Bon River, where there are a number of smaller restaurants. They advertise a set menu of Vietnamese food with enough items for two to share.
But it was the price of Saigon beer (425ml) for only USD50c, which was the bonus.
We did love just sitting, eating and drinking while watching everyone pose for photos by the water or on the bridge.
Nighttime in Hoi An Ancient Town is not to be missed.
Also, make sure you try a delicious Hoi An speciality Lo Cau for USD1.50. This dish is noodles with pork and greens. It became a regular menu item for us.
Hoi An Full Moon Lantern Festival
The solar calendar dates become important when deciding the dates to visit Hoi An.
Traditionally, on the 14th day of the lunar month every month, the streets of Hoi An Ancient Town are only lit by lanterns.
It’s a time of the full moon to observe ancient rituals and honour dead relatives and ancestors.
In 2019, August 14th, September 12th, October 10th, November 10th, and December 9th are the dates to experience the lantern festival.
When the street lights are turned off from 6.30-9 pm between the Japanese Covered Bridge and the Cau An Hoi Bridge. The glow from silk lanterns is magical to see another side of Hoi An Ancient Town.
No wonder this festival has become a huge event for foreign and Vietnamese tourists. So expect crowds. But it is a festival to be enjoyed at least once.
For the Full Moon Lantern Festival calendar, click here: Full Moon Lantern Festival Calendar
Enjoying the Full Moon Lantern Festival
We wandered into town around 5 pm to get an early dinner and to watch the crowds gather. But ended up chatting with a German couple, Jurgen and Bea, from Hamburg, who had taken a year off from work to travel through Asia.
As we swapped travel stories, we watched the festival unfold next to the river and Cau An Hoi Bridge.
Afterwards, we found a rooftop restaurant to share a meal with views of the river and eat the best fresh spring rolls since leaving Wellington, New Zealand.
The four of us wandered around the old town, marvelling at all the brightly lit and colourful lanterns.
There were several wedding parties with brides looking beautiful in their traditional dresses. No doubt their photo appears on many Instagram feeds later.
Maura purchased a small lantern and was then handed a long bamboo pole. The elderly lady showed her the basket attached to the end of the pole for her lantern. It was back to the bridge to launch the lantern of good luck.
Hoi An Ancient Town, Should Be Visited More Than Once
Hoi An Ancient Town is one of those places you just love returning to during your stay.
On our last day, we arrived early in the ancient town and were treated to quiet streets and the chance to get some photos without the tourist crowds.
And catch up on some wardrobe purchases and discard some older items, the joys of travelling light!
And, of course, trying more of the local foods like a Bahn Mi is always filling. But it was one of the Vietnam delicacies we still had to try, pastries originating from the French influence.
How did we choose which cafe to try some local pastries?
Well, a 5-minute downpour had us running for cover. Considering it was the first rain we had seen for 50 days, with the temperature dropping to a pleasant 28 degrees Celsius, we didn’t mind.
The local cafe displayed a yummy arrangement of small tarts and cakes. It was a difficult choice.
However, the coconut tart chosen with our coffee was so delicious. It had no hard crust; it was just one infusion of flavour.
The Patisserie was delighted with his work that we just had to try another delight.
Goodbye Hoi An Ancient Town, we will be back
Spending one month in Vietnam to explore from South to North was an awesome experience. And having six of those days in Hoi An meant we got to see more of the local area, away from the Ancient Town.
Vietnam offers you so many different experiences, from the chaotic traffic of Ho Chi Minh City to the beaches of Da Nang and Nha Trang.
Hiking through the rice fields of Sapa or cruising around the lime karsts of Halong Bay.
You can savour the flavours of wonderful dishes in restaurants, fresh markets, and even on the street.
Vietnam is a travel destination to add to your bucket list.
Related Post: Day Trips from Hoi An Ancient Town