Hoi An is definitely one of the prettiest places we’ve seen on our travels so far. The quaint yellow streets of the Old Town are lit up by silk lanterns every night, and colourful wooden boats sail along the river all day. It would have been the perfect place for us, if not for the tail-end of the Philippines typhoon hitting Vietnam and bringing torrential rainfall for the whole time we were there!
The rain didn’t spoil our stay, but it did make it a little more difficult to enjoy Hoi An. When we arrived it was literally flooded – the river had overflowed badly making it impossible to walk up some streets, and with the rain showing no sign of letting up we were worried the whole town was going to be a washout. The locals weren’t phased though – we later learned they’re used to dealing with far worse floods. One of the museums had markings on the wall to show the level that the water rose to in previous years – some of them were above my head! There are so many shops and restaurants by the river that must be devastated by the floods every year but the people seem to just get on with it.
We had one dry day out of four, which we took advantage of by renting bikes and cycling to the beach about twenty minutes outside of the town. Most hotels and hostels in Hoi An offer bike rental either for free or very cheap, we got them for $1 a day. The beach itself was nothing special, perhaps because the sky was still really overcast, but it was good to see as it was the first time we made it to a beach in two months of travelling! The ride there was the fun part as the country roads leading to the beach are really scenic, and it was cool getting to explore the Vietnamese countryside. We got to see lots of farmers and fishermen at work and even met a really friendly man riding a cow!
Hoi An’s Old Town is an Unesco listed world heritage site, and while you don’t need a ticket to wander round its cobbled streets, you do need one if you want to enter any of the museums or historical buildings located within. Honestly though this Old Town ticket is nothing to shout about – the word ‘museum’ is used pretty generously as they’re all only one or two small rooms without much really on show. There’s an old Japanese bridge which is cool, but you can basically appreciate it from the outside without your ticket anyway. You pay 120,000 Dong (about £4.20) and get five tickets, which you can use in any of the sites in the Old Town. For us it actually turned into a bit of a drag having to use them all up though as we didn’t find any of the sites particularly captivating. It got us out of the rain for a bit though!
One more thing that Hoi An is famous for is its tailors; walking around it seems like every other shop is one! You just go in, show them a photo or design of what you want made, then they take your measurements and whip it up in less than 24 hours! I think the quality of materials etc. varies between stores, but you get what you pay for and you should always get shown a range of materials first anyway. General consensus though is that they’re mostly pretty good, and Hoi An is known as the best place to get clothes made in South East Asia. I treated myself to a tailor made dress as I wanted something to take home with me, and I’m really happy with the quality of it!
If I was to summarise Hoi An in one word it would be ‘nice’ – it’s not massively exciting or crazy, but it’s a lovely place to spend a few days, particularly as other places in Vietnam can be so intense. It’s well worth a visit on anyone’s Vietnam itinerary, and it’ll be even better if you’re luckier with the weather than we were!