The ancient trading port of Hoi An is utterly charming and its old town embodies traditional Vietnamese culture, as for the most part, it’s remained unchanged for centuries. In 1999, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the pretty port is the perfect place to spend a few days mooching around – which is exactly what I did.
One of the town’s most notable sights is the Japanese Covered Bridge (above) in the old quarter near to the Thu Bon River. The beautifully ornate bridge was built by members of the town’s Japanese community in 1593 and connects the old quarter with the Chinese quarter. During my visit, the bridge was heaving with tourists, but the hordes of people couldn’t detract from how pretty it is.
One of my favourite things about Hoi An was the colourful handmade lanterns hanging in the old quarter. The lanterns were delightful by day, but by night, when they were all lit up, they were simply spectacular. The town hosts regular lantern festivals throughout the year. Sadly, there wasn’t one taking place while I was there, but I should imagine it’s a magical sight.
If you like shopping, Hoi An’s the place for you as the old quarter is teaming with shops selling all sorts of goods, from stationery to scarves, and crockery to clothing. I spent hours looking around the shops.
The town is also the place to go if you’re in the market for some bespoke clothing. There are a number of tailors in Hoi An and I had some trousers and a dress made at Yaly Couture, which has two branches in the old quarter.
I went in, chose a pattern and the fabric, then had a number of fittings over the course of the next few days. It was really affordable, especially for clothing that is made to measure and fits perfectly, and definitely worth doing if you’re in Hoi An. It was also great fun watching everyone else having their clothes made and seeing how different everyone’s tastes were.
As I spent my days wandering around Hoi An, I found myself stumbling across some interesting sights. On my first day in the town, I came across a film crew filming an action sequence next to the covered market.
I joined the crowds for a bit to watch the filming as whatever they were filming looked very dramatic. The guy pictured above seemed to be the star of the film – so if anyone knows who he is, let me know in the comments!
Hoi An is situated around the Thu Bon River, so there are lots of people offering boat rides. On our second morning in the town, we decided to take one of the guys up on his offer and spent an hour or so touring the river. We sailed past lots of fields and other boats, and it was an enjoyable, relaxing experience.
About halfway into the journey, a couple of people fishing began putting on a display for us with their nets, before one of the fishermen clambered onto our boat and beckoned me to have a go. Now, I was aware before I said yes, that this was probably an arrangement between our boat driver and the fisherman, but I’d never tried fishing before so I decided to give it go.
When the fishermen put on their display, it looked really easy and quite spectacular. It turned out to be much harder than it looked, and my net went a pitifully short distance when I attempted to throw it. It’s safe to say I won’t make much of a fisherman, but I had fun and it was good to try my hand at a new skill.
Cua Dai Beach
Just outside Hoi An is Cua Dai Beach, a popular beach resort on the South China Sea. We decided to spend an afternoon there, and it was really easy to get to, if a little monotonous as we just walked down Cua Dai Road for an hour or so past a never-ending series of fields until we eventually came to the resort (we got a taxi back to our hotel).
The beach is a long sandy stretch of coast that carries on as far as the eye can see. On the day we went, the sea was really choppy so unfortunately swimming was forbidden, but undeterred I had a refreshing waist-high paddle in the water. We spent a relaxing afternoon on the beach chilling out, reading and watching the world go by. There were also lots of teeny little crabs on the beach that kept us amused.