Hoi An (The Old Town) is a historic little town full of beautiful architecture within a romantic riverside setting. There are endless food options and various opportunities to embrace the culture. Hoi An was one of my favorite places in Vietnam. It’s charm will suck you in. You could easily spend a few days here exploring all that this place has to offer! And if you make it there on the 14th day of each lunar month, you will be amazed by all of the colorful lanterns that replace the boring old electrical street lights!
We got to Hoi An by taking an overnight train from Nha Trang to Da Nang. After arriving in Da Nang in the morning, our previously arranged driver picked us up and brought us to our hotel in Hoi An (45 minute drive, costing us $17).
This overnight night train ended up costing $39 for a hard sleeper. After experiencing both a hard sleeper and soft sleeper (more expensive option), the only real difference we noticed was the hard sleeper had 3 levels of beds with 6 in the cabin total, while the soft sleeper only had 2 levels with room for 4 people. Sleeping on a train is not nearly as glamorous as some might think, especially in Vietnam! The ride is rickety at best…expect to be violently rocked to sleep. If you wake up hungry, go in search of the dining car…and let me know if you ever find it. The only options are very low quality cart food…don’t bother. The biggest let down of all were the toilets…just pray to god that you don’t have to use them! Saying all of that, I really didn’t mind sleeping on a train. I popped a sleeping pill and was out like a baby…sleeping pills are extremely handy to have in these types of situations :) All in all, I would definitely recommend sleeping trains to cover both your travel and accommodation requirements all in one cheap package.
Where to stay:
I cannot make a recommendation this for this area, as the place we stayed was adequate but nothing extraordinary. I will say that there are countless options, whether you are looking to stay in the city center, on the river walk, out in the country, or by the beach. Some accommodation starts as low as $9 a night so this a place for any budget!
What to do:
Tra Que Water Wheel Cooking Class: I LOVED taking this class. Someone came and picked us up from our hotel on a bicycle (with bicycles provided for us). We were then taken to the local market to pick up supplies for the day ahead. Our guide then lead us out of the main town center into the beautiful countryside. The setting of the actual class was in a farmer’s village amongst huge vegetable gardens that I will forever be jealous of! We could taste the freshness of the ingredients used in our cooking…it was sooo good! There were other people taking a class in another area, but Dan and I had our own teacher to ourselves…so romantic! I know that this particular establishment focuses on providing small classes, so that you get a very personal experience. We were sent home with a full belly and a cook book of all the recipes we learned that day. AND we got to keep our bikes to get back, so we spent the rest of the day exploring the countryside. Awesome experience…definitely recommend!
Rent a Bike: This is seriously the best option for exploring different parts of town. Pay for a bike tour or just wander out on your own to see the countryside full of rice fields and community gardens. It’s really quite a site to see!
Beach: There is a beach that is accessible by bike or vehicle. Even though it was beautiful, we didn’t spend much time at the beach here. There was just so much to do and not enough time!
Walk along the River Walk: There is a Japanese Covered Bridge that you must check out on your way to the River Walk. For a very small price, you can purchase floating tea lights from the cutest little ladies (in front of the bridge along the river). This place truly comes alive at night…with hanging paper lanterns and tea lights floating down the river, it truly is an amazing area.
Get Clothing Made: This town is tailor heaven. Have you ever dreamed of having a wardrobe made specifically for you?? This place is for you! Sounds great right? Well the outcome can be great, but I found that the process to get what you want can be extremely frustrating. There are endless options for tailors, but I used the services of 2:
Shop Than Thien Tailor: I decided to have 2 dresses and a pair of shorts made by this tailor because they were offering me a good deal. Well lessoned learned…you get what you pay for! I paid $20 and have worn only one of the dresses. The quality just sucks and so I threw away the other 2 items. I didn’t even try to argue with the lady about the clothing, because it just wasn’t worth my time. Avoid this Tailor.
Suite Bao Khanh Tailor: At this tailor shop I ordered a bridesmaid dress that I had designed and Dan got a custom made 3-piece suite for my friend’s wedding. I thought both were great quality for the total price of $325 ($200 for suite with shirt & tie, $125 for dress). At one point I did have an altercation with the tailors because they made the wrong dress and wanted to charge me for a new one; but I stood my ground and they eventually agreed to not charge me for their mistake. Unfortunately, there will always be people trying to capitalize on you being a tourists in a foreign countries. Just be aware of this and make sure you don’t let them take advantage. Having clothes personally made for us was not nearly as glamorous as I hoped it would be. It’s quite the hassle dealing with the tailors and getting what you want. However, I was happy with the end result and can’t help but recommend having something special made just for you! It’s part of the experience!