Hoi An Overview
- History-steeped harbour town
- City life
- Sailors and tailors
Hoi An will charm your pants off, but that’s fine – this is the tailoring capital of Vietnam, so it’s easy to find another pair.
Nose around 19th-century merchant houses, explore temples or just browse the cafés and galleries of this river-straddling former trading port. It’s a small coastal city to be savoured, slowly. Just beyond town is China Beach, one of the most alluring stretches of sand in the country, hugging the coast all the way to Danang. Culture cravers won’t be disappointed either, as the hinterland cradles the vestiges of an older empire, including the Cham temples of My Son. Add to the mix diving around the Cu Lao Cham Marine Park and the excuse to replace your wardrobe for a steal and you’ll find Hoi An is the real deal.
Highly Hoi An
Hoi An is the best preserved ancient town in Vietnam and is a Unesco World Heritage site. Several historic houses are open to visitors and offer a time capsule of life in the 19th century. Tan Ky House is still occupied by the Tans (either the fifth or seventh generation – no one seems entirely sure) and was built by their Vietnamese merchant ancestor. The architecture blends Chinese and Japanese influences, and the rooms are packed with interesting antiques.
- There are several metered taxi firms in Hoi An and it costs about US$6 to travel to the beach resorts. Xe oms (motorbike taxis) also patrol the streets, but prices are not fixed. A taxi from Danang to Hoi An will set you back about US$15.
- Tipping culture
- Tipping is a relatively new phenomenon in Vietnam, thanks to the arrival of mass tourism. Go with the flow and consider leaving about 10 per cent extra, depending on the standard of service.
- Siesta and fiesta
- The Vietnamese observe a siesta during lunch, so banks and businesses tend to trade 8am to 11.30am and 1pm to 4pm, as well as on Saturday mornings. Shops keep longer hours and will usually open 8am to 8pm. Restaurants serve up until about 10pm and a few bars rumble on after midnight.
- Packing tips
- Everyone has that favourite item of clothing they just can’t bear to part with but, try as they might, can’t replace either. Now you can: bring along your desert-island dresses and dinner suits and the legendary tailors of Hoi An will whip up a copy for you. This is not bodged ‘Kevin Clein’, Bangkok-style, but a bespoke copy, uniquely crafted.
- Recommended reads
- The Quiet American by Graham Greene captures the flavour of 1950s Vietnam before the American armada arrived. Greene lived his books as much as wrote them, blending journalistic experience with fiction. The 2002 film starring Michael Caine is also a must, as much of it was filmed in the alleys of Hoi An.
- The city has its own speciality in the shape of cao lau, short noodles with bean sprouts, croutons, greens and pork. It is said to be best prepared with water from the Ba Le Well in the centre of town, but most eateries have adopted purified water as a wholesome alternative. Another favourite is white rose, a steamed dish of prawns in rice paper. Sample local dishes in the restaurants along Bach Dang or Nguyen Thai Hoc streets.
- Vietnamese dong (d) or US dollar.
- Time zone
- GMT +7 hours.
- Dialling codes
- Country code for Vietnam: +84; Hoi An: (0)510.
- Do go/don't go
- April and May are ideal for hitting Hoi An, with China Beach’s seas at their calmest from May to July. Despite its location in the tropics, Hoi An experiences a wet winter monsoon (October to March), when it can be cool at night; the summer monsoon (April to September) brings hot but breezy weather. In October and November typhoons can slam into the coast; the city floods and the only way to get around is by boat.
Don't go home without...
… catching sunrise or sunset at the ruins of My Son, a striking jungle-set temple complex 55km inland from Hoi An. Once the heart of the ancient Champa kingdom, it’s like a mini Angkor or Bagan.