I was debating whether to cut out a stop in Central Vietnam and just go South to where there was warm weather and much to see. A cheap flight convinced me that we should take a few days to see what Hoi An was all about. We spent four days in Hoi An and I was happy to have not missed it as it is one of the prettiest cities we have been to in our travels.
Along with being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city has received many impressive accolades:
- Top 10 attractive cities in Asia – Conde Nast Traveler
- Top 10 best cities in Asia – Smart Travel Asia
- The world’s most attractive tourist destination – USTOA
- Top 100 historic places in the world – National Geographic Travel
Flowers markets lined the street for several blocks as we walked towards Old Town. Shoppers poked along on their motorbikes from one stall to the next looking for the best blooms to purchase and adorn their home for Tet. We were in disbelief at a number of plants and trees they had to select from.
Old Town Hoi An did not disappoint. The riverfront was a tapestry of colorful boats, floating lanterns and illuminated Tet decorations. As we strolled leisurely through the lantern-lined streets there was a laid back vibe, a nice break from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi.
We picked one of many restaurants lining the quaint streets of Old Town to sample some classic Vietnamese dishes like Hoi An’s signature dish, Cao Lau. Cao Lau is made with water from an ancient well in Hoi An, for this reason, the dish is not available anywhere else in the country. It is a delicious symphony of a broth, noodles, bean sprouts, pork, and herbs. We also enjoyed Bahn Xeo, a thin savory rice flour pancake filled with meat, herbs, and sprouts and rolled in rice paper before eating.
If you have heard of Hoi An you will undoubtedly know that it is famous for tailors. Tailor shops can make custom garments with just a one day turn around and we saw many tourists with garment bags in tow. Room in our backpacks is reaching its limit and I felt it a bit snobbish to employ a tailor to craft me new pajama pants, so we took a pass.
The one downside of Hoi An is that street touts were quite prevalent due to the town being such a tourist attraction. As we crossed over the bridge we’d say “NO” to one person only to have another one appear asking if we wanted to buy postcards, boat rides, lanterns, etc. While it is to be expected, it gets a bit aggravating when trying to take in the riverfront scenery.
We didn’t do much else in Hoi An except poke around town each evening taking in the atmosphere and beauty of the town. If warmer weather prevailed we would have been able to visit the beach, but a cold wind made a bike ride there unthinkable. Some restaurants were starting to close for the holiday and we were happy we planned to be in more happening Ho Chi Minh City for Tet.