7 Special Things: HOI AN
Updated: Jan 21, 2020
Hoi An may very well be the most charming town in Vietnam, if not the most fragrant. It's well-preserved historic center is filled with gorgeous yellow and blue buildings, and it's proximity to the beaches and ruins of My Son makes Hoi An an attractive break between the clustered chaos of old town Hanoi and the sprawling sophistication of Saigon. Plus, every street corner seemingly has a bundle of the most aromatic incense burning. The city is a sensory delight.
Architecture : Hoi An is chock full of picturesque houses, temples, and cafes that are Japanese or Chinese in origin, flavored with elements from the French Colonial period. Most are painted similar hues of yellow, and throughout the years have acquired a lovely patina due to age and the elements. Due to its loss of trading route importance during the 17th century Hoi An has mostly avoided devastation and the hectic rebuilding that is a result of war, so the overall presentation of the town reads as cohesive.
Tailor Made : Probably the number one tourist attraction, Hoi An has a plethora of skilled seamstresses able to whip up a garment to your specifications within 24-48 hours for very cheap. Whether you want a motorcycle jacket or a wedding dress, they will do it all. Do your research beforehand, with so many options there are bound to be a few with shoddy craftsmanship. Kimmy Custom Tailor is one of the best known and more popular outfits (Pun intended) in town. Yaly Couture is another option should you want more high end pieces recreated. I recommend arranging for your tailor-made item your first priority when arriving in Hoi An, so there are plenty opportunities for multiple fittings to ensure your garment fits your specification.
Foods : Hoi An takes its food seriously, many restaurants there serve regional specialties such as Cau Lao, a dense noodle dish traditionally served with pork and greens whose unique taste is due to the ash water derived from a particular tree on nearby Cham Island. Another speciality, Star Dumplings, are light and airy shrimp filled confections that are steamed and served with a delightful dipping sauce. The town also offers various cooking classes tailored to your level of commitment. From 3 hours held above a restaurant, to an all day affair that includes a early morning fishing trip, forays to the farm to forage your produce, and of course finally eating your diligent efforts. Recommendations include the Green Lotus Cooking School and Morning Glory Cooking School. Finally, the Central Food Market is an intoxicating blend of smells and sights, and a great place to capture a slice of Vietnam life on the daily It's also a great place to pick up fresh foods for self catering as an alternative to dining out.
River Vibes : People watching on the river at sunset is a must do when in Hoi An. Lovers canoodle, children frolic, lanterns glow. The yellow hued buildings are eerily lit, a glass of wine at a riverside cafe. Such a particular moment in time. Plus the engagingly decorated boats are ideal for a multitude of photo ops.
Sights : While Hoi An isn't particularly known for its ruins or monuments, there are still quirky and exciting things for one to see. Crossing the Japanese Covered Bridge is a rite of passage in Hoi An, built in the 17th century to unite the Japanese and Chinese expat communities. Also enjoyable are the Chinese All- Community Hall, which beautiful restored main temple brings to life all your fantasies about fire breathing dragons and unforgiving gods surrounded by red lacquer. Feel free to leave a quirky tribute, or a more reverent offering to the deity of your choice. Other options for touristy endeavors are the Quan Cong Temple, built 300 years ago as an homage to the Chin dynasty, and perusing the various ancient mansions that have opened up for the public as converted specialty museums.
Lanterns and incense : A festive souvenir that you should purchase, if you can't bring home a fully tailored outfit. Across the The Bon river are stalls of beautiful lanterns in an array of shapes. While at first glance the stores all seem to stock the same patterns, I suggest digging deeper to find unique designs. As for incense, the particular smell that is native to the city is sold everywhere.
Beaches : A mere 45 mins away will take yu to the coastal beaches of Cua Dai and Ah Dang. Cua Dai is the closer of the two so pretty bustle and has been victim of commercial tourism and rebuffing, and unfortunately much of the beach was eroded by floods and Mother Nature . An Dang is the more chilled out yet international portion of the beach, only 3km away from Cua Dai so an easy walk from one beach to the other. The scene at Soul Kitchen is poppin' off, be sure to grab a burger and sip a tropical beverage here.