Lantern making in Hoi An Vietnam

Vietnam is a country of cultural vibrance: the locals are warm and welcoming, the food is delicious, and there are many old pagodas, temples and architecture from different epochs to visit. One city in particular shows the intertwining of old and new in Vietnam: Hoi An. The city of Hoi An is located in the Quang Nam province, in the Central region of Vietnam. Its name means “a peaceful meeting place” which feels ironic, considering that Hoi An has been a busy and bustling place for hundreds of years. And in fact,  this hasn’t changed during the last years. Hoi An is a top destination for most people travelling through Vietnam. Especially the local tourisme has grown steadily and due to some visa facilitation many tourists from China come to admire the small colorful city which has been on their radar for quite a while. But also Instagram has made it happen, that today Hoi An is a very popular tourist attraction. Personally, I felt a bit like in Disneyland when I was strolling along the colorful bright houses and Chinese temples in the old town. But when the sun goes down and all the lanterns illuminate the city, you will certainly succumb to the charm of Hoi An.

And by the way, the old town is car free which makes it easier to walk around with kids.

Hoi An’s architecture is unparalleled to anywhere else in Vietnam. Due to its seaside location, it has been influenced by Chinese, Japanese, and local cultures and has rightly been named an UNESCO site in 1999. The Japanese Covered Bridge is one of the most emblematic and oldest sights in Hoi An, situated in the Old Town. It was built in the 16th century and has remained intact until today. Discovering the Old Town really feels like stepping back in time. This part of the city is where most of the history is preserved to the fullest. Wander along the streets and witness merchants in their element selling everything from fruits, clothes, bags and all kind of souvenirs. Hoi An is real paradise when you love shopping. It is famous for its custom tailored clothes. But be aware, the quality and fit can be missed if you don’t have a minimum knowledge about cloth making. I suggest to bring your favorite garment so they can copy it in the fabric and color you chose (Vietnam is know for its silk production). It takes about 1 – 2 day.  A good address is LeLe cloth Shop

You can also find a wide range of weaved straw bag, silk scarfs, or nice handmade toys for your kids. We have added our favorite shop addresses in the map below.

The city is constantly alive and full of activities to try out. Hoi An has a vibrant gastronomic scene, the food is delicious and always freshly made. You eat local food at the Night Market or in one of over 600 restaurants in the city.

WHERE TO EAT IN HOI AN

THE LITTLE MENU

12 Le Loi Str., Hoi An, Vietnam

This restaurant is housed in a beautiful 100 year old house. It’s the perfect address when you are looking for a nice restaurant serving traditional food at a fair price.

CÔ MAI

2 Nguyen Thai Hoc Str., Hoi An Ancient City

The renowned french chef Didier Corlou has traveled around the world and cooked for presidents and stars. Now he cooks in his own restaurant in a beautiful ancient house in the center of Hoi An and proposes a traditional Vietnamese cuisine using fresh products from the local market.

NU EATERY

10A Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai| Hoi An

The chef Phuc Ngo has lived in New York before returning to Vietnam in 2014 to open Nu Eatery. Obviously, he likes to add some western touch to his traditional Vietnamese cuisine.

PHI BANH MI 

This is a great place to eat excellent Banh mi.

Learn to cook White Roses | One of Hoi An’s delicious speciality 

But why just try Vietnamese cuisine when you can learn how to make it? We took a cooking class together with our kids at The Gioan Cookery which we can highly recommend. They have a large choice of menus to chose from which are visible on the website. We learned how to cook Bún thịt nướng (Noodles with grilled pork) and the famous White Rose (one of Hoi An’s specialities). The cooking class starts with a tour on the local market where our teacher Vi Na (who is not only a very good cook but also an incredible funny person) explains you all the different local fruits, vegetables and spices. Back at the school, you start cooking with a step by step guidance from your teacher and finish by tasting your own delicious meal.

Cruise through the rice fields outside Hoi An

Hoi An is a small city and in one full day you have seen the principal sights. But there are many places to visit outside Hoi An, which makes it worth to stay a couple of days longer. One of the great things to do is renting bikes and ride along the rice fields outside the city. You’ll come across rice paddy fields, a few water buffalo, and if you are motivated you can even ride to the beach. Most of the hotels or homestays provide bicycles free of charge. You can also rent children seats.

Start the journey by heading down Cua Dai Road towards the Cua Dai beach. Then you can take one of the small paths on the left side to enter to the villages. (Tip: we bought a SIM Card from Viettel. So you can use Google Maps and localize our way). There are quite a lot dead ends, but just turn around and try a different way to find the path along the rice fields.  You will then cross a tiny bridge and can head straight to the beach of An Bang.

You can’t really get lost as it is not that big.  If you are not comfortable to go by your own, you can book a bike tour through a local tour operator (it’s about 3-4 hours/tour).

Depending the season you visit, it can get really hot and we don’t recommended a bike tour for smaller kids during the hot season.

A day at the beach!

This might be a good day to pack a lunch and enjoy it at An Bang Beach,  Hoi An’s most popular beach. It is about an hour to go by bike or you can just grab a taxi which takes you there in 10 minutes from the Hoi An’s centre. The An Bang beach can get very crowded, especially on week-ends. So better be there early or just walk a bit down to the Hidden Beach. You can rent chairs and umbrellas and restaurants can be found all along the beach. Personally, I don’t find it the most beautiful beach but it is worth a visit for a couple of hours. Your kids will be happy to jump into the cool water, building  sand castles and enjoy the a day at the beach. And you can put your feet in the water, relax and enjoy the nice coastline of Hoi An.

Lanterns all over Hoi An

Hoi an Lantern Festival or also called Hoi An Full Moon festival is a nice traditional event in Hoi An. During the night of the event, all the electric lights in the old town are turned off. The rivers and the streets take on a magical aura as thousands of lanterns and candles flicker through the darkness. The festival is a time to pay tribute to one’s ancestors with offerings of fruit, flowers and burning incense at alters. Monks will hold candlelit ceremonies in the various pagodas which are free to visit.

Many people release lanterns into the river in hope it brings them happiness, luck and prosperity. We were literally surrounded with hundreds of lanterns floating up the river.

If you have the possibility, you should plan your trip to Hoi An during the Full Moon Festival. It takes place a day before the full moon, which is the 14th day of any lunar month.

Another great way to learn more about the Hoi An’s tradition, art and craft is to participate in a Lantern Making Class. My kids and I took a class at the Hoi An Handicraft Tours. In two hours you learn how the structure is made (already done for you). Then you can chose your material, build and decorate your own lantern. We had a great time and can only recommend it.

Another day trip from Hoi An that we can highly recommend is the visit of Marble Mountains. We have written a separated article on this trip. Read more about it here.

WHERE TO STAY IN HOI AN

If you prefer to stay a couple of days at the beach in a more luxury surrounding than we can recommend the Victoria Resort, overlooking the Cua Dai Beach. They offer many different sports activities and can organize a day trips to almost all different sights in the region.

SILK SENS RESORT ★★★★

Khu dân cư Tân Thịnh, Hội An

 

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A charming boutique hotel in the centre of Hoi An. Rich with art and local culture, the hotel also hosts a large library of books. The hotel has a swimming pool on the roof and a beautiful garden.

ALLEGRA HOI AN ★★★★★

86 Tran Hung Dao, Cam Pho, Hội An

 

 

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