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Hoi An: the very best of Vietnam?

Xin chào quý khách*…. unless this is the first time you’re reading my blog or you’ve had your head buried in the sand during the last few weeks I think you’ll probably be aware that I’ve recently been to Vietnam with my family on a trip that practically took on pilgrimage proportions as JF and I returned to the country where we met more than 20 years ago.   With so much anticipation and so many emotions churning through our veins the fear was it might not live up to our expectations or the country might have changed so much that we’d feel disappointed, disoriented or deceived, but I’m delighted to report that it was a total success on all levels.  I have thousands of photos to sort through and equally as many words to process before I can really do justice to such an incredible journey but I wanted to get something down on paper sooner rather than later, and had to start somewhere, so what better than the place that stole all our hearts.  Hoi An.

Japanese covered bridge Hoi An Vietnam

Hoi An, a small city right in the centre of Vietnam, left me almost speechless!  It’s a place I didn’t really know having only visited briefly once in 1993 but I’d heard so much about.  And the reason I’m almost lost for words?  Its exquisite beauty.  And laid back ambience.  Vietnam is such a frenetic place with so much energy at times it’s exhausting, that the calm of Hoi An came as a very welcome surprise.  That’s not to say the town is sleepy, far from it, it has all the buzz of other Vietnamese cities with street sellers, markets, galleries and tailors (plenty of them) but the centre is pedestrianised which changes everything! Only having to contend with bicycles and the occasional law-breaking motorbike while moseying around made sightseeing, shopping and general exploring a real pleasure.  Add to this thousands and thousands of lanterns strung across the streets and on every beautiful traditional building and the result is something unique and very special. 

boats on river Hoi An Vietnam

Hoi An is a cultural melting pot of Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and French influences and the architecture reflects this unique history.  UNESCO designated it a World Heritage site in 1999 which has resulted in strict laws regulating the height of buildings, colour of the facades etc. While almost all buildings that aren’t pagodas house art galleries, shops and restaurants, the name signs are all low-key hand painted and sympathetically designed while the products being sold are for the most part attractive local souvenirs and lanterns.  In the old town you won’t see garish neon hoardings advertising “Made in Vietnam” knock-offs/seconds but instead every building is painted in mustard yellow and retains its traditional features.   At night when the lanterns are lit it takes on an ethereal beauty the likes of which I’ve never seen anywhere else in the world. 

nighttime Hoi An with lanterns

I’ll write about what we actually did in Hoi An in another post but for now I’ll leave you with a selection of photos that I hope give you a feel for this gorgeous, authentic, ancient riverside port.

street sellers Hoi An Vietnam

chic tourists Hoi An

There are lovely shady streets with scented flowering trees, palm trees, bougainvillea and other flowering creepers (and elegant tourists) everywhere. 

Hoi An shopping scene

flowering trees in Hoi An

ambulant café Hoi An

flowering creeper Hoi An

The town is dotted with Chinese Assembly Halls from different regions in China.

Chinese assembly hall Hoi An

chinese pagoda hoi an

Fujian assembly hall Hoi An

You can see the French influence in these elegant buildings.

French villa

Faifo coffee shop Hoi An

The night market stretches out away from the protected central zone, so you can see taller buildings here.  There are plenty of delicious street food stalls in the market.

entrance to night market Hoi An

food stalls Hoi An night market

ice cream seller Hoi An Vietnam

The choice of lanterns for sale is enormous....and if you look carefully you might even spot a marrying couple having wedding photos taken!

wedding couple in lanterns Hoi An

Inside the Chinese assembly halls and pagodas there are dragons and other mythical beasts and incense offerings for good fortune, even from foreign visitors.

chinese dragon

incense

inside chinese pagoda

lion in pagoda

The food scene in Hoi An is incredible, with everything from simple street stalls and ambulant sellers, to backpacker cafés, local joints, trendy coffee shops that wouldn't look out of place in Melbourne or London and classy restaurants with European prices.

fruit seller

café on boat Hoi An

jackfruit in Hoi An

food seller Hoi An

Hoi An roastery

street food in Hoi An Vietnam

coconut sellers Hoi An

The Thu Bon river is alive with tourist boats, traditional fishing boats and rowing boats for romantic sorties to release floating lanterns.

Hoi An river scene

river at dusk Hoi An

evening river scene Hoi An Vietnam

river Thu Bon Hoi An Vietnam

couple on river

 Night time in Hoi An really is magical.  My photos don't do it justice.

lantern seller Hoi An

model shoot Metiseko Hoi An

nuns in pagoda

lanterns Hoi An

street loto game Hoi An

The interiors of the old wooden buildings are beautiful too.  Below is the 16th century Japanese Covered Bridge (which can be seen in full in the first photo in this post and at night here).

inside Janpanese covered bridge Hoi An

internal courtyard Hoi An

inside old house Hoi An

restaurant lighting Hoi An

Hoi An is considered to have the best tailoring in Vietnam and the very best food too.  Together with all that I've shown you and tranquil streets like these below where you can explore until you are happily lost, is it any wonder I think it might just be the best place in Vietnam?  

getting lost in Hoi An

street Hoi An

old rickshaw Hoi An Vietnam

This is as busy as we saw the old centre of Hoi An.  

busy Hoi An street

What do you think?  Have you been to Hoi An?  Would you like to go?

* welcome honoured guests!

 

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Hoi An the best of Vietnam

 

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Comments

  • Guest
    SamanthaF Wednesday, 26 July 2017

    Hello! Where you in Hoi An in October or November? I have a trip planned for mid-November and I am so afraid now from everything I have read about the floods. This is the first blog I stumbled across that still had a good time during those months... thanks!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 04 August 2017

    Yes we were there in late October and there were rainy downpours every day but it didn't ruin our time. It's definitely not the best season to visit the centre of Vietnam but it's IS the best time for the north and that was our main focus. Being a long north south country it's hard to have good weather all over the country at any one time. I hope you have a great trip!

  • Guest
    Corey with fifi + hop Friday, 25 November 2016

    What a beautiful city - so alive, lush and colorful. Love the night photos - indeed magical. Cannot believe I've never been to Vietnam - some day! #mondayescapes

  • Guest
    eileen g Monday, 21 November 2016

    I really loved Hoi An, for many of the reasons you say -- the laid back vibe, a chance to catch your breath after the bigger cities, the shopping and eating and general ambience. We took a great cooking class there and of course had some clothes made (though one child late, they no longer fit) and bought some of those lanterns. Thanks for reminding me of my own wonderful visit there. #wkendtravelinspiration

  • Guest
    Jim ~ ReflectionsEnroute Sunday, 20 November 2016

    Hoi an is a beautiful city and should definitely be on every Vietnam visitor's itinerary. I love your awesome photos! Thanks for joining us at Weekend Travel Inspiration! #wkendtravelinspiration

  • Guest
    Rhonda Albom Sunday, 20 November 2016

    Stunning photos. I especially like the pictures of the lanterns, specifically the one with the wedding couple beneath it.

  • Guest
    Lolo Saturday, 19 November 2016

    Oh wow! I think I've just fallen a bit more in love with Vietnam! But not gonna lie, I'd totally go just for the beautiful lanterns! haha #wkendtravelinspiration

  • Guest
    Lyn - A Hole in my Shoe Saturday, 19 November 2016

    Your photos are stunning and capture the essence of Hoi An and your love of this area beautifully. I can imagine the anticipation of returning to Vietnam after 20 years and the expectations you would have of the place. What fun it would also be on your return to go through the thousands of photos, if these wonderful shots are just a sample. So glad you were not disappointed on your return and I look forward to reading more from you of this area... and of course travelling back to this area again myself.

  • Guest
    Fiona Coombe Mill Thursday, 17 November 2016

    What an amazing place to visit Phoebe, thank you for sharing all your photos, it may be the closest I get to going, but really shows the difference in culture and food from here. #MondayEscapes

  • Guest
    MTM Wednesday, 16 November 2016

    So lovely seeing this post. Hoi Ann was my most favourite place when I was in Vietnam. I agree, the floating candles at night are so magical. #CityTripping

  • Lisa Travel Loving famly
    Lisa Travel Loving famly Tuesday, 15 November 2016

    Oh wow no wonder you fell in love with Hoi An! I could just wander around for days taking photos;) I particularly love your river side images and the markets. I would love to return to Vietnam, I have only spent a couple of days there during a world cruise but I would love to return to really explore. Thanks for linking up to #MondayEscapes

  • Guest
    http://Wilbur Tuesday, 15 November 2016

    Fantastic photos Lou and glad you had such a fab trip. I visited Hoi Ann in '99 during the worst ever floods in the country so my memories are a little different to yours. I have a few soggy pics on my site somewhere, sadly nowhere near as bright and lively as yours! I look forward to reading more of your Vietnam posts, a country I would love to visit again. Wilbur

  • Guest
    Notmyyearoff Tuesday, 15 November 2016

    It looks such an absolutely stunning place and those lanterns look amazing at night time. You saw so much!! I'll be looking out for your next post on it :)

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 15 November 2016

    Yes, we fitted in quite a lot to our 16 days....but there's so much more to go back for again!

  • Guest
    Rosie @Eco-Gites of Lenault Tuesday, 15 November 2016

    No cars - that sounds like my kind of a city and Hoi An looks absolutely delightful. I am so glad your trip was everything and more than than you had hoped for!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 15 November 2016

    No cars particularly in Vietnam is more wonderful than you can imagine Rosie, but also no motorbikes and that's even better!!

  • Guest
    Kendra Tuesday, 15 November 2016

    Oh, I can't wait to go to Vietnam one day! Just out of curiosity - are there any remains of French colonization there? Would speaking French help at all language wise there?

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 15 November 2016

    French is spoken more than in most other countries in Asia, but realistically English has taken over by a long way. Older people sometimes speak it, those over 70-80 years old. Other than that the old architecture is heavily influenced by France, some of the food and the bureaucracy!

  • Guest
    annette charlton Tuesday, 15 November 2016

    Your fab pics certainly make me feel like I'm there. I agree returning to a location that holds significant emotional value, after many years, can be tricky. The need for it not to disappoint is very strong. I am very happy for you Vietnam did not disappoint and you particularly enjoyed Hoi An. #AllAboutFrance

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 15 November 2016

    Thanks Annette :)

  • Guest
    Sarah Christie Monday, 14 November 2016

    Oh wow it looks incredible, I so want to go such gorgeous pictures I would be the same constantly snapping x

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 15 November 2016

    That's me, constant snapping!

  • Guest
    Elizabeth (Wander Mum) Sunday, 13 November 2016

    Wow, wow, wow. Incredible photos Phoebe. I'm so glad Vietnam wasn't a disappointment and Hoi An looks utterly magical. We were all booked to go a couple of years ago but had to cancel after my husband got ill. We were due to spent almost a week in and around Hoi An. This has proved that we must rebook the trip! Thanks for linking #citytripping

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 13 November 2016

    Thanks Elizabeth! What a pity you had to cancel your trip but now that your husband is better I really hope you can try again as you'll love it and it's very kid friendly.

  • Guest
    Ahila Saturday, 12 November 2016

    I had wanted to visit Hoi An during my trip to Vietnam but had to skip it due to lack of time. So, I enjoyed your photo tour of the lovely old city, especially the photos of the colourful lanterns.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 13 November 2016

    I'm glad you enjoyed my photos Ahila.

  • Guest
    http://Cathy (Mummytravels) Friday, 11 November 2016

    Vietnam is somewhere that's definitely on my bucket list and everything I read about Hoi An in particular tempts me more. One day... Hopefully one day soon. Thanks for the added temptation and for linking up with #citytripping

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 13 November 2016

    I'm sure you'd love Vietnam Cathy, I hope you get there soon.

  • Guest
    Christine @afamilyday Friday, 11 November 2016

    I've been to Thailand and Malaysia but never made it quite as far as Vietnam. Having seen your photos above we missed out on so much! I'm glad the revisit lived up to your expectations, my partner and I met whilst we were both working in Greece but we've never been back to the island since. #Farawayfiles

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 13 November 2016

    I wonder if you'll go back to your Greek island one day? It's a very emotional trip to take.

  • Guest
    Courtney @ Adelante Friday, 11 November 2016

    The more I read about Hoi An, the more I NEED to go! I'm going to Hanoi in April, and I'm really hoping I can make a stop in Hoi An as well. Your post has further convinced me :)

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 11 November 2016

    Hi Courtney, we flew down from Hanoi to Hoi An, very cheaply on VietJet, under 100 USD for 4 of us. (We took the 17 hour train journey back up for the experience NOT the convenience or price! It cost a lot more than flying). I would really try and fit in a trip to Hoi An, it's a wonderful contrast to Hanoi (which is fabulous too and I'll be writing about it soon).

  • Oregon Girl Around the World
    Oregon Girl Around the World Thursday, 10 November 2016

    Gasp. Sigh. WOW. That is so gorgeous. The lanterns everywhere and colors and foods and people - I loved it. Want to go tomorrow! Can't wait to hear more details. A perfect post for #FarawayFiles - thanks for sharing one of your favorite corners of the world! Cheers from Copenhagen, Erin

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 11 November 2016

    Thanks Erin, I'm so happy it made you feel like that because that's how I felt!

  • Guest
    Angie (FeetDoTravel) Thursday, 10 November 2016

    How fabulous that you visited Hao An after so many years and you still felt the same! We plan to visit next year so I was keen to read more and what a stunning place it looks! I have heard over and over again about the amazing food and I can tell from some of your photos that there is so much history and culture, I can't wait to see it for myself. Thank you for sharing all this information. #farawayfiles

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 11 November 2016

    Oh I'm jealous of you going next year, I want to go back NOW!

  • Guest
    Susie Kelly Thursday, 10 November 2016

    Lucky you. What a beautiful place. Thanks for sharing your visit. No. 1 on my bucket list. :)

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 11 November 2016

    I hope you get there Susie, you couldn't help but be charmed.

  • Guest
    Katy Thursday, 10 November 2016

    Hoi An is a very special place. Your beautiful photos brought back some wonderful memories for me Phoebe. I loved Vietnam, it's beautiful people, interesting culture and delicious food. I think it all comes together in one neat package in Hoi An. Thanks so much for sharing with us on #FarawayFiles

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 11 November 2016

    I'm glad I brought back good memories for you Katy, when did you visit?

  • Guest
    Bumble Bee Mum Thursday, 10 November 2016

    What an interesting mix of cultures! Your gorgeous photos made me want to book a ticket to Vietnam right now. #CityTripping #FarawayFiles

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 10 November 2016

    It's a fascinating place, that unusual mix of cultures produces something very unique. Happy you liked my photos.

  • Guest
    Bailey Wednesday, 09 November 2016

    Amazing. It all looks really magical. Thank you for sharing your great photos.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 10 November 2016

    Thanks Bailey!

  • Guest
    Tracy McConnachie Collins Wednesday, 09 November 2016

    We are planning a trip to south east Asia next year so this is a perfect post! Looks like I cannot miss out Hoi An! It looks so beautiful! Thanks for sharing - loved the photographs too #citytripping

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 10 November 2016

    Don't miss Hoi An, you can't help but be charmed by it.

  • Guest
    Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles) Wednesday, 09 November 2016

    I was already keen to visit Vietnam before I read this - now I'm positively desperate! Thanks for this great tour, Phoebe. Love your photos. #citytripping

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 10 November 2016

    Clare, GO! You'll love it!

  • Guest
    Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles) Thursday, 10 November 2016

    I know! It has my name written all over it... Knew this would be the perfect post for #FarawayFiles

  • Guest
    Ruth Wednesday, 09 November 2016

    I have wanted to visit Vietnam for a long time. Therefore, I enjoy each of your photos. I have heard a lot of good things about Hoi An. That is why I am very interested in visiting Central Vietnam (and not concentrate on the big cities on the north and south). #citytripping

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 10 November 2016

    Hanoi is wonderful too, but I have to admit to not loving Saigon.

  • Guest
    Stephanie Tuesday, 08 November 2016

    Your Hoi An pics are wonderful! They make me 1) wish I'd bought home souvenir lanterns and 2) REEEAALLLY hungry! :D

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 10 November 2016

    Thanks Stephanie! :)

  • Guest
    Tanja/The Red Phone Box travels Tuesday, 08 November 2016

    it seems to be such an interesting and lovely place! #citytripping

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 10 November 2016

    It really is Tanja!

  • Guest
    Christine Tuesday, 08 November 2016

    Beautiful, evocative words and pics. I want to go -I know I would love it!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 10 November 2016

    I know you would too Christine! Hoi An is bursting with cooking classes too which you'd love.

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