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* <eat name="Morning Glory" address="" phone="" price="Dinner and a drink cost about 80,000 VND per person"> Choose from a variety of local dishes, and be sure to experiment, because everything is truly excellent. The staff speak good English, the place is beautifully decorated, and the food will have you coming back for more. (And if you ''really'' enjoy the food, ask about their cooking classes.) While there are cheaper places to eat in Hoi An, this one is by no means expensive, especially considering how good the food is. Most main courses are between 40000 and 70000 VND.</eat>
 
* <eat name="Morning Glory" address="" phone="" price="Dinner and a drink cost about 80,000 VND per person"> Choose from a variety of local dishes, and be sure to experiment, because everything is truly excellent. The staff speak good English, the place is beautifully decorated, and the food will have you coming back for more. (And if you ''really'' enjoy the food, ask about their cooking classes.) While there are cheaper places to eat in Hoi An, this one is by no means expensive, especially considering how good the food is. Most main courses are between 40000 and 70000 VND.</eat>
 +
 +
* <eat name="Sakura" price="Dinner and a drink cost about 120,000 VND per person">Avoid this place, except perhaps to enjoy a drink on their lovely waterfront terrace. The food is substandard for Hoi An, quite expensive and comes in '''tiny''' portions. While the location and wonderful decor look inviting, and it is one of the first places you will come across, you'll be better off visiting the nearby ''Morning Glory'' (see review above) if you're looking for a nice dinner.</eat>
  
 
===Splurge===
 
===Splurge===

Revision as of 13:32, 18 September 2007

Chinese meeting hall in Hoi An

Hoi An (Hội An) [1] is a beautiful city in Vietnam, just south of Da Nang. The Old Town of Hoi An is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Contents

Understand

Hoi An riverside, seen from Cam Nam

Hoi An, once known as Faifo, was a major international port in the 16th and 17th centuries, and the foreign influences are discernible to this day. While the serious shipping business has long since moved to Danang, the heart of the city is still the Old Town, full of winding lanes and Chinese-styled shophouses, which is particularly atmospheric in the evening as the sun goes down. While almost all shops now cater to the tourist trade, the area has been largely preserved as is, which is unusual in Vietnam, and renovation has proceeded slowly and carefully - it's mercifully absent of towering concrete blocks and karaoke parlors.

The main thoroughfare in the Old Town is Tran Phu. Just south of the Old Town, across the Thu Bon River, are the islands of An Hoi to the west, reachable via Hai Ba Trung, and Cam Nam to the east, reachable via Hoang Dieu.

Get in

By plane

The nearest airport is in Danang, which has frequent connections to Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and some flights to Bangkok, Singapore and Siem Reap, Cambodia (for Angkor Wat). A taxi from the airport to Hoi An costs about US$15 thanks to the cartel, but only about half that in the other direction.

By train

There is no railway station in Hoi An. The nearest is in Danang, which receives several trains a day from Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Nha Trang etc. Most travel agents and hotels can book a train ticket for you.

By bus

Open-tour buses run daily up and down the coast from Da Nang, Hue (4-5 hours) and Nha Trang (9-10 hours).

  • Sinh Cafe, 18B Hai Ba Trung Street, tel: 0510.863948/916242. Can handle transfers to Vientiane and Savannakhet in Laos and onward.

By motorbike or taxi

It's easy to take a motorbike or taxi to and from Da Nang via the Marble Mountains (see below), from where you can catch a train onwards.

Get around

Traffic in too-narrow spaces

The centre of Hoi An is very small and pedestrianised, so you will be walking around most of the time. Unfortunately, bikes have not been banned from the center yet, so particularly at night keep an eye out for motorized kamikazes, even in the most narrow alleys.

To go to the beach or reach some of the more remote hotels, it is easy and cheap to hire a bicycle. Taxis are few and far between, but can be called by phone. When busy, taxis may refuse your fare back to your hotel from town if it is too close, opting for larger fares. Arranging a shuttle from your hotel may be a better option. Motorbike taxis, of course, are always an option. You can also charter boats for about US$1/hour.

Almost all hotels rent motorbikes at about US$5/day. It's standard practice for the bike to have only enough petrol to make it to the next petrol station. If you value your money, go to a gas station, rather than the hand-operated roadside pumps, as prices at the latter are appreciably higher. Use the bike to visit My Son, about an hour away, or the Marble Mountains, about forty minutes north towards Da Nang.

See

Old Town

Chinese shophouses and Communist propaganda

Entry to all historical sites in Hoi An is via a coupon system, where 75,000 dong (US$5) gets you a ticket that can be used to enter five attractions: one museum, one old house, one assembly hall, the handicraft workshop (and traditional music show) or the traditional theater, and either the Japanese Covered Bridge or the Quan Cong Temple. Tickets are sold at various entry points into the Old Town, including Hai Ba Trung Street, and also at some of the attractions, including the Cantonese Assembly Hall. The city requests that visitors dress "decently" while visiting sites in the Old Town, as in no sleeveless blouses or skirts above the knees, but there's nobody specifically charged with enforcing the dress code.

First, you may choose one of the two landmarks of Hoi An:

  • Japanese Covered Bridge (Chua Cau or Lai Vien Kieu), on the west end of Tran Phu Street. The bridge was constructed in the early 1600's by the Japanese community, roughly 40 years before they left the city to return to Japan under the strict policy of sakohu enforced by the Tokugawa Shogunate, and renovated in 1986. Today, it's the symbol of Hoi An. Entry is one coupon, but it's possible to cross back and forth several times without meeting a ticket-checker. If your scruples are bothering you, feel free to leave tribute for the pig statue or the dog statue who stand guard at opposite ends of the bridge.
  • Quan Cong Temple, 24 Tran Phu Street.

The ticket allows admission to one of the four museums in the Old Town:

  • Museum of Folk Culture, 33 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street.
  • Museum of Trade Ceramics, 80 Tran Phu Street. The dusty, unlabeled displays of broken pottery are eminently forgettable, but the house itself is nice enough, and it provides a better opportunity to explore the shape and layout of an old Hoi An home than you'll find at any of the Old Houses (below).
  • Hoi An Museum of History and Culture, 7 Nguyen Hue Street.
  • Museum of Say Huynh Culture, 149 Banc Dang Street.

There are three old houses that exist in an awkward halfway state between museum show-piece and somewhat shabby residence for the family that lives there. Your ticket allows admission to one.

  • Phung Hung House, 4 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, just west of the Japanese Bridge. Traditional two-story wooden house, inhabited over 100 years by eight generations; and the current one attempts to guide you around in hope of a tip.
  • Quan Thang House, 77 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street.
  • Tan Ky House, 101 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street. As above, a younger member of the family will provide a cup of tea and a "tour" that doesn't stray from the front room of the house, as you'd need to step over sleeping members of the older generation to go anywhere else. This family takes particular pride in visits from celebrities; look for the two photos of exiled Thai P.M. Thaksin Shinawatra near the front door.

Numerous congregation halls, where Chinese expatriate residents socialized and held meetings, are dotted about the town. They are typically named after the home region of their members, such as Fujian and Canton. Your ticket allows admission to one. Some do not have ticket-takers, so it's up to your conscience if you want to try wandering into a second.

  • Cantonese Assembly Hall (Quang Dong), 176 Tran Phu Street. Built in 1885, it has a calm courtyard with ornate statuary. Take a peek at the half-hidden back yard and its kitschy pastel dragon statues.
  • Hokien (Fujian) Meeting Hall (Phuc Kien), 46 Tran Phu Street. Built in 1757.
  • Chinese All-Community Meeting Hall (Trieu Chau), 157 Nguyen Duy Hieu. Built in 1887. It's near the Fujian hall, also spanning the block.

Finally, you can choose one of the following to get some "Intangible Culture" into your heathen soul:

  • Hoi An Handicraft Workshop, 9 Bach Dang Street. Folk music performances are offered at 10:15am and 3:15pm every day except Monday.
  • Traditional Theater, 75 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street.

Other

  • The Hoi An Orphanage is located right next to the Roman Catholic church. The Kianh Foundation [2] works permanently at the orphanage to improve the children’s health, education and quality of life.

Do

  • Cua Dai Beach. A place to unwind a few kilometers away from the town centre. A motorbike ride from the town centre to Cua Dai Beach should cost around 20,000 dong. It's also possible to cycle there, which gives you a nice view of the rice farms along the way. Along the beach are a number of mini restaurants selling seafood and drinks. They also provide deck chairs and tables right on the beach. Vendors usually stroll the beach offering fresh fruit. It's a relatively nice beach, but keep an eye on kids, as the tide can be deceptively strong here. There are a number of upmarket resort hotels in the area.
  • Cooking lessons are offered at several restaurants around town. If you enjoyed your meal there, it can't hurt to inquire.

Festivals in Hoi An are based on the lunar calendar, so break out your lunar date planners and lunar PDAs to see if you'll be there at the right time.

  • Full Moon Festival, aka Old Town's Night - held on the 14th of every lunar month, one night before the full moon, when the Old Town becomes even more festive than usual (which is saying something). Usually starts around 6:30pm.
  • Fisherman's Festival - held on the 16th of the February lunar month to pray for a good crop.
  • Mid-Autumn Festival - held on the 14th of the August lunar month.

Buy

Lantern shop

Made-to-measure shirts, blouses, dresses, suits etc. are on offer from the renowned tailors of Hoi An. When last counted in 2002, there were 140 shops in the city, and the number is now well over 400. It's one of the few places in Vietnam where the motorbike taxi drivers look positively sedate by comparison. Be careful who you choose to manufacture your clothes. As a rule of thumb, give all tailors 2 days advance to prepare your garment and keep going back until you get your clothes right! Suits should cost around 40USD, if you choose to pay 30USD, beware that you get what you pay for, slightly lousier quality of cloth and problems with workmanship, such as misaligned stripes on the pants and blazer. Shirts should cost 10USD and below. Skirts normally sell around 7-10 USD. Dresses should cost around 10- 14USD. However, prices might change depending on design and detail.

  • Cloth Market, located next to the Central Market and looks like a cloth warehouse. Inside are many small tailor stalls that are generally cheaper and more reliable than shops elsewhere. Orders usually take a day or two.
  • Yaly, Tran Phu Street, has a great and extensive range of fabrics to choose from and the staff are very attentive and extremely patient. Ignore the fixed price claim! Discounts can be given for multiple purchases.

Hoi An also has a good selection of Vietnamese art, both modern and traditional, serious and kitschy. Galleries can be found all over town but Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St, on the other side of the Japanese Bridge, has the heaviest concentration.

  • Central Market, Bach Dang Street, (just before the Cam Nam Bridge) has all of the cheapster t-shirts and bog-standard souvenirs you've seen at every other stop in Vietnam, but it also has plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, seafood, and all of the other stuff they use in Hoi An's terrific restaurants. T-shirts should cost around 20000 VND, and any amount of haggling will not reduce the prices beyond this level. There are shops selling backpacks, around 20 USD for a 100L backpack. However, Hanoi has a wider but more expensive selection.
  • Thanh Ha Pottery Village - about 2km west of town, this traditional village has been making pottery for more than 450 years. It was on the verge of extinction until the wave of new hotel construction in Hoi An revived demand.
  • Kim Bong Carpentry Village - about 3km west of town.

Eat

Gỏi cuốn fresh spring rolls and cao lầu noodles at Brother's Cafe

Food in Hoi An is, even by high Vietnamese standards, cheap and tasty. In addition to the usual suspects, there are three dishes that Hoi An is particularly famous for:

  • Cao lầu, a dish of rice noodles which are not quite as slippery as pho and a bit closer in texture to pasta. The secret is the water used to make it, and authentic cao lau uses only water from a special well in the city. The noodles are topped with slices of roast pork, dough fritters, and this being Vietnam, lots of fresh herbs and veggies.
  • White rose (banh bao vac), a type of shrimp dumpling made from translucent white dough bunched up to look like a rose.
  • Wantan dumplings, essentially the same as the Chinese kind, served up in soup or deep-fried.

If you are really very adventurous, you can walk to the Central Market, and have a local breakfast. Seating on stools, eating a bowl of Cao Lau with wooden chopsticks, and sipping the ice cold "White Coffee with vinamilk" is an adventure. Beware though, prices will vary atrociously, as shopkeepers swarm over you to sell you things, or even shove plates of food before you. Just keep declining politely and return the food if you don't fancy it. Keep small denominations of VND with you, as you probably won't get change if you give them USD. Also, confirm the prices before you partake of the food. Prices range from about 7000-10000 VND for a bowl of noodles, and 5000-7000 VND for a coffee. The baguette is a nice snack, and should not cost more than 10000 VND. You can point and say no to the vegetables and chilli that they will add. A recommended way to order is to just say "Everything" and say "no" to the chilli. Mineral water is around 10000 VND for a big 1.5L bottle.

Walking along the river at night, you will find a lot of pubs. Beer is around 30000 VND. Cocktails are around 20000- 50000 VND. There are some bar foods available, such as fried prawn crackers for around 15000 VND a plate. Just walk into any pub and have a seat.

Budget

Prices in the very center of Hoi An are generally a little inflated by the tourist trade - cross the bridge over to An Hoi island for a selection of basic but cheap eateries.

  • Cafe Bobo, 18 Le Loi. Popular and reasonably-priced. The frappucino-style mocha shakes are great.
  • Hoai River, 44 Nguyen Thai Hoc. Terrific food, but long waits.
  • Thanh Phuong, 56 Cong Dong (An Hoi island, just across bridge). Cheap and cheerful local eats. A steaming seafood hotpot for two and a large beer will set you back US$3.
  • Trung Bac, 87 Tran Phu. 100 years of cao lau and still going strong. A bowl of chewy noodles and lots of veggies will set you back all of 8000 dong.
  • White Rose, 51 Hai Ba Trung. The shop that actually makes most of the "white rose" dumplings served all around town. 15,000 dong per serve, and if you ask nicely they'll let you try to make them yourself. Open from 7AM until they run out, usually in the afternoon.
  • Blue Dragon. A restaurant by the waterfront with cheap, but good food. Choose from a wide variety of local dishes, or set menus, including meat, vegetarian or seafood choices. A portion of the proceeds goes to help the Blue Dragon Children's Foundation. 20000 VND.

Mid-range

  • Cafe des Amis, 52 Rue Bach Dang, close to the central market, 0510.861616. The signs and the Serge Gainsbourg say French, but the food comes straight out of owner Mr. Nguyen Manh Kim's well-traveled imagination. Diners choose a seafood, meat, or vegetarian set, and then wait to see what turns up at the table, which is usually five or six dishes, one after another. Chef Kim delegates the actual cooking to his assistants, enabling him to chat with diners and trot out his enormous guestbooks. Even if you're on a backpacking budget, a memorable, original meal (and a full stomach) makes this a worthy expense. If you're in town for a couple days, you'll find a (mostly) new set every night, so don't be shy about coming back. Dinner and a drink cost about 96,000 dong per person.
  • Morning Glory. Choose from a variety of local dishes, and be sure to experiment, because everything is truly excellent. The staff speak good English, the place is beautifully decorated, and the food will have you coming back for more. (And if you really enjoy the food, ask about their cooking classes.) While there are cheaper places to eat in Hoi An, this one is by no means expensive, especially considering how good the food is. Most main courses are between 40000 and 70000 VND. Dinner and a drink cost about 80,000 VND per person.
  • Sakura. Avoid this place, except perhaps to enjoy a drink on their lovely waterfront terrace. The food is substandard for Hoi An, quite expensive and comes in tiny portions. While the location and wonderful decor look inviting, and it is one of the first places you will come across, you'll be better off visiting the nearby Morning Glory (see review above) if you're looking for a nice dinner. Dinner and a drink cost about 120,000 VND per person.

Splurge

  • Brother's Cafe, 27 Phan Boi Chau, [3]. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Probably Hoi An's nicest restaurant, with a lush landscaped garden in a wonderful riverside French colonial house. The fresh spring rolls (chả giò) are excellent, and priced to match at US$4.50 a plate. The 6-course US$16 set meal for two is a good value though.
  • Hoian Vinh Hung 1 Restaurant Cafe, 147B Tran Phu Str, [4]. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Drink

  • Before & Now, 51 Le Loi Street, +84-510-910599. Very popular two-level bar and restaurant.
  • Tam Tam Cafe, 110 Nguyen Thai Hoc. Cafe, bakery, restaurant and bar all rolled into one. Stylish, popular and not too badly priced.

Sleep

Hoi An New Town
The atmosphere of the Old Town hasn't been preserved by accident: strict bylaws prohibit new construction within its narrow lanes. As a result, there's a building boom just outside the borders of the Old Town, most noticeably as you head north of Le Hong Phong. Walk a few blocks from that old world ambiance, and suddenly you're in a construction zone. Several hotels have sprung up in this area, which is completely lacking in the charm that brings visitors to Hoi An. Not surprisingly, those are the hotels (Phuong Nam Hotel is among the worst offenders) that are most likely to pay commissions to open-tour bus companies and use Internet sites to describe the dusty construction zone as a "peaceful area". They're also cheaper and easier to bargain with, but the reason they're so cheap is that they're missing the whole point of a visit to Hoi An. There are plenty of options closer to the center of town. Once you've taken a night-time stroll through the Old Town, you won't mind if you had to fork over an extra dollar or two for a better location.


Hotels in Hoi An are fiercely competitive, which means plenty of choice, low prices and generally high standards. Many are clustered around Hai Ba Trung St (formerly Nhi Trung Street), just north of the Old Town and within easy walking distance, and also along Cua Dai Street, off to the east and a bit of a hike away.

Many of Hoi An's high-end hotels are located not in town itself, but by the beach some 5 km away.

Budget

  • An Phu, 30 Nguyen Duy Hieu Street., +84-510-914345, [5]. One of the biggest budget hotel operations in Hoi An. South of the center, about a 5-10 minute walk away. Nice rooms and a relaxing pool in the middle. US$10-15.
  • Grassland Hotel, (Thao Nguyen Hotel), 22 Hai Ba Trung Street, +84-510-921921, [6]. Provides free bicycles and 1 hour free Internet per day. from US$15 (including breakfast) for a single room, US$18 for superior twin & double rooms.
  • Green Field Hotel, 423 Cua Dai St, +84-510-863484 (, fax: +84-510-863136), [7]. Good value hotel with friendly English-speaking staff and a good location. Satellite TV and decent air conditioning in rooms. Free internet in the lobby, free use of the swimming pool and free cocktails in the evenings! Singles from $17, doubles from $20.
  • Nhi Nhi Hotel, 60 Hung Vuong Street., +84-510-916718, [8]. Situated in the Old Quarter, Nhi Nhi Hotel offers affordable, nice rooms in an authentic Vietnamese neighborhood. Hoi An market and restaurants and coffee bars are nearby. US$15-20 including breakfast.
  • Thanh Binh 3, Ba Trieu Street. (off Hai Ba Trung Street), +84-510-916777. Popular budget hotel done up like a Chinese temple, with a pool and pleasant rooms, all air-con equipped. The mattresses are on the hard side though and the breakfast isn't much to write about. US$15-30.
  • Hoa My, 201 Ly Thuong Kiet Street (Cnr Hai Ba Trung), +84-510-916582. Cheap, modern, very clean, but of course a bit outside the old town. There are two more similar hotels next to it. from US$6.

Mid-range

  • Ha An Hotel, 6 Phan Boi Chau Road, +84 510 863126. Located in a quiet area beyond the main markets, this hotel consists of a few buildings built in a semi-French colonial style around a central courtyard. The rooms are airy, light and pleasant with air-conditioning, bathrooms and TV. There's a collection of books in the reception area that can be borrowed by guests. The price includes a good breakfast. US$30-40.
  • Hoi An Indochine Hotel, Cua Dai Road, +84 510 923608 (, fax: +84 510 923578), [9]. Only 5 minutes walk from the beach, by the calm and romantic river and garden. French style architecture with 61 river view rooms. US$65/night (10 superior rooms), US$75/night (45 deluxe rooms), US$105 (6 suites).
  • Hoai Thanh Hotel, 187 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, +84 510 861171 (, fax: +84 510 861135), [10]. About 200 meters from the center of town. US$24-75.
  • Hoian Vinh Hung 3 Hotel, 96 Ba Trieu Str, [11]. checkin: 13.00.; checkout: 12.00 noon. US$25-35.
  • Lotus Hotel, 330 Cua Dai Road, Hoian, +84 (510) 923 357 (), [12]. Beautifully designed resort-hotel draws from a range of styles & influences resulting in a perfect blend of Eastern culture & French architecture, immaculately furnished and equipped rooms in a relaxing combination of Vietnamese, Japanese and French styles. Free ADSL / Wi-Fi available throughout the building. US$36-55.

Splurge

  • Dong An Beach Hotel, +84 510 927888 (), [13]. Overlooking the Thu Bon River, and < 5min walk to the Cua Dai beach. Some 5 km away from town. US$79-195.
  • Furama Beach Resort, [14]. Brand new luxury resort on fabled China Beach. About 20 minutes to Hoi An by taxi (5 minutes to Da Nang) Internet rates starting at US$150, walk-up rates from US$200.
  • Hoi An Pacific Hotel, 167 Cua Dai Street (halfway between beach and town), +84 510 923 777 (), [15]. Opened in spring 2004, it boasts 3 restaurants and bars, including the "Sky Bar", the tallest in town at seven stories. US$70-120.
  • Hoian Vinh Hung Hotel & Resort, [16]. US$70-110.
  • Life Resort Hoi An, 1 Pham Hong Thai Street, +84 (510) 914-555 (), [17]. The classiest hotel near the town center, located by the river a short stroll from the market. US$98-268.
  • Victoria Hoi An, Cua Dai Beach, +84 510 927 040, [18]. Internet rates from US$125, walk-up rates from US$165, honeymoon suites US$210-300.

Get out

  • My Son - ruins of the ancient Cham empire, in the jungle a little over an hour from town
  • Several tour companies offer day-trips or overnight trips to Cham Island, which may include snorkeling or scuba diving (US$25-60)
  • The Marble Mountains, 9km short of Da Nang, are well worth a morning or afternoon trip from Hoi An
  • Hue - the former imperial capital, a few hours away by car or train



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