I much preferred the charming and quiet alleys of Hoi An, especially coming from the traffic-heavy streets of Hanoi. Wandering around the old town or sipping on coffee for a day in one of my favorite cafes was the highlight of my trip to Vietnam.
There was an ease to being in Hoi An. I fell in love with the streets and the colorful lanterns that adorned them. Other than Halong Bay, it is at the top of my list for places you have to visit while in Vietnam.
From food to coffee to leather bags and guided tours, here’s a list of everything you must do on a first trip to Hoi An.
Book a My Son Sanctuary Tour
If you only do one tour on your visit to Hoi An, do not miss this UNESCO world heritage site, about an hour bus ride from the old town. I booked a tour through Sunrise Travel (134 Nguyen Thai Hoc St) within the old town and I would definitely use them again.
My friend and I were picked up at our hostel in the morning to embark on our hour long bus ride outside the city center. That’s where I saw the mountainous hills where the My Son Sanctuary ruins stand today. Dating back to the 4th century, this Hindu populated spiritual ground was once the home of the Cham people.
It’s located at the start of the sacred Thu Bon River. This site was an essential region for the community that inhabited it. What’s left of the fired brick monuments and temples isn’t something that you want to miss.
I recommend booking a sunrise tour to avoid the crowds. This is something I attempted to do but unfortunately not enough people purchased the tour and that forced me onto the later morning bus. There are many tour groups here at the same time. It’s terribly crowded and makes photos near impossible.
Get a Bag Made at Buffalo Leather Company
If you are planning on having a custom bag made while you’re in Hoi An, I can not stress going to Buffalo Leather Company enough. I had a custom laptop bag made for my boyfriend and the finished product was beautiful.
The best part of the experience, however, was their customer service.
They were in touch with me via Facebook throughout the entire process with any questions or concerns. They had the bad ready exactly when they said they would. Even though they had a shortage of the original leather I chose and I had to make a last minute change. Fortunately I was still able to get the bag before I left the city.
I couldn’t have be happier with the finished product.
Drink Cheap ‘Bia Hoi’ by The River
One of my favorite days in Hoi An was my last. I wandered the streets with my friend, bought any last minute items I wanted and prepared for an overnight train to Ho Chi Minh City. Then I sat down at one of the many bars that line Thu Bon River and drank whatever they were pouring for just 5,000 Vietnamese dong.
Bia Hoi is a fresh, daily brewed beer, popular to travelers especially in Hanoi’s old quarter. But you can get your dose within the charming streets of Hoi An with a relaxing view of the river.
Every batch brewed of this homemade beer tastes different, so you’ll never get the same flavor twice. It’s almost like every time you drink it is a whole new experience. But the best part is, it’s cheap.
Spend an afternoon at Cham Cham (where I went), or the Mr. Bean themed bar just a few doors down. Then sit for a nice relaxing view to people watch and get a little day drunk. It’s the absolute perfect way to spend a day. Especially if you are trying to get drunk enough to sleep on the cheap, non sleeper, overnight train you’re about to get on.
Where to stay: Tribee Kinh Hostel
I don’t doubt that there are plenty of great places to stay in Hoi An. But if you find yourself having a hard time deciding, stay at Tribee Kinh. I was extremely pleased with this hostel.
The location of this hostel is fantastic. I was walking distance to the old town, plenty of markets and shops, and just steps from Banh Mi Queen. The puppies that live there also didn’t hurt.
They also offer a number of free things to do depending on the nights you’re there. Among these things is: spring roll classes, pub crawl, and street food tour. Free breakfast is also provided daily. In terms of cleanliness, location and staff I couldn’t recommend this hostel more.