Hoi An Solo Travel Guide
Located in the coastal region of south central vietnam, Hoi An is a historical city with its origin going as far back as 2000 years, the time when it was the rule of Hindu Kingdom Champa. The remnants of the kingdom can still be seen in the ruins left behind. Hoi An boasts of a culture which is a mix of several influences including Chinese, Japanese, and Champa. This influence also reflects in the architecture of the city. Since the beginning of the 15th century Hoi An was also an important trading port, bringing in riches for the locals and the foreign traders.
Old Town is what man Hoi An, Hoi An. Travelers, both foreigners and locals, come to experience the lively old town. Take a walk in the narrow, winding lanes, soak in the architecture of the wooden houses. A slow meandering river passes through the town making the atmosphere even more serene.
Walk around the old town at night when the temperature is much cooler.. The town shuts early (at 21:30), but that should give you enough time to enjoy the live music around town and the beautiful lanterns that lit up the streets. Seriously, evening walk through Hoi An Old town is unmissable.
While you strolling through the streets take a look at the Japanese Covered Bridge which is considered the icon of the Hoi An city.
And did I mention Hoi An’s Old Town is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
Old Town Attractions
There is no entrance fee to visit the old town but if you intend to see one of those old buildings from inside, you need to purchase a ticket. The town ticket includes five vouchers that you can use to get into five attractions. The entrance ticket is sold at the Old Town entry points and costs 120,000 Dongs. Officially, the ticket is valid only for 24 hours, but it is still accepted if you use it over the course of few days.
Here’s a brief list of destinations you can visit: Museums, old houses, assembly halls, the handicraft workshop (and traditional music show) or the traditional theatre, and either the Japanese Covered Bridge or the Quan Cong Temple.
Old houses: Tan Ky; Duc An; Quan Thang; Phung Hung;
Assembly halls: Quang Trieu; Trieu Chau; Phuc Kien;
Structures: Japanese Covered Bridge;
Museums: Museum of Trade Ceramics; Museum of Sa Huynh Culture; Museum of Folk Culture; Museum of Hoi An;
Traditional arts: Handicraft workshop; traditional music performance;
Communal houses: Cam Pho; Minh Huong; Quan Cong Temple;
In summary, our itinerary suggestion for the first-round ticket would be to select one or two of the old houses like Tan Ky House, one or two assembly halls, a museum, take an obligatory photo at the Japanese Bridge, then check out a music performance or handicraft shop.
Japanese Covered Bridge and the Pagoda (Chua Cau or Lai Vien Kieu)
Japanese Covered Bridge is the star attraction of the Hanoi Town. The beautiful wooden bridge dates back to the last decade of 16th century and is one of the most visited landmark in the town. The bridge and pagoda were both built by the Japanese trader community. The shrine is dedicated to the Taoist deity of storms and weather, named Tran Vo Bac De.
Look carefully to spot the statue of a monkey and a dog at either end of the bridge. There is no ticket required to cross the bridge (it’s a bridge afterall) but only if you intend to see the shrine from inside.
The four museums include:
Museum of Folk Culture,
Museum of Trade Ceramics – This is my pick of the museum. On distplay are ceramic pottery from 9th to the 19th century. The old wooden building has a beautiful inner courtyard. Take the stairs to the creak wooden floor atop, for a lovely view of the walking street.
Museum of Sa Huynh Culture – It has a collection of pottery originating from the 1st and 2nd centuries.
Hoi An Museum of History and Culture – Come if you are into old pictures, the vintage black and white pictures of Hoi An are good enough to keep you busy for some time.
Located by the river side and owned mostly by the wealthy merchant families, these old wooden houses still retain their old world charm. Interestingly, many of these houses are still inhabited by their owners.
Tan Ky House – Tan Ky house is the most visited of them all. You can still see the Japanese and Chinese influences on its architecture. The beautifully decoared house is about 200 years old. There are two storeys, while the ground floor is open to public, upper floor is private and is restricted to the owner only.
In the kitchen, which is just down the coutryard, has markers for the recent floods. The top one goes all the way upto the level of the first floor. Imagine protecting the heritage house in times of such a natural disaster.
Phung Hung House, and Quan Thang House are your other options to visit.
As the name suggests, assembly halls were built by wealthy traders for one and only one purpose, to socialise with their community. All of the assembly halls have a typical architecture which includes an ornate entrance gate, a vast coutryard, meeting rooms and a small pagoda towards the end of the complex. Of-course the whole area is richly decorated and in the courtyard you’ll see colorful dragon made with mosaic tiles standing by a beautiful fountain.
Assembly Hall of the Fujian Chinese Congregation
It is undoubtedly the most beautifully built assembly hall of them all.
Cantonese Assembly Hall – Quang Trieu
This was built in the year 1885 and features a serene courtyard and follows the typical assembly hall architecture complete with dragon statues colored in pastel colors.
Phuc Kien (Fujian) Meeting Hall
The stunning entrance gate was added much after the construction. Come here during the Chinese festival when the hall is decorated in its full glory. The shrine is dedicated to Thien Hau, who is considered the goddess of the sea and the one safeguards the sailors. As always while entering the shrine dress respectfully.
Chinese All-Community Meeting Hall
Hoi An Handicraft Workshop
Irrespective of how many museums or old houses you decide to see, don’t forget to save one last ticket for Handicraft workshop.
Here, everyday there is a folk music performances (20 minutes), available at 10:15 and 15:15 (Monday closed).
The 200-year old building houses a collection of metal, porcelain and soapstone, as well as larger terracotta pots and sculptures. Checkout the silverware shop toward the end for the beautifully crafted silver pieces.
Located at some 40 km away from the town of Hoi An are the ruins of the historic My Son.
Mỹ Sơn which literally translates to beautiful mountain, is a group of temples located in a valley, surrounded by mountains and thick jungle. The place truly has that ‘lost’ feeling, something which Angkor Wat lacks. Though, one the downside you might be bit disappointed with the current state of the site as compared to the Angkor Wat; more on this later.
My Son, a Hindu temple complex, was said to be built by the King Bhadravarman, in the heydays of the Champa kingdom. The temple complex of My Son is dedicated to the Hindu deity Shiva.
Right from the 3rd century to the early 19th century Champa’s rule was spread over South and Central Vietnam; a total of 1600 years. It is surprising how little we know and how little remains on the ground of this once majestic kingdom. Later, Champa was defeated and subsequently taken over by the Vietnamese Emperor Minh Mang.
The site was lost but was accidentally re-discovered by the Frenchman M.C. Paris, at the time when Vietnam was a French colony. Unfortunately, Americans heavily bombed the site (yay, go yankees!) during second IndoChina war (1969 ) and much of its glory is lost forever. Of the 70 structures that once stood here, only 18 structures remain today. Certainly, one more casualty of the unfortunate war.
My Son remains open from 6:30 to 17:00. The entrance ticket to My Son costs 150,000VND. – The museum is included in the price, and I highly recommend a visit to truly appreciate the significance of this ancient site.
How to get to My Son?
There are several day trips available from Hoi An and you can easily purchase one of them (they all are just same) from your hostel/ hotel or from any tourist shop. The trip costs US$7-10 not including the entrance fees.
Alternatively, you can rent a motorbike, which is what I’d recommend for a great adventure. The parking at My Son costs about 10,000 dong.
The first time you arrive in Hoi An, you’d be surprised at the number of tailoring shops in the city. Who comes on a vacation get a shirt sewn? Right?
The fact is getting a custom tailored cloths from Hoi An remains economical and to a great extent value for money. You can get a nice shirt stiched for as low as $10, or you can for a lofty Suites tailor made to your taste and fit.
You being by choosing the colour and material (fabric), next you show the tailor the style you want. You can either take a picture with you and get a replica made or choose from the booklet available with them. Then proceed with giving your measurements, and finally an advance.
I’d recommended you only a small fraction of the total, reason being it helps you dictate terms later on when the final product arrives. If you are not satisfied with any part of the final product, do not hestitate ask for rework. You are paying for a custom product and the tailor is obliged to deliver you one the way you want it to be.
Tip: Only order at a tailor shop which has an inhouse tailor, many of shops are nothing but an outsourcing front which get the tailoring done from outside.
Some of the recommended tailoring shops in Hoi An include Remy Tailor Hoi An, Vanda Tailors, Be Be,Yaly Couture, A Dong Silk and Kimmy and Thu Thuy.
Located at around 4km from Hoi An is the An Bang Beach, it is the main beach nearest to the town and a great spot to relax. The best way to get here is by hiring a motorbike or by a bicycle.
Cua Dai Beach
Once the cynosure of Hoi An travelers, this beach has now fallen out of the radar. Rampant development and a significant coastal erosion has led to the downfall of Cua Dai beach. If you are resort person then it might be worth it to spend a few days here as most of resort have secured a private beach area which is better of than the public ones (nothing but sandbag walls).
Hoi An Festival
Hoi An Full Moon Festival is held on every 14th day of the lunar month (Chinese Calendar).
starts around 6.00pm when the whole of HoiAn town is lighted with only dainty lanterns and everyone takes a stroll on the old narrow street