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How to spend 3 days in HOI AN in VIETNAM?

Shopping in Hoi An

I visited Vietnam in November and I have returned super impressed with the country. I would love to go back soon. But until I return to see more of it, Hoi An is going to be my favorite place in Vietnam. It is one of the most heartwarming heritage cities that I have visited recently. I stayed there for 2 nights but it felt less. Most of the people only take a day or evening trip to Hoi An from Danang. I would have done that too but I am glad my friends had advised me before hand to take it slow and not rush with the place. A few hours are too less to discover why the city shines with a million facets. Let me advise you to spend at least 3 days in Hoi An.

From being war-inflicted at one time to being chosen as the safest country in Asia to travel to in 2024, Vietnam has firmly claimed its stake on the tourism map. Whether you are a history buff, a nature enthusiast, or simply an outdoorsy, there is a host of surprises in store for you in Vietnam. Some of its best traditions and important cultural sites can be experienced in its small fishing towns and historic port cities, making a strong case that Vietnam is a frontrunner in slow travel. One of its most cosy and well-preserved towns located along the central coast packs a punch with its yellow-hued walls, tiled roofs, picturesque architecture, culture-steeped history, vibrant markets, and unspoiled beaches. The locals like to present their town as one of the most tourist-friendly heritage towns, the prettiest with its lantern lights and the best when it comes to tailor-made clothing and shoes. Let us dive into the cultural vibrancy of this quaint city where the handmade paper lanterns steal the show and the beautifully preserved old town is the highlight of every trip.

Where is Hoi An?

Located in Vietnam’s Quang Nam Province, edged by the balmy waters of the South China Sea and serenaded by the Thu Bon River, Hoi An is a stunning port city located halfway between the two most prominent Vietnamese cities, Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh and just 50 minutes away from the biggest city of Central Vietnam, Da Nang. To visit Hoi An, one must reach the city of Da Nang first via air, road, or rail. From there, you will have to take the scenic road route as there is no railway station or airport there. Buses and taxis run frequently and the connecting road makes for a smooth and comfortable ride.   

Shopping in Hoi An
A must do activity in your 3 days plan in Hoi An – Shop these pretty handmade lanterns

Hoi An is an UNESCO Heritage Town

The historical narrative of the town, kept intact in its old architecture and ancient monuments lends the perfect storybook charm to Hoi An. For hundreds of years, especially between the 15th to 19th centuries, the Ancient town thrived as a trading port. The Chinese, Japanese and European traders not only brought in exquisite silk, pottery, and spices but also their ideas, culture, and traditions. The abundance of shared human heritage and sociocultural fabric became of greater importance for the town. Today, travellers from around the world visit Hoi An to experience the timelessness, fluidity, and dynamism of the co-existence of indigenous and foreign cultures. Hoi An truly lives up to the colours, culture and camaraderie of Vietnam.

The recognition of UNESCO’s “World Heritage Site” promises that special efforts have been made to preserve and protect the socio-cultural elements of the town. It is one of the best places to see how old practices bring people together. Decorating homes and shops with vibrant hand-made lanterns and lighting them on special lunar occasions was practiced by the foreign settlers. With time, the locals adopted it like their own and today, the ancient city sparkles in the night as hundreds of lanterns come alive around the river and turn it into one of the most photogenic sights in the world.

Also, the harmonious blend of cultures can be seen in its buildings comprising private homes, assembly halls, pagodas, temples, tombs, bridges, and small museums. Most of them are of remarkable historical and cultural significance.

Lantern Festival of Hoi An

The Thu Bon River is the most prominent natural body of this ancient town and it turns magical in the evening. Every day, after the sun goes down, the locals light the lanterns and dim the other lights. Dazzling boats paddle around. Several people float paper lamps in the rivers to attract good luck. The river shimmers in the company of hundreds of drifting lamps and their reflections. The whole atmosphere turns cheery, dreamy, and festive-like. The 14th day of every lunar month, when the moon is full is celebrated as the lantern festival. Many people from other parts of Vietnam travel for the occasion. However, every night is magical here.

Yellow City

Wherever you wander in Hoi An, the colour palette of the city will stand out. Ochre-coloured painted buildings, detailed ornaments, and beautiful tiles in all shapes and designs can be seen everywhere. No wonder, Hoi An has also earned the nickname of ‘Yellow City.’ During the day, the city looks strikingly attractive and its quieter lanes make for the most wonderful background for postcard pictures. In the night, the city outshines in a different avatar in the company of multiple lights and lanterns all around.

Flavours of Hoi An

There are no second thoughts about the saying that one can get to the heart of a city only by sampling its local food and flavours. Countless food stalls and restaurants line the most popular streets. Also, an array of fantastic street food tread along the street food market. From Bánh mì (Vietnamese baguettes) to local coffee, ‘cà phê sữa đá’ (delicious Vietnamese iced coffee), rice paper spring rolls, mango crepes, Banana pancakes, cao lau noodles, girdle cake, kebabs, and fruit shakes to a variety of noodle soups, there is a lot to pamper your taste buds in Hoi An. Cao lau is a speciality dish of Hoi An, made of rice noodles in a sauce with marinated pork, shrimp, and quail eggs. Due to growing international tourism, even vegetarians and vegans will find a cosmopolitan variety of dishes and plant-based versions of some of the local delicacies. 

The lantern festival of Hoi An is special.
The lantern festival of Hoi An is for real! Every night is a celebration.

Spend 3 days in Hoi An

The charm of Hoi An is such that it takes only a few hours into the city to fall in love with it. While planning three days may seem enough but once you are there, you will wish for more. Tailor shops outnumber the food shops in Hoi A to the extent that it is also called the tailoring capital of Vietnam. 3 days is a good enough time to get yourself a custom-made dress.

Day 1- Just walk along the cobbled streets of the ancient town around the river and observe the people, houses, shops, and food carts. Click pictures. Grab a small bite at a local café or food stall. Soak in the vibes and just wander around aimlessly. Turn around any street and just be in the moment. Check out the tailoring shops and be impressed with the creative outfits. Check out the cafes and restaurants on both sides of the river and indulge.

Day 2- The ancient city has a different vibe in the day minus the crowd. One must buy an Old Town ticket at the entrance to get entry into any of five of Hội An’s heritage buildings to learn more about the history and heritage of Hoi An. Do not miss visiting the Japanese bridge and some of the community halls. Rent a bike and take a trip to the beaches (An Bang Beach and Cua Dai Beach) and the green fields around the town. Book a sunset cruise. Engage in some souvenir shopping in the old town market. Pamper yourself with a foot massage.

Day 3- If you have seen it all in the Ancient town, do visit the smaller villages around Hoi An to learn more about the local crafts such as carpentry, bronze making, ceramic, basket boat making, etc. You may also sun bask at either of the beaches. Basket boat ride in the nearby coconut palm villages is also a lot of fun. One can never get enough of the walk around the river in the night or you may also hire a paddler to paddle a boat along the river to enjoy a different perspective of the town. Try out some new eateries or watch a cultural performance.

On the day of return to Da Nang, plan a trip via ‘My Son Sanctuary’ to be amazed by the Hindu ruins of the Champa Empire in Vietnam.

Originally, the article was published in February 2024 of the inflight magazine of Batik Air.

Read More – 7 Reasons why Vietnam won my heart

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