While Da Nang is the gateway to central Vietnam, Hoi An is probably the main hall where most visitors will end up staying. This UNESCO world heritage site is famous for its well preserved old town and an example of a 15th century trading port in South East Asia.
Hoi An Ancient Town
Hoi An is roughly 30 km from Da Nang and is about 45 minutes by car. This makes it quite convenient to visit Hoi An from Da Nang. But its best to stay in Hoi An if you really want to enjoy what the town has to offer. The main activities of Hoi An are centered around its historical old town with it’s rows of single and double storey houses. These look kind of similar to the pre-war shophouses that we have here in Singapore. They have a narrow frontage but are deep in depth.
While Da Nang has shed its historical roots and now looks like a modern Asian city, Hoi An still retains its local and cultural charm, which makes it popular with tourists. Although with tourism becoming the main source of business, most of the old houses have been converted into shops, cafes and restaurants.
Hoi An was an important trading port from the 15th to the 19th century. Traders from China, Japan, India and Europe lived here and you can see their influence in the architecture of the buildings.
As you can see, night time is when Hoi An comes alive with its lanterns, and hustle and bustle of activities. Furthermore, its much cooler in the evenings compared to walking under the hot Sun during the day.
Hoi An Memories Show
Besides just walking around the old town and visiting every shop and restaurant, you could also go watch the Hoi An Memories show. This is actually a big budget performance which is on par with Broadway theatrical shows. The show is held at the Hoi An Impressions theme park and its situated on its own small island.
The theme park is rather small and when I was there, a lot of the shops seemed to be closed probably due to Covid, and that tourist numbers were still not back to normal yet. The park is meant to show case the history of Hoi An, so you will find that you have travelled back in time to ancient times with the park staff and performers dressed in period costumes. The main show starts at 8pm and you can watch the small performances or have dinner while waiting.
The Hoi An Memories show is held in a special stage area which is huge at more than 100m across, with elaborate props, lighting and costumes. They have 3 classes of seats – Eco, Hi and VIP.
Eco is the cheapest and nearest to the stage and the chairs are your standard plastic stadium seats with viewers seated more or less elbow to elbow. Although you are nearest to the stage, the huge scale of the stage means that you will be busy turning your head to see everything.
Hi seats are behind Eco and higher up. The seats and spacing is still the same as Eco but you have a better view of the whole show.
I got myself the VIP seats which are the most expensive and at the highest level, something like circle seats in a theatre. You get to sit in cushioned bamboo chairs with lots of personal space. There is also a welcome drink and cut fruits including cold wet towels to refresh yourself. Being at a higher level, you get to see the whole stage comfortably. Another advantage is that there were wall fans behind the VIP seats which proved to be a great comfort by blowing cool air and making the viewing experience a lot more pleasant. You can book the tickets online or buy it at the entrance of the park. The tickets aren’t cheap but I definitely feel that they are worth the money spent.
Hoi An is not just about the old town. There are some other places and activities you can do while staying here. Hoi An even has its own beach (An Bang Beach) with resorts. So if you want to have your day at the beach, you can also do so from Hoi An.
Read on to check out the ruins of an ancient empire and a fun boat ride into a watery forest.
My Son Sanctuary
My Son Sanctuary is another UNESCO World Heritage site. And this place contains the ruins of the Champa Empire which dates back more than a thousand years to the 4th century. What’s interesting is that the Champa Empire was Hindu, and they built My Son as a religious place with temples dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.
My Son is southwest of Hoi An and is roughly an hours drive away. You can also come here from Da Nang, just that it will take a little longer.
A fun activity that you can do while in Hoi An is to take a boat ride into the Coconut Forest. As you will see, this isn’t an ordinary boat and you won’t find any coconut trees.
The Coconut Forest is located just 10-15 minutes drive from Hoi An. It’s located near the mouth of the Thu Bon River and you will find a small village here along the banks of the river. Their main specialty seems to be to provide boat rides in the traditional basket boat.
Well, it might look like these floating baskets aren’t very sea worthy, but actually they are quite stable and won’t capsize easily. The only thing is you will need to learn how to steer them. Since they are just round shapes, they tend to just spin in the water.
The Coconut Forest tour as they call it, takes about an hour to complete. There are several such tours in the village and you can ask your hotel to arrange it for you. The price usually includes transport to pickup and drop off at your Hoi An hotel. Some tours also include a lunch at the village. I visited early in the morning (8 am). I found that it was cooler and being one of the first few boats on the water, I got to enjoy the peace of the Coconut Forest before the tourist horde appeared, and the water disco started. If you decide to come later like in the afternoon, wear a hat to protect from the Sun and apply sun screen.