Hoi An, Vietnam

Vietnam is a wonderful place to visit and there is lots to see but there is one really special place that should not be missed.

Hoi An is a charming town on the Central Coast of Vietnam. It is easy to see why UNESCO added it as a World Heritage Site in 1999. The pretty little streets of the ancient town are lined with beautiful yellow painted buildings, untouched and elegant. The pace is slow and the local people charming and welcoming.

It is easy to navigate your way around the town as all streets lead to the Thu Bon River. Hundreds of years ago the river was a centre of international trade. Now the flavours of the past can be found in the restaurants and cafes lining the riverfront.

Hoi An is still quiet enough to feel like you have stumbled upon somewhere undiscovered and unique but the secret is quickly coming out as the nearby coast is being extensively developed.

Still that’s not all bad news as it means there are some great choices for accommodation – from quaint little boutique hotels in the town to international resorts. Plus most of the bigger resorts are also family focused with kids clubs, family friendly activities and children’s pools. Ten minutes east from Hoi An town is the lovely Cua Dai Beach where there are plenty of beach resorts.

An excellent resort in the ancient town is the Life Heritage Resort. Set in lush gardens on the riverfront, the resort is in a great spot as it is an easy walk to the central market, shops and restaurants but is also a little peaceful oasis when you need a break.

The villa style buildings house huge split level rooms including a nice outdoor seating terrace, a lounge room as well as a raised sleeping area and spacious bathroom.

A great buffet breakfast for two is included in the room price, which at approximately $125AUD per night is quite a steal. As in most Asian hotels the breakfast chef is on hand to freshly cook pancakes or an omelette. The hotel restaurant is also open for lunch and dinner and there is a bar and café on site, as well as spa for luxurious treatments after a hard day’s shopping. And if you just want some days relaxing on a sun lounge there is also a glorious pool to enjoy.

A few doors along from the Life Resort is Brother’s Café, a gorgeous place for a drink or a meal. Set in a grand old merchant house it also has a beautiful riverfront garden.

At night the cafe is lit up by thousands of fairy lights…

One of the highlights of my last visit to Hoi An was a cooking class at the Morning Glory Cooking School. The lovely teacher was full of information and kept our group entertained throughout the morning. Being guided around the central market was a bonus as market shopping is a fascinating feature of Vietnamese life.

Learning to cook the various dishes was easy under the instruction of our teacher and we all enjoyed the delicious results: crispy pancakes, green mango salad, rice paper rolls and chicken skewers.

As well as the excellent cooking school, Morning Glory is also one of the best restaurants in Hoi An and should not be missed. The half-day cooking class cost $25USD per person.

Hoi An is brimming with tailors ready to whip you up a designer copy in a day. I took a couple of favourite items of clothing from home and had them copied. There are also many shoemakers who will custom make shoes in any style. There are some lovely shops; jewellry, accessories, home wears and craft – including the fair trade outlet Reaching Out, which employs and supports local disabled artisans.

Getting to Hoi An is pretty straightforward. It is less than an hour south of Danang International Airport and all hotels offer airport transfers. Danang Airport is well serviced by flights from Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and other regional centres.

If you are looking for a quieter Asian experience Hoi An is the perfect place.

Travel notes:

UNESCO World Heritage List

Life Resorts

Morning Glory Cooking School

Brothers Café

Yaly Couture

Reaching Out Crafts – 103 Nguyen Thai Hoc, Hoi An

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