Most travelers arrive to Hoi An, Vietnam, after visiting the insanity of Hanoi or the chaos of Saigon. So there is no better time to enjoy the relaxing stopover in the middle of Vietnam before venturing off to visit that next headache of a city. Hoi An offers a beach lined with seafood joints, quaint shops in the ancient town (a World Heritage site), skilled tailors, and some of the country’s best cuisine. While some newspapers like to give you 36 hours in a city, Somewhere Or Bust gives you 37. Here’s 37 Hours in Hoi An.
Friday, 7 pm–A Breath of Fresh Air in Hoi An
For the first time since visiting Vietnam, you’ll enjoy a city where the traffic is not life threatening. Some of Hoi An’s streets in the old quarter are even closed to motorists. The glow of lanterns hanging from yellow painted storefronts help to accentuate the irenic mood. Many people visit Hoi An to have clothes made as tailor shops are abundant. If that interests you, drop in to pick your fabrics and style. You can find top-notch stitchers that can piece together a dress for under $20 or a button-down suit for around $125.
Friday, 8:30 pm–Hoi An Specialties
Hoi An has taken traditional Chinese cuisine and added a Vietnamese flair. Ubiquitous throughout the city are white roses (sticky shrimp dumplings with a crispy onion topping), fried wontons, and cao lao (a thick noodle topped with crunchy noodles and pork). Of course, you’ll find the Vietnamese staples, but in Hoi An all of the flavors seem enhanced. On your first night, try Miss Ly’s. The service is the friendliest in the nation (which is not a difficult task) and the food is exceptional.
Saturday, 8:00 am–My Son
I cannot say this is the best day trip to take, since most of the World Heritage site at My Son was destroyed during the war and then restored. Additionally, there are much finer examples of ancient archaeological sites in Cambodia. But if you love the ancient world and are attempting to tick off World Heritage Sites from your bucket list, then My Son is worth a trip. Most tour buses leave at this time, so catch a ride with one of them, but if you’re keen on having the grounds to yourself, hire a car and visit independently. Each section of My Son has temples to the Hindu goddess, Shiva, many of which were partially destroyed, though enough is intact to be impressed by the Cham architects who started construction as early as the 4th Century–500 years before the temples of Angkor were built. When you are fortunate to have moments alone at My Son, there is quite a ghostly feel, especially beside the pool-sized bomb craters.
Saturday, 12:00 pm–Damn That’s Hot
Now it’s time to relax to relax in Hoi An. Head down to the beach either by bicycle (if you don’t mind sharing the road with bigger traffic) or cab. Lining the ocean are seafood joints and cruising about are Vietnam’s endless touts selling bad snacks and cheap sunglasses. The sand on the beach is hot, so wear your shoes down to the water. If you need a bit more speed or elevation in your life, you can try jet-skiing or parasailing, respectively. It’s also a great beach for runners.
Saturday, 3:00 pm–Need More Sight-Seeing
If the beach isn’t your speed, there are more locations in the old quarter worth visiting. The tourist booths sell a pass that allows you access to museums, temples, and the shops of Hoi An’s original artisans.
Saturday, 6:00 pm–River Boating Hoi An
Hire a riverboat to cruise down the river beside the old quarter or sit along the water and sip back beers on plastic chairs designed for Kindergartners. (We found the adult chairs.)
Saturday, 7:00 pm–Check Your Threads
Return to the tailor to try on your new raiments. (If your clothes do not come out to your liking, you might need more than 37 hours for alterations, but chances are, something simple like a dress, will be ready within one day.) Of course, you look great. No don’t be ridiculous. It fits you perfectly.
Saturday, 8:00 pm–Another Great Meal
There are so many good food options in Hoi An, but a second spot that we enjoyed was Morning Glory. It’s a bit more upscale than the cozy Ly’s, but the food is quite tasty.
Sunday, 6:00 am–The Market
Visiting Hoi An’s fish market will put you close to women with big knives in tight spaces who take pleasure in hacking sea life to bits. We saw one man get into a shoving match with one woman. About twenty other females wearing Raiden hats came to her rescue. (See the photo below.) The chaos should help prepare you for your next Vietnamese city.
Sunday, 8:00 am–To Denang
Flying in and out of Hoi An is cheap and quick, but the airport is 45 minutes away in Denang.