Hi guys! We are Bridge and Shaun from the travel blog The Big Walkabout. Welcome to our guide on Hoi An – the most charming town in Vietnam!
We were both born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. We met through friends and fell in love at a very young age. Once we had degrees, we started working and became a successful, career-driven couple.
Our journey began when we were working long hours to sustain living in our large house and driving our sports cars. We were stressed, only lived for the weekends and felt trapped. Over the course of two years, we focused on making our lives more meaningful. So we saved up money, gave up our jobs and traded in our possessions to sustain a long-term travel plan.
Calling Hoi An Home for a Month
We were always interested in visiting Vietnam. Not only is it cheaper than Thailand and Indonesia but it has a raw beauty about it. We did our research and couldn’t wait to experience Vietnam’s food scene, the humble people and a rich culture vastly different from our culture.
Before visiting Hoi An, we had been travelling for a couple of months when this destination suddenly came onto our radar. We already visited the bustling places in Northern Vietnam like Hanoi and Halong Bay and for our second trip we wanted to stay in a more laid back town. Hoi An was the place we would call home for a month and not be complete tourists!
Staying at Vivian Blue Hotel
We usually stay at an Airbnb when we travel because we are enthusiastic cooks that like a bit of privacy. Normally we buy fresh food at local markets and recreate some local dishes. With Hoi An, we battled to find accommodation in our price range that was equipped with a kitchen.
In the end, we settled for staying in a hotel that allowed us to use their kitchen. The owner and staff were very accommodating and the hotel was absolutely gorgeous! We stayed at a fantastic villa called Vivian Blue Hotel.
Because we stayed in Hoi An for a month, we enjoyed a long-stay discount. Sometimes this can be as much as 50% off! We found that Vietnam offers some of the most affordable apartments and hotels in Southeast Asia.
How we Spent our Time in Hoi An
When we arrived, it was near the end of November 2019. It was hot and sunny – like most of Southeast Asia had been. As the weeks went by, it got colder and drizzled every day. At this point, we realised Hoi An has a winter season and we were in it! We tried to make the most of the situation.
On rainy days, we stayed in quaint restaurants and coffee shops, catching up on some online work. And we weren’t the only ones! Hoi An is quite a hub for digital nomads with plenty of workspaces available such as Hi Phin Coffee House, What Else? Cafe, and Avos and Mango Coffee Shop.
When the weather cleared up, we would walk around the charming Ancient Town exploring all the colourful old buildings, museums, and alleys and doing a bit of shopping. When we needed a break from the busy tourist scene, we would visit the nearby rice fields and beaches.
At night most of the entertainment takes place in the Ancient Town. Lanterns light up the river while restaurants and bars light up the streets. When you stay in a city for a couple of weeks, you explore the best eateries on offer. And our favourite restaurants were local places found outside the tourist hotspots: Banh Mi Phuong and FireFly Restaurant & Bar.
Highlight of our Hoi An Trip
The highlight of our Hoi An trip was visiting the mangrove palm forest in Cam Thanh – 3km’s from the Ancient Town. The atmosphere was electric.
The locals sing and dance as they row you through mangroves in a round basket boat. We paid for a full-day excursion, including a cooking class and lantern-making lesson. We organised the trip through our hotel. It was well worth the money and a great way to experience Hoi An’s unique way of life.
Need to Know Before you Go
Our advice for anyone travelling to Hoi An would be the following:
- Vietnamese people are kind and gentle. If the locals seem rude or unapproachable, it’s usually because the language barrier is so great. Learning a few local phrases is helpful and will be well received.
- Make sure you visit Hoi An in summer. December in Hoi An is cold and rainy. As with most places, there’s plenty more to do in sunny weather. But you can still have a good time in winter like we did!
- Hoi An is small and quaint but can be very busy and loaded with tourists and tourist attractions. If you’re visiting over popular months or during the lantern festivals, be prepared to face crowds of people!
- Only ride a motorbike or scooter in Hoi An (or Vietnam in general) if you’re an experienced rider. Most of Hoi An is small enough to explore by bicycle. Accidents happen and often involve tourists.