Just a 40 minute drive south of Da Nang is a magical ancient town called Hoi An meaning “peaceful meeting place”. Walking through it’s narrow streets set on a graceful river I felt like I was in Kyoto and Venice at the same time.
This town was officially established in 1595, but has been influenced throughout the centuries by Japanese, European and Chinese cultures via it’s vibrant port. Thanks to shipwrecks and excavations, we know that ceramics (dating back 2200 years) from Vietnam and other Asian countries were carried far and wide from Hoi An – even as far as Egypt.
We stayed at a small boutique hotel called Riverside White House Villas for $30/night ($40/night usually but we paid through purchasing hotel.com gift cards at a 25% discount). Our large modern and spotless room had a balcony which faced the Thu Bon River, fresh breakfast and the use of bicycles were all included. Honestly, this was one of the nicest hotels that we have ever stayed at!
Just a 4 minute walk from our hotel were 2 vegan restaurants and 1 vegetarian one which was almost 100% vegan.
- Vegan Zone – Chic cafe atmosphere, reasonable prices, newly opened and delicious! We loved the Eggplant crepe.
- Karma Waters – They have a small cafe, cooking classes, homestay and a charitable organization. Helpful staff navigated us through a pretty large menu. The “hotdog”, “hamburger” and spring rolls were lovely.
- Annen Vegetarian and Yoga – A garden cafe replete with swings and a beautiful organic garden. We enjoyed the family atmosphere, the amazing kambucha and the organic freshly made food. They also offer yoga classes.
Walking through the Old Town of Hoi An is a lot like walking through the ancient streets of Kyoto (another one of my favorite towns). Since Hoi An has been untouched for over 200 years it has preserved its incredible legacy of Japanese merchant houses, Chinese temples and ancient tea houses and cafes. Although, lounge bars, boutique hotels and an abundance of tailor shops have infiltrated the old town, it still maintains it’s charm and authenticity.
The best time to stroll the streets of ancient Hoi An is around 4 pm – right before sunset. The light falling on the buildings and the river is perfect for picture taking and creates a romantic atmosphere. It is a great time to grab an ice coffee at one of the numerous garden cafes, cool off and watch the world go by.
As the sun sets, the town lights up with it’s numerous colorful lanterns. A different side of Hoi An is illuminated. Both night and day are stunning in their own way and must be seen. There are lanterns hung everywhere – streets, cafe’s, boats, etc., Lantern shops are in abundance – where you can purchase lanterns or where you are taught to make them to bring home or as gifts.
Just a few kilometers away Hoi An offers beautiful sandy beaches from where you can see Da Nang – it is literally one stretch of beach connecting the two. We borrowed the free bicycles from our hotel and spent the day biking through verdant rice fields and along beach towns. The vistas are truly breathtaking.
For me Hoi an has been a true highlight of our journey this year. It is my favorite place in Vietnam so far and is a town that I want to come back to for a longer stay – 4 days was not enough.