Only have three days in Hoi An? You have a cultural tango with a motorbike tour out in the countryside, you’ll learn that fortune favors the ambitious, not only the brave.
This is how I enjoyed my three perfect days in Hoi An
Day One: Get Acquainted
9 AM:Get cooking! Tra Que Water Wheel provides excellent cooking classes in Tra Que village. You will learn how to prepare and cook traditional food of Central Vietnam. And don’t worry about diet restrictions, you can choose from two menus, normal or vegetarian. The Water Wheel staff meets you at the lobby, then you will begin with the tour of Hoi An’s Central Market.
Poised next to the banks of the Thu Bon River, the Central Market is an active local market, servicing locals and foreigners alike. Meander through the makeshift aisles, outlined by wooden platforms decorated in wicker baskets brimming with a vibrant tropical assembly of fruits and fresh produce. Collect your ingredients and head back to Water Wheel. You will be taken around the herb garden where local farmers work in their field using organic methods from 300 years ago.
11 AM: Now it’s time to prepare and cook your Vietnamese food. Roll some fresh spring rolls (goi cuon), sizzle up some Central-style savory Vietnamese pancakes (banh xeo), toss a gorgeous papaya salad (goi du du), cook the grilled fish in banana leaves (ca nuong la chuoi), master steamed rice in banana leaves (com hap la chuoi), and make some flowers and animals with vegetables for decoration. The chef will first demonstrate how to prepare each dish before letting you take the wheel. Last but not least, enjoy what you have cooked!
1 PM: Take the bikes out for a spin to the Ancient Town, the UNESCO World Heritage designed historic section of Hoi An proper. Not only will you be treated to a scenic drive past verdant rice paddies, but you’ll also burn those newly accrued calories sitting in your belly.
Stop at Bebe Tailor’s Flagship Store on 11 Hoang Dieu Street to create your own custom threads. Hoi An is a mecca for tailor shops and it would be a sin not to invest in a three-piece suit that cost only a fraction of what they’d go for back in Western countries. Ladies, if you’re interested in commissioning your own pieces, just make sure to have a gameplan in terms of a look you’d like to replicate or you may be overwhelmed by the number of options. A first-time buyer? Check out our article: “Finding a Good Tailor in Hoi An.”
Note: A fitting post-feast may seem counterintuitive but lucky for you, all garments are fitted at least twice so don’t worry that the garment will not be true to your size.
3 PM: Park your bike and get to walking. Hoi An’s Ancient Town was made for pedestrians. Handicap impaired? There are cyclos for hire, a Vietnamese version of a rickshaw with the bicycle affixed to the back of the passenger cart as opposed to the front. Seek out The Reaching Out Tea House on 131 Tran Phu and you’ll be rewarded with an oasis of calm. Apart from the Chinoiserie-inspired interiors, this tea house also doubles as a social enterprise providing the mute/deaf staff with meaningful employment. All communication is done with pencil and paper, as well as a series of wooden blocks labeled with commands/actions to ensure that all orders go smoothly.
Seek out The Reaching Out Tea House on 131 Tran Phu and you’ll be rewarded with an oasis of calm.
If you encounter a Hoi An Ticket Kiosk when attempting to enter the Ancient Town, please note that the ticket is NOT compulsory despite what the vendors say. Should you find yourself in this situation, backtrack to the main street of Tran Hung Dao Street and try to enter the Ancient Town from another street. The entrance fee is billed at 120,000 VND for international visitors and 80,000 VND for locals and can be used for 21 official attractions, but most buildings can be entered without an official ticket.
5 PM: Stroll along the edge of Bach Dang Street for the best vantage point of the Ancient Town’s free light show. Almost every canary yellow building within the premise is trimmed with a string of silk lanterns, which are turned off as the sun sets. From An Hoi Bridge, admire the trail of floating lanterns cruising down the now-black waters of the Thu Bon River. Hawkers congregate at the footbridge selling these floating lanterns for 20,000 VND a pop and have devised a clever mechanism of lowering them down into the waters. If you are traveling with a child, it is a worthy moment of mysticism.
When crossing the An Hoi Bridge, make a right and almost immediately, you’ll find stalls strung with painted silk lanterns galore. Interested in buying? The small lanterns start at 10,000 VND but chances are, going home with a good photograph of these darling lights will be enough. Proceed onwards to Vy’s Market Restaurant located on 3 Nguyen Hoang for a hearty dinner. Don’t be disheartened by the food court layout, as it’s owned by the queen of the Hoi An restaurant scene, Diem Vy, who is also behind other favorites such as Morning Glory, Cargo and Mermaid. Head back early to get some rest for a full day of adventuring ahead.
Day Two: Go Explore
7 AM: Eating breakfast because you’ll need all the energy you can get for a full day of cruising the countryside. Surrounded by coconut trees, a peaceful lake, and an organic farm, this place will definitely ease your stress and bring you to the authentic Vietnamese atmosphere and cuisine.
But for now, let’s head to My Son Sanctuary, the first destination today. The ruined tower temples of My Son (pronounced “mee-sun”) is the legacy of the Champa Kingdom and the Cham people, a unique culture of Hindu devotees that settled in this region between the 4th and 13th centuries. The motorcycle tour to My Son departs at 7:30 a.m. while the private car leaves at 8:30 a.m. For a more authentic approach to transportation, opt for the motorcycle tour. Experiencing the open road in Vietnam is something you’ll surely remember for years to come.
9 AM: Adjacent to the wet market is the local ferry, but it will be unlike one you’ve seen before as you’ll be driving your motorcycle onto the narrow barge. The bow of the ferry is the prime spot for the best panoramic photo of Hoi An. After you’ve crossed the river, the first stop of the journey is Kim Bong Village, known for boat building and carpentry. There, you’ll visit the home of traditional straw mat weavers. Enjoy some refreshments as well before carrying on.
10:30 AM: The next stopover on your way to My Son is Phuoc Kieu bronze casting village, located in Dien Ban District. Here, you’ll find a family of blacksmiths who specialize in transforming old Vietnam War bullets and bombshells into musical instruments. Ask the artisan to play the ‘trong troi,’ a circular drum played with one’s fingers that give off a haunting, exotic sound.
12:30 PM: It’s lunch time! Recharge and find some shelter from the heat of the mid-afternoon sun at a local unnamed dive just a short 30-minute ride from My Son.
2 PM: Arrive at the magnificent My Son Sanctuary. 71 monuments clustered into eight different regions make up the total site. From the main entrance, your introduction to the Cham culture will begin at the museum. You’ll then be shuttled to the main congregation of monuments. Before visiting tower temples, watch a beautiful—and brief—show of Cham dance and song performances. Admire the conservation work that has been carried out and the ongoing beautification efforts to the park’s relics.
5:30 PM: Your long adventure is at an end. Arrive at your hotel . The fittings will take no more than 30 minutes top. Make your way to Pho Xua on 35 Phan Chau Trinh. This is a small eatery with a menu full of the regional specialties like cao lau, hearty noodles made with mystical well water.
Day Three: Beach Bum
10 AM: Rise and shine! It’s your last day in Hoi An and you’ve earned a day of doing nothing. Slept in and missed breakfast? Ready that bike and make your way to Ancient Town. You will roll through the surrounding Tra Que Village. This is an agricultural wunderkind where the farmers prohibit the use of chemical pesticides on their vegetables. Continue on to Madame Khanh’s banh mi shop on 115 Tran Cao Van, who in my opinion, beats the Bourdain-endorsed Banh Mi Phuong on 2B Phan Chau Trinh, for a loaded breakfast banh mi.
11 AM: Your new clothes are ready! Pick up the fresh attire at Bebe’s Tailors. Travel back down the main street of Nguyen Truong To and get your swimsuit for a full day of fun in the sun.
12:30 PM: Cycle in the opposite direction of Ancient Town for about 1-km to An Bang Beach. Most guidebooks state there are two beaches in Hoi An, An Bang and Cua Dai, but Cua Dai has recently eroded away. All you’ll find in its wake is a long stretch of sandbags and abandoned beachfront properties. Apply that sunblock because you’re about to get your tan on. At An Bang Beach, you can rent beach chairs with umbrellas for shade for 50,000 VND for the whole day. And if you’re hankering for a snack or beverage, the neighboring restaurants will cater to you.
When parking your bicycle, don’t get zipped by the fake parking lot vendors. They will ask for 10,000 VND per bike but the correct price is 1,000 VND. If the hawkers are hassling you, simply approach the white guard kiosk at the entrance of the beach and you’ll be directed to the right parking and given the correct amount.
6 PM: After the sun has set, walk along the coast until you find Soul Kitchen, An Bang’s first all-in-one social hotspot. Part bar, lounge, and restaurant, the chill vibes makes for a low-stress, great night out. Scope the scene and snag one of the coveted cabanas if they are available. The menu is simple, but good, with international picks and the local fare so there is something for every eater. Stay for the live music and make sure that hand isn’t empty! The cocktails are mixed well and are the right amount of strong. Bottoms up!
Your three days in Hoi An would be tremendously unforgettable, especially once you can make use of all the amazing authentic shops and local experiences. Yet, don’t ruin your trip with improper transportation before you reach the heavenly destination. You can choose to take a Grab, or make your trip more releasing by booking with Klook in advance.