11 things to do in Hoi An
1) FULL MOON LANTERN FESTIVAL
If you happen to be in Hoi An on the 14th of any lunar month, you will be able to enjoy the Full Moon Lantern Festival. This is a date where locals honour their ancestors; burning incense, offering fruit and flowers and also burning fake money outside homes and businesses for good luck and prosperity. There are also plenty of street musicians, Chinese chess matches being played and also poetry readings - there is also plenty of mouth-watering vegetarian street food on offer. The sky is beautifully lit with flickering candles and multi coloured lanterns with a fantastic vibe to match. Hoi An Lantern Festival is suitable for everything from young solo travelers to families, making it certainly one of the things to do in Hoi An if you get lucky with your dates!
(FULL MOON LANTERN FESTIVAL - things to do in Hoi An)
2) MID AUTUMN FESTIVAL
This festival is going to be a little bit more difficult to attend for those who only have a short stay in Hoi An - it only occurs on the 14th and 15th of the 8th lunar month each year. It marks the end of the rice harvest for each year and is a chance for families to celebrate a good yield, spend time with their children and most importantly - chase away bad spirits and honour the full moon! For thousands of years, these kinds of traditions have been forming the heart of Vietnamese communities, making it a beautiful event to attend.
(MID AUTUMN FESTIVAL - Things to do in Hoi An)
3) COOKING CLASSES
Everybody loves food! Cooking classes in Hoi An are an amazing opportunity to absorb the local culture, with many dishes being unique to this region of Vietnam. The best part is, there is no shortage of tours due to this being one of the most popular things to do in Hoi An - with everything to hour long cooking classes to full-day tours where you go to the market and vegetable farms yourself! You also have your choice between a restaurant or a home and what kind of dishes you want to be cooking. One thing is for certain though - you won't leave a cooking class hungry! Expect to pay around $30-35 USD for the classic half-day cooking class and upwards for anything longer and more extravagant.
Something a little bit different from the more common tourist options, Yoga in Hoi An is a great opportunity to take some care of your health and well being! This can be relatively expensive and almost close to standard western prices, but there are multiple options throughout Hoi An and Da Nang for anyone from beginners to kids yoga to more advanced classes. There are even meditation classes available, and the the best part is the location of course! We recommend buying a short-term membership if you plan on going more than once during your stay, as it is much more cost effective.
(yoga - things to do in Hoi An ancient town)
5) DO A HOMESTAY
This is becoming an increasingly more popular option all over the world but especially in Asia, despite being less luxurious than a larger hotel! Anyone from solo backpackers to whole families and looking toward the home-stay accommodation, and there are many reasons why. A homestay is essentially an informal hotel built on a family property, but it is far more personal as you get to know the family and there are only usually a few guests (or just yourself!). Many offer help with all tours, cooking classes held in the home and have bikes to use during your stay. There is nothing better than a home-cooked breakfast made to your liking - and the families are always more than hospitable. Most have clean rooms, pretty little courtyards and are located in great locations - one of our favourite things to do in Hoi An !
6) SELF-GUIDED TOUR OF HOI AN
Strolling through the streets of Hoi An is still one of the best ways to take in the towns beautiful charm. Take a few hours from your day to simply get lost with plan - take a walk along the river, head into the Ancient Town to see the heritage sites, rent a bicycle and cycle around the city or simply sit at one of the many friendly cafes for some people-watching. The sites, smells and sounds of Hoi An are tantalizing for the senses. We believe that sometimes the best plan is no plan, especially when visiting a town like Hoi An!
7) TRY THE LOCAL DISHES
People often forget that Central Vietnam has some unique and distinctive dishes, offering alternative flavours from the north and south of Vietnam respectively. Everything from the meat and vegetables to the water used to cook is sourced locally, making these dishes extra special. The top 3 to try are:
- Cao Lau - a delicious dark broth with fat yellow noodles, slices of juicy pork, green vegetables and served with bean sprouts and crispy croutons.
- Com Ga - fluffy rice cooked in chicken stock and tumeric, with shredded chicken and mashed onions. Served with fresh Vietnamese coriander and spices - very spicy chili sauce optional! When being served to customers, it is decorated with peppermint, papaya and salted onions.
- Hoi An White Rose - this unique dish is an appetizer that lives true to its name! This is a type of shrimp dumpling made from white dough bunched up to look like a rose. Shrimp and pork are then carefully placed upon it with crispy shallots with a mouth-watering dipping sauce made from shrimp broth, hot chilies, lemon and sugar!
8) DO A VEGETABLE VILLAGE TOUR
One of the best things to do in Hoi An is to take a day seeing where all the fresh produce comes from! What makes the cuisine so amazing in this popular destination, is that almost everything is locally sourced and produced in a unique way. One example is Tra Que Village, a small farming village between Hoi Ans center and Ang Bang beach. As opposed to using any fertilizers or chemicals in vegetable production, Tra Que only use a particular algae found in the area that give all the vegetables a distinct flavor and vibrant colour! Day tours out to this village are available and is a great chance to see how some of the local farmers work - you can even work on the farm too!
9) ENJOY THE LOCAL BEER
This is a staple for most people! Vietnam beer culture is very popular and the ale itself is easy to drink - far lower in alcohol percentage than standard beers at 3%! Bia Hanoi is what you will find the most, but other local alternatives are available such as Larue; all served in a chilled glass. There is ample bars river and beach-side with fantastic views, so simply go for a walk through the Ancient Town or head down to Cua Dai beach and take your pick! There is also a sports bar for those wanting to catch their favorite sports live from back home. Best enjoyed with some of the cheap local salted peanuts.
10) TAKE A BOAT TRIP
This is easily one of our favorite things to do in Hoi An. If you want to step it up from lying on the beach, you can take a boat trip down the Thu Bon River - with one hour trips being quite cheap with no reservation required. A sampan (flat-bottomed wooden canoes) are the preferred option as they are traditional and more memorable, and are usually rowed by old friendly women. You will cover a deceiving amount of ground in an hour or two, so its a great opportunity to get away from the city center and see some more of rural Hoi An.
11) VOLUNTEER WORK IN HOI AN
This might not be on the forefront of peoples mind when considering things to do in Hoi An, but it is a beautiful opportunity to give back to the local community and help those that need it. Over the years, Hoi An has been ravaged by many natural disasters and as a result, the prevalence of poverty in the area has worsened. Many of the charity foundations are run by expats and your money will be well used to helping feed those in need, support for disabled people in the community or simply towards boosting Hoi Ans economy through job creation. We recommend not going to orphanages simply to take photos or giving street children money in hopes of them using it for schooling - but rather see a trusted source and ensure your money or time can be utilized to make a difference.