Hội An

A little guide with photos.

Hội An was our second stop on our trip to Vietnam. It is in the middle of the country, half-way down the coast between Hanoi in the north and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) in the south. Hội An is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hội An's Old Town is an exceptionally well-preserved state of medieval Hội An when it was a major port.

As we were working our way down from Hanoi, we heard news reports of flooding in Hội An and read frantic and near real-time reports on Trip Advisor about traveling there. Luckily the worst of the rain and the flooding had abated and our trip was a bit rainy and wet but otherwise great.

There is a really nice beach in Hội An but, given the rain, we instead went the opposite way into Old Town. We got tour guides through Hội An Mates, a company that pairs up local and nearby college kids with English speaking tourists with the idea being that they get to practice their English and the tourists get an insider's view - for free. Of course tipping is allowed and you can pay what you want for the 2-3 hours they spend showing your group around.

While there are many old buildings to see and visit, one of the major landmarks is a covered Japanese bridge. It is an important enough landmark that it is featured on Vietnamese currency. It is frequently crowded with people jostling for selfies! It's a short bridge - over a canal really rather than a river. But it's very photogenic.

While you can try this in other places in Vietnam, Hội An is a great place to rent a moped. Our rental experience was decidedly informal - no names, IDs, driving permits etc. Just a small advance payment and the owner poured gasoline out of a can into our mopeds - enough for 10 km or so. We were zooming off when he chaased us to ask where we were staying and we yelled the name of our homestay and got a cheery wave goodbye. Along the way by the side of the highways were people with cans of petrol if we chose to buy a refill. We drove out to a terracotta exhibition where they were offering a chance at the potter's wheel! All told, it was nothing all that much different from my India experiences but after almost half a lifetime in by-the-rules California, it was liberating to drive out without giving out any form of ID or signing a multi-page release form whatsoever!

Beyond the bridge, Hội An is along the banks of is also the Thu Bon River and river cruises are a popular attraction here. Lanterns are a motif of Old Town and they are everywhere. Dozens of shops sell them and they are also used to decorate the streets which, all in all, makes for a very magical atmosphere to wander around during dusk as day turns into night.

I also signed up a Photography tour with a French guy who had moved there. He took us to a nearby fishing village and it was fun and not too expensive. Worth a shot esp if you're the type that lugs around a DSLR and two lenses and maybe a tripod!

Travel Tips

Everyone is super-friendly as elsewhere in Vietnam. There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options even in what looks like a pretty small town in the middle of Vietnam. Lots of great coffee shops with free Wi-Fi. You must spend at least one evening in the Old Town.
Iceland | Hội An