16 Sep 2015   |   Lists

Top 7 Things To Do in Hoi An

The ancient town of Hoi An is one of the most popular destinations in Vietnam. The UNESCO World Heritage site used to be a bustling trading port between 15th and 19th centuries. And thanks to the preservation efforts of the Hoi An people and local officials, the charming Central Coast city has remained largely intact.

Naturally, most tourists enjoy wandering Hoi An’s pedestrian-friendly streets. But that’s not all there is to do. Hardly, in fact. So where to start? We asked an expert, Mr. Nguyen Quoc Dang, the front office manager and former chief concierge at the luxurious Nam Hai resort. Here is what he said ...

Spend a Day with a Local Fisherman

“This is one of the unforgettable experiences you can have in Hoi An. The tour offers guests intimate exposure to both the local farming and fishing communities. Accompanied by a tour guide, you start the day leisurely by cycling along country roads, witnessing local Vietnamese rural life first hand and encountering all manner of photo opportunities -- maybe a water buffalo working in a rice paddy, ducks swimming along the river, or farmers tending their crops. Along the way, you’ll feel the warmth and friendliness of the local people. Later, guests board a Hoi An Eco Tour boat for a river cruise, during which they’ll meet and engage with local fishermen, learn the important aspects of traditional net fishing, and get to paddle a unique Vietnamese bamboo basket boat while exploring coconut palm-flanked waterways.”

Go Snorkeling or Diving around the Cham Islands

“The Cham Islands is a cluster of eight small islands 18 kilometers off Hoi An’s shoreline. Coral reefs surround each of these islands, making them perfect for snorkeling, scuba diving and discovery of authentic Vietnamese island life. There are several types of tours available, from February through September (weather permitting). The most reliable time frame is mid-May through August.”

Have a Suit or Dress Custom Made

“Hoi An has a long tradition of tailoring, and having a dress, shirt or suit made just for you can be an exciting affair. For most people who visit Hoi An, the two main shopping allures are the riverside market and the tailors, of which there are hundreds downtown. The sheer number makes Hoi An a buyer’s market in this regard, so the visitor who doesn't bargain down the price of a suit or silk shirt is really missing out. Of course, many other items are on sale in Hoi An and the ancient charm of the town makes an afternoon or evening out shopping a delight. Most stores are open from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m.”

Enjoy a Sunset Cruise

“The most special part of the day for local fishermen is the late afternoon, when they set out into the sea with expectations of a bountiful catch. The Hoi An Sunset Cruise Tour enables you to witness two daily rituals: the passing parade of the local fishing fleet setting out to sea, and the magic of the sun slowly sinking in the sky. As with the Day With a Local Fisherman tour, this excursion provides you with the opportunity to paddle a unique Vietnamese bamboo basket boat. Back onboard, you can enjoy the sunset with refreshments of your choice and a delicious Vietnamese snack.”

Visit My Son Holy Land

”During the 4th century, My Son became the religious, cultural and educational center of the Cham Empire. Most of the temples were dedicated to Cham Kings associated with divinities, especially Shiva, who was regarded as the founder and protector of Champa’s dynasties. As some of the ornamentation work at My Son was never finished, archaeologists knew that the Chams first built their structures and then carved decorations into the brickwork. Researchers have yet to figure out for certain how the Chams managed to get the baked bricks together. According to one theory, they used a paste prepared with botanical oil indigenous to Central Vietnam. It was even said that during one period in their history, the summits of some of the towers were covered with a layer of gold. In 2000, My Son was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The organization provides funding for protection and restoration and ensures its future for generations to come.”

Play Golf on World-Class Courses

“The International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO) just named Vietnam the Golf Destination of the Year for Asia/Australia. And for good reason. In the Hoi An area alone, there are two golf courses as good as any in the world -- Montgomerie Links and the Dunes Course at Danang Golf Club. The former was designed by 2010 European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie, while the latter was conceived by former world No. 1 Greg Norman. While the courses are right next to each other and impeccably maintained, they are different styles, which is why I recommend trying both. I’ve yet to meet a golfer who was disappointed for doing so!”

Hit the Beach

“If you like the beach, you’ll love it here. At The Nam Hai, every villa faces the sea and is on beautiful Ha My Beach. Walk south and at some indiscernible point it becomes An Bang Beach, which CNN recently called one of the world’s 100 best beaches for its ‘gentle waves and soft white sand.’ It’s also a good place to rent a surfboard, or try some Vietnamese seafood. There are lots of cool restaurants and bars along this stretch of sand.”