What to do in Hoi An for 48 hours?
Hoi An is all about the UNESCO Heritage listed Old Town with all its characteristic faded yellow townhouses. With no cars allowed, it’s a lot calmer than other Vietnamese towns and the lack of any risk of being cleaned up by a little Daewoo allows you to relax and take it all in a bit more.
The Old Town is only a few blocks wide, perfect for simply wandering around and discovering the galleries, tailors and craftsmen, which I’ll tell you more about soon.
Japanese Covered Bridge
One of the centrepieces of the Hoi An, the Covered Bridge is a remnant of the heavy Japanese influence on Hoi An in the 1600’s. The bridge was originally constructed to connect the Japanese community with the Chinese quarter – separated by a small stream of water as a symbolic gesture of peace.
Roughly 40 years after the the Japanese Bridge was constructed, the Japanese were demanded to return home to Japan under order of Sakoku – the act that officially closed Japan to the rest of the world until the mid 1850’s. Interestingly, the bridge is the only one in the world with a Buddhist temple inside it.
Shopping in Hoi An’s Artisan Tailors and Galleries
Hoi An is known for its fine tailoring, custom leatherwork and bespoke fabrication. They’re so good that many craftsmen can reproduce something you show them in a magazine or catalogue in as little as 2 days. The leatherworkers can spin up replicas of satchels, handbags or backpacks in exactly the right colour, size and configuration you want.
I had a crack at having a bag made for work, and after I forked over the US $100 for it the lady running the shop really took her time to understand everything about the bag. She asked loads of questions like how big I wanted it to be, what kind of pockets and zips I wanted, how wide I wanted the shoulder strap to be and even what kind of fabric I wanted inside it. Unfortunately the shop couldn’t finish it by the time we had to leave, but they gladly refunded my money, which was refreshing in a country like Vietnam that has a reputation for ripping people off.
Away from leather goods, there are loads of shops that can make custom-tailored dresses, suits, shirts and pretty much any garment you can think of. If you need some great fitting clobber for a good price, get it made up here.
Food and Drink
Eating in Hoi An is like everywhere else in Vietnam – it’s all about the street. Food vendors ply the streets selling everything from the local variation of pho to sweet and savoury snacks to have on the go. Get your dong out and eat while you wander.
How to get there
Getting to Hoi An is a bit more involved than other cities in Vietnam as it doesn’t have its own airport. Your best bet is to fly into the brand new Da Nang airport with AirAsia, Vietnam Airlines or JetStar Pacific and then take a taxi to Hoi An. In standard Asia form, you’ll get bombarded by taxi drivers as soon as you exit the Arrivals hall. A taxi to Hoi An should only be about USD $15, and make sure you be firm on where you want to go as taxi drivers trying to get you to their mate’s hotel is pretty common.
Get around in Hoi An
As Hoi An is pretty compact, you’ll find that most of it is easily walkable. But if you do find yourself with tired feet, grab a green Mai Linh taxi or try your luck with a cyclo (but make sure you agree your price before you get on).
The hotel I’m about to tell you about is a bit far out of town, but luckily they provide a regular, free shuttle into town. Just one of the many amazing services they provide.
Hoi An really put the icing on the cake for me in Vietnam, as it had so much individual heritage, character and charm that sets it apart from cities throughout the rest of the country. Seeing how well the old buildings have been preserved and the lack of cars makes it into a great place to relax and just soak up the special vibe of the town.