By Michelle Yastremsky
Ho Chi Minh City has access to the Mekong Delta, Hanoi is the gateway to Vietnam’s lush north, but where can you find a UNESCO-protected ancient town covered in hanging lanterns in every size, shape and color? Only in Hoi An! Here’s how to spend the perfect day in Hoi An, Vietnam, besides getting lost in its beauty.
Start with a specialty coffee along the river
Did you know that Vietnam is the world’s second largest coffee bean producer? If you haven’t yet experienced Vietnam’s amazing specialty coffees, here’s your chance! Pop into one of the many rooftop cafes along the river and indulge in a coconut coffee, egg coffee, weasel coffee, or traditional Vietnamese blend with a splash of condensed milk.
Get something tailor-made
With tens of tailors on every street, it’s no wonder why Hoi An is Vietnam’s most famous place to get custom clothing made. Most opt to get custom suits made, but these tailors (or should we call them magicians) can make anything from shoes to belts to bathing suits – all made to fit your measurements.
Step back in time with a walk around the ancient city
While the tailor is working on your special suit, it’s time to explore the ancient city! Walk through the streets of this UNESCO-preserved city, stopping to explore some of the preserved temples and ancient houses along the way. This city is just overflowing with amazing selfie spots, so make sure your camera is fully charged!
Stop at Anthony Bourdain's favorite banh mi spot
If you’ve had your fill of pho, switch it up with something a little less soupy today. A banh mi is basically a baguette sandwich filled with ingredients like chicken, pork, pate, tofu, topped with vegetables and chili sauce – a dish worth living off of. Stop for a quick bite at Hoi An’s most famous banh mi shop, Banh Mi Phuong - the best banh mi in all of Vietnam, according to Anthony Bourdain.
Release a floating lantern down the river
Head back down to the riverside now, it’s time to release a floating lantern! You’ll find plenty of Vietnamese women selling these along the pier, so pick your favorite and buy one to send off. Or hold on to your lanterns and release them on a boat ride! Which brings us to the next activity...
Hop on a boat and watch the sunset
Dozens of local fisherman await you along the river, just waiting to take you on a sunset tour. Enjoy the breathtaking views of the illuminated city from the waters, while enjoying the peaceful sounds of the waves slapping the shore.
Snack at the night market
Your boat ride will likely start and end at the mouth of the night market, so hop off and start your exploration of the snack and craft stalls that await. Nibble on skewers, indulge in fried shrimp pancakes, or go for a wild bite with a fried frog. And if it’s souvenirs you are after, you won’t have to look far: pick up a homemade wallet, hand-painted postcard, or decorative lantern to bring to friends and family back home.
Grab a drink at a live music pub
Done snacking? It’s time to pick a pub along the water. Enjoy a cocktail or two while swaying to the sounds of a Viatnamese singer covering their favorite (mostly English) hits. They take requests, so don’t be shy – request Hotel California for the hundredth time!