Hoi An introduction
Prior to the arrival of the French, Hoi An was Vietnam’s ‘window on the world’. Tucked away amongst the back streets are the houses of merchants from Asia and Europe, lured from afar by the prospect of high-grade silk and porcelain. It is an ideal spot to stop for a few days, strolling along the wharf, shopping in the market, or having a silk dress or suit fitted, and is best explored on foot and at your leisure.
There are many restaurants, old houses, craft shops and art galleries, where local artists exhibit their works. Take some time to enjoy a bowl of Cao Lau, a special noodle soup which is a speciality in the area. Some of the nearby beaches offer a pleasant setting for afternoon walks and seafront restaurants provide you with lots of opportunities to sample the local cuisine.
My Son ruins and walking tour of the Old Quarter
Leaving our hotel early morning, we travel one to one and a half hours to a point close to the My Sons ruins, Vietnam’s most important Cham site. The Cham civilisation dominated the area that is now Central Vietnam for many centuries before being crushed by the Vietnamese. My Son was once the intellectual and religious centre and may have set in a verdant valley surrounded by hills and overlooked by Cat’s Tooth Mountain. Streams run between the structures and through the nearby countryside and the site can be explored in a couple of hours on foot.
Day at leisure in Hoi An
Hoi An captures the very essence of Vietnam: Colour, vibrancy, industrious and friendly local people, great food, bustling river Thu Bon, rich and blended history, skilful craftsmanship. By day treat yourself to expertly crafted tailored clothes, peruse the shops and markets and enjoy a cold beer as you watch the world go by. By night the narrow streets are filled with sweet incense and the smell of street vendors cooking and serving light snacks and broths as locals line the river crouched on stools eating noodles by lantern-light to the lingering hum of Vietnamese conversation.
You will undoubtedly enjoy your time exploring this old trading port. You may wish to stroll around the ever-fascinating market and visit one of the many tailors or galleries which make the town famous. The market is also a great place to whet your taste buds – try the local ‘cao lau’, a noodle dish topped with bean sprouts and pork. You can also visit many of the temples, and walk into many of the old merchant houses, many of which will welcome visitors.
The beach is two and a half miles away from the town and there is a superb bicycle ride between the two. The road passes through picturesque paddy fields alongside the river and once at the beach you can park your bike and enjoy a drink in one of the many cafes.
Staying at the Hoi An Essence
The Essence Hoi An Hotel & Spa is located in a quiet location overlooking paddy fields, yet is within easy reach of the UNESCO-protected old town and Japanese Covered Bridge. The rooms are set in tropical gardens, and offer modern amenities, combined with a traditional Vietnamese design.
The hotel has one restaurant, an outdoor swimming pool with Jacuzzi, as well as a spa and gym. A complimentary shuttle service is offered, through the old town to Cua Dai beach, as well as bicycles for guests to explore the local area.