Vietnam

Hoi An and An Bang beach guide

If you’re planning a trip to Vietnam and are planning to check out quite a few spots, I’d 100% recommend leaving Hoi An for last. ‘Cause you know how they say ‘leave the best for last?’ yup, this is definitely the case.
Obvs it’s up to you, but I guarantee you, this is the best place. Not only because it’s beautiful and cute, and there are lanterns everywhere, and there’s the beach and all that, but because the people here are the best of the best. Don’t just take it from me. In a conversation with a Hanoi local he told us that the people of Hoi An are the friendliest in all of Vietnam, ‘not just for tourists, but for locals too’. Told you. It is basically Care Bear world.
Anyway, here’s a quick guide for you.

WHERE TO STAY
I want to see Hoi An
If you’d like to make the most of your visit to Hoi An, and want to go for walks at night under the colourful lanterns, then staying somewhere in Hoi An Ancient Town is the best option for you. Everything is within walking distance, and most places provide free bicycles, so you can always go visit the beach and rice fields if you feel like it.

I want to stay at the beach but still visit Hoi An
If you’d like to be within close distance to Hoi An, as in, just a short ride away, but would much prefer to be by the beach, then An Bang beach (Cam An) is the place for you. It’s a quiet little place, with only a few streets filled with delicious restaurants and all within 5min of the beach. The beach isn’t ‘turquoise water, white sand paradise’ but it is very beautiful. And it’s only 4km from Hoi An Ancient Town – you can easily cycle or rent a motorbike to visit.

If you choose to stay in An Bang, here are our two favourite places:

  • An Bang beach Dolphin Homestay
  • Santa Villa Hoi An

Both are family owned places, with very friendly staff. Dolphin is a bit closer to restaurants and the main street while Santa Villa is a bit further away but right on the beach. Both provide free bicycles.

WHAT TO DO
Regardless of where you stay, here are a few things to do in the area:

Hoi An by night
Hoi An Ancient Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, which is to say, it is absolutely stunning. There’s plenty to see and do, but the best way to visit is to walk its streets. It’s quite small, so you can easily see it all in one day (half a day even, if you don’t visit any of the ancient houses and museums).
For me however, the best of Hoi An is night-time, when all the lanterns light up, the little boats go in the river with little lanterns, and Hoi An becomes sort of a fairy-tale world. It is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.
Going to Hoi An and missing the ‘night-time display’ would be like going to Italy and not having pasta or pizza.

An Bang beach
Depending on how many days you’re staying in Hoi An, and whether you’re a beach person or not, An Bang beach is defo one of the spots to check. (If you’re not already staying, there that is). As said, the beach is not one of those ‘postcard paradise beaches’ but it is very beautiful, and massive, so you can easily escape the mobs of tourists who tend to stay right at the entrance point. If crowds ain’t your thing, turn left or right and you’ll find quieter places.

Please note that in the winter months (December-February/March*) it can be very chilly in An Bang, and the sea is a bit rough and not really swimmable.
*We were there in January/February and towards mid-February the weather picked-up and there were some really lovely days.

Rice fields
Just outside Hoi An, on the road to An Bang, you’ll find beautiful rice fields to either side. There are little tiny roads/paths through the rice fields that are absolutely worth exploring. The landscape is magnificent, the people are very friendly, and you’ll even spot the local fauna: water-buffaloes and birds aplenty. You can also visit the little Tra Que vegetable Village, a small charming island, where the farmers grow all sorts of vegetables for the local restaurants.
It’s a very easy and enjoyable bicycle ride.

Rice fields picByDreamines
Rice fields Hoi An

Marble Mountains
About a 30min car ride from Hoi An, the Marble Mountains are a group of five marble and limestone mountains, named after the five elements: water, wood, fire, metal and earth. On the main mountain (water) there is an impressive pagoda and caves transformed into shrines featuring jaw-dropping Buddha statues.
If you’re brave enough to climb all the way to the top, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views too (on a clear day you might even be able to spot the Cham Islands).
A ticket costs vnd40.000 (£1.26/$1.77/€1.42).

Da Nang
I had zero expectations about Da Nang, but as it turns out, it’s pretty cool. The beach is really nice (again, you’ll need to walk away from the crowds) and the bridges at night are spectacular. There’s also a massive Lady Buddha statue at the Linh Ung Pagoda on Son Tra Peninsula, that you can visit for spectacular views of Da Nang, the beach and the sea.
If you’re staying in Hoi An for a couple of days, maybe you’ll want to include a little trip to Da Nang? (if you do, make sure you wait for nightfall when the bridges are lit).

A day out – Hai Van Pass
If you’re spending a few days in Hoi An and are looking for other things to do, a good day out would be to rent a car with a driver (or just rent a motorbike if you want to) and ride through the Hai Van Pass, a scenic route along the mountainside, just off Da Nang, possibly one of the most famous routes in Vietnam. It boasts stunning (I mean jaw-dropping) views. You can even make a whole day of it and drive all the way to Hue to visit the Imperial City. Just remember it’s 3h (probably more like 4h) each way!

WHERE TO EAT

  • In Hoi An:

Mr. Son
The perfect example of ‘never judge a book by its cover’. Mr. Son is a little restaurant located on a row of small restaurants, more like food stalls rather than restaurants, but it has some of the most delicious food in Hoi An and you’d be crazy not to try it. There are only a few seats (maybe 16?) so make sure you go with plenty of time, in case you have to wait for a table. We recommend: the fried wonton (I mean it’s delicious), the noodles (the crispy fried noodles are very good) and, according to my friend, the Cau Lao was the best she had.
Where? Khu am thuc 62, Quảng Nam, Hoi An
Verdict: Do it. Money: $. Food rate: Really good. Price/Quality: Can’t beat!

Mot Hoi An
We didn’t actually get to try this one, but I told a friend I’d read about it having the ‘best phos’, and she decided to give it a go. She says it was the most delicious Pho live ever. (Yes, I am crying now because I didn’t try it)

  • In An Bang:

Mom’s Kitchen
We discovered Mom’s Kitchen sort of by accident on our way to the beach. It looked like a friendly, family owned restaurant, and we decided we’d give it a try later that day. We went there for dinner on our second or third night in An Bang, and returned nearly every night since. The chicken pho, as simple as it is, is the most flavoursome I’ve had (and I ate a lot of phos). The minute they bring it to the table you can taste its delicious smell. Also very good – the seafood noodles. Absolutely delicious. And in the end they always give you a bit of fresh fruit (many restaurants in An Bang do).
Oh and the family is LOVELY. The ‘mom’ in the kitchen is the sweetest lady, as is her daughter.
Where? Group 7, An Bang Block, Cam An Ward, Hoi An, Vietnam
Verdict: Absolutely must do it. Money: $. Food rate: Really really Good. Price/Quality: Can’t beat!

French Bakery
Oh my gosh I don’t even know where to start with this one. How do I put this… Anh’s food is quite possible the best in all of Vietnam. There, said it. I mean, everything is absolutely delicious. From the first day we went to the French Bakery, we couldn’t stop coming back! It became a bit like Dede’s in Thailand, the one we compare all the other ones to. The seafood pho, albeit much different than the traditional pho, is the most divine thing I have ever eaten. The grilled shrimp is so good I couldn’t get enough of it. The tofu curry, the grilled chicken and the seafood hotpot were also big favourites. Oh and the Vietnamese pancakes are really good and the sandwiches are also brilliant. Told you, everything Anh makes is heaven. HEAVEN!
Oh and she always gives you fruit at the end. Simply. The. Best.
Where? Cẩm An, Hội An, Quang Nam Province
Verdict: You’d be crazy not to go Money: $. Food rate: HEAVEN Price/Quality: Really good.

 

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