Before arriving in Hoi An, Jamie and I had heard from numerous travellers that it was the be all and end all of Vietnam. Some even went so far as to say that it was one of the nicest places they had ever visited. Many that we spoke to had originally booked 2 nights and in the end decided to stay for about a week or so. Perhaps it was the high expectations that had been set up for us before visiting Hoi An, but Jamie and I were not nearly as enamored with this spot as everyone else seemed to be. However, that’s not to say that this little town didn’t have its own set of unique experiences to offer.
Many had told us that Hoi An was the perfect place to chill out, as life moved pretty slowly in this sleepy little town. They must have been smoking a bit of Rob Ford’s stash, because we did a whole lot of drinking and very little relaxing. The BackPackers Bar which lines the river in the old town offers $1 bottles of Saigon accompanied by a free rum and coke during Happy Hour. One of the brilliant things about Vietnam is that it’s always Happy Hour. Well, not actually, but their happy hours would be more aptly named happy evenings, often extending from about 4pm – 10pm. The bar in Hoi An that offers up the best bang for your buck is Volcano, which serves up all you can drink service (hard alcohol, not beer) for $4. Volcano’s promoter was your stereotypical American and then some. After he asked whether we were American and Jamie responded with the fact that we’re Canadian, he complimented us on how well we managed to speak English. I would have liked to have complimented him on the fact that he managed to dress himself in the morning, but I had no proof that he was that competent. Despite his presence, an all you can drink for less than $5 is impossible to refuse.
If you’re looking for the cheapest beer and food in town, down a little alleyway and across from the Hoa My Hotel there is a restaurant called Cafe 41, which serves up some of the best food we had in Vietnam, and beer for $0.15 per pint. You read that correctly. A measly $0.15 per pint. Honestly, if you come away from this town without a hangover then you should seriously consider moving to Vatican City and becoming a cardinal. Also worth mentioning at Cafe 41 are the stuffed wontons and the chicken sandwiches. Both are incredible, and extremely cheap.
Besides the cheap drinks, Hoi An has a couple of relatively nice beaches with waves that make for somewhat decent surfing, and excellent body surfing. As a side note, one of our friends did end up with a case of pink eye after our day on the beach which is apparently not all that uncommon after swimming in Hoi An. Makes sense, as when you’re biking around Hoi An there are countless rivers that look as if they’re made up entirely of sewage. The only place I can think of that they’d be flowing to is the ocean. So yea. Be warned, I guess.
Other activities in Hoi An include walking around the Old Town, which is really quite pretty when lit up at night, and shopping. There are hundreds of tack shops to pick up various souvenirs scattered around downtown, including muscle shirts and bracelets, as well as “tailor made” suits for as little as $10. I think I’d be a bit nervous of the entire suit unravelling mid-meeting so I can’t say I’ll be wearing one anytime soon, but I did pick up 3 pairs of swimming trunks and a muscle shirt all for about $6. So all in all, a pretty good deal!
We would definitely recommend that you check out Hoi An and decide for yourself how long you’d like to stay. We were perfectly fine staying for 3 nights, and likely could have done with one night less. But a ton of people decide to stay for much longer, so it’s up to you! Regardless, when visiting Vietnam this is a city that shouldn’t be missed.