For most of our round-the-world trip, our travel style was to alternate 1-2 weeks of fast-paced travel with 2-3 weeks of being settled in one city. For our time in Vietnam, we chose the town of Hoi An as our home base, spending 2.5 weeks there out of our 4 weeks in the country. We picked Hoi An for several reasons. We had never been to Vietnam before and didn’t know what to expect, so I read a lot of travel blogs and articles about travel in Vietnam. Vietnam’s larger cities, like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, get very mixed reviews with some people loving them and nearly as many people expressing that not only did they not like these cities, they hated them.
If you read my post about Hanoi then you know that I ended up being in the “love it” camp. But before we got there, I wasn’t sure which way it would go. Many people seem to find Vietnam’s biggest cities quite overwhelming. With that information, I decided not to risk committing to spending 2.5 weeks in a city that we might hate.
So, we settled on the town of Hoi An instead. It is much smaller, with a population of about 120,000 compared to 7.5 million in Hanoi and 8.2 million in Ho Chi Minh City. I could not find a single person with bad things to say about Hoi An. Hoi An’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and people describe it with words like “atmospheric,” “photogenic,” “graceful,” and “the prettiest town in Vietnam.” I would agree with all of those characterizations.
Hoi An is truly a beautiful place. During our time there, we embraced the small-town feeling, riding bicycles everywhere and going back to our favorite restaurants and coffee shop over and over until the staff got to know and expect us. We stayed at a guesthouse, and the family who owned it (husband, wife, and adorable 4-year-old daughter) lived on site. It was fun to get to know them as well and be entertained by their precious little one. They even invited us to a family dinner one night where they shared a lot of delicious food with us and answered our questions about Vietnam.
Most tourists only spend a couple of days in Hoi An. (Indeed, every time we told someone we were going to be there for 17 days, they were shocked.) The main tourist activities include visiting some of the historic homes and temples in the Old Town and visiting the beaches that are about 2 km away. I have to admit that we mostly failed as tourists in Hoi An. We spent time in Old Town but never went in to any of the historic sites, and we never made it to the beach. Nonetheless, we were happy with our relaxed routine and with just enjoying being present.