Hoi An is a popular destination for tourists, and consequently, there are plenty of day trips on offer. Some of them reach as far as Hue and Phong Nha, but we are here to talk about more local tours. Be it diving, snorkelling, cooking or paddling through water coconut forest, Hoi An did not disappoint. I must say, many people had a lot of doubts as to whether or not I would run out of things to do in Hoi An for the 6 days I was there, the answer it I didn’t. With the Old Town, shopping, eating and tours, I had been a busy bunny the entire trip! Here are the top 5 tours you should take in Hoi An:
My Son Sanctuary
Dubbed as the mini version of Angor Wat, this used to be the sacred ground of the Champa Empire. My Son means beautiful mountain in Vietnamese. A mixture of Hindu and later Buddhist temples, it had been a place of worship since the 4th century, chosen because of its geographical location. Surrounded by mountains in a valley with the River Bon running through the ground, it has all the features of a holy ground.
When the Nguyen dynasty came to power in the early 19th century, My Son was abandoned and it was only rediscovered in the later part of the same century by French scholars.
Unfortunately, the bombing in the Vietnam War has destroyed most of the structures, leaving only a few distinctive clusters. Most of the buildings that survived are made of brick from the 10th to 13th century, and out of the six chief clusters, only group C and B are semi-intact.
If you have been to Angor Wat, this will perhaps be a disappointment. However, I still find the history interesting and as someone who has never visited a Hindu Temple, it was a great experience. Did I mention it’s a UNESCO heritage site?
Tour: we booked with Eden Travel in town for a sunrise tour, including breakfast. The breakfast was mediocre and we had to get up at 4am, but the sanctuary was empty when it opens at 6am and gave us plenty of opportunity to take photos. We then had a boat ride to a carpentry village before being dropped off at the center around 11 am.
Pro tip: if you can, go early or late. Sunrise tour is more expensive but you are guaranteed the place almost to yourself.
Address/How to get there: I recommend doing a half day tour either in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the crowd. You can drive there, parking costs 5,000 dong. The journey is about an hour. Tour costed 264,000 dong (~11 USD) NOT inclusive of the admission but with a guide.
Opening times: 6:30 – 17:00
Entrance Fee: 150,000 dong
A beautiful island offshore of Hoi An, Cham Island is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with some of the clearest water and rich biosphere I have ever seen. Cham island has a longer settlement history than Hoi An, and are the holy islands of Cham people. There are a dozen different types of corals and I even saw a few blue starfish.
A trip to Hoi An definitely wouldn’t be complete without a snorkel or diving trip to Cham Island. There are eight islands in the group, though on a snorkelling trip, we only covered two spots and stopping at the largest and only inhabited island, at Bai Chong Beach, for lunch and some beach time. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are some stunning views:
Tour: two snorkel sessions around 50 to 60 minutes before lunch, lunch then stay at the beach. The trip from Hoi An to Cham Islands lasts around an hour. Snorkel gear and fins are provided.
Time: pick up at 8:30 and drop off around 17:00
Cost: 42.5 USD for snorkel, I do believe it’s something around 950,000 dong, and diving is another 100,000 dong extra.
An Bang Beach
Perhaps this one shouldn’t be counted as a trip, but An Bang Beach is definitely a place where you can spend a whole day at. About 4 kilometer from the Old Town, you can easily bike or motorcycle there. With long stretches of sandy beach and readily available sun umbrellas and bars, it is perfect for a chill day.
Cua Dai beach to the south used to be the favourite until it succumbed to pollution and erosion. While the scene there is idyllic, there are some jellyfishes in the ocean, so you better be careful about this.
Before you go running to An Bang, there are a few things you should know:
Parking fee: bicycles are the cheapest, but parking fee can go up to 10,000 dong. A taxi ride is 70,000 dong on average and faster.
Sun umbrella fee: we ended up paying 100,000 dong for 2 sun loungers and an umbrella, though we did see people get rip off. If you are planning on staying long, choose a restaurant where a sun lounger is free if you buy their food and drinks.
Popular time: morning are usually quiet, it gets increasingly crowded in the afternoon before sunset.
Vietnamese cuisines are the bomb, and so there are plenty of cooking classes vying for your attention. From the famous restaurant to packaged sight-seeing and cooking courses advertised in travel agency, it’s best to decide just how hands on you want to be for this class and how much you are willing to pay. On average, the price you’ll find online are around 30 to 35 USD. And it makes no difference whether you book it in advance or when you arrive in the city.
We had combined our cooking class with a trip to the water coconut village, which we booked at Eden Travel and costs 525,000 dong
However, we didn’t do a lot of hands-on cooking; but rather, we made fried spring rolls and helped in making the rice pancake and papaya salad. There was no proper instruction, so if you are looking to experience more hands-on cooking, this isn’t for you. However, if you want a value for money tour with lunch that you help make, this is the one.
If you want an authentic cooking class, head around to browse restaurant with cooking class on offer.
Let’s talk about water coconut village:
Water coconut village
To the east of the Hoi An Old Town are an area called Cam Thanh with quint waterways and a maze of water coconut village. One of the most unique places I have ever visited, the locals have made use of them for hundreds of years. They navigate the water channels in rounded boats made of the bamboos, which are chosen and treated in underwater mud pits for about one year.
A visit usually involves you being shuttled around the canals by a local boater. We also sang some local songs and got some grass-knit accessories as well. There are individual visits to the village, and you can cycle around as well. In fact, we know of several homestays in the area, so for those of you who are less keen on tour, you can head there on my own.
The tour we went with is by Hoi An Family Tour
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