Hoi An is always our most talked about destination in Vietnam. The big draw is definitely the cobbled Old Town, but cycling through the countryside or along the narrow lanes to the local beach is certainly a close second. Although Hoi An has become an epicentre for tourism, the Old Town has remained refreshingly free from development. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for neighbouring Danang which boasts high rise hotels and casinos along ever-decreasing stretches of beach. Either side of Danang, however, you can still find a few high-quality hotel treasures along less hectic stretches of those famously R&R-inducing golden sands.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
There's no better way to explore Hoi An's surrounding countryside than by bike. Dirt tracks and concrete paths criss-cross rice paddies, so you can pause to say hello to the farm hands who still tend the vast seas of green with the aid of slowly trudging water buffaloes. Elsewhere, between Hoi An Old Town and Cua Dai beach, there's a nest of narrow rural lanes that sing out to cyclists. Although you could very easily lose yourself there in every sense, cycling with one of our Vietnamese friends is a great way to stick to the right track. It also gives you a deeper insight into the history and industrious nature of life on the urban outskirts.
Once the day trippers leave Hoi An in the late afternoon, the Old Town begins to breathe again. This is the best time to peep into the shop houses and traditional tailors, or make the most of Hoi An's old market without the crowds. Traffic-free streets open up to quiet French-style wine bars and restaurants, accompanied by the knocking of wooden wind chimes and the smoke of incense swirling around every doorway. Red hanging lanterns spark into life as the narrow cobbled streets start to flicker with shadows, whilst candles set sail on the water and paper lanterns take to the air. Across the river, revellers continue karaoke choruses long into the night, but in the quieter Old Town things wind down a little earlier.
Although, these days, you can get pretty much any type of food you want in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, in Hoi An the north-south divide has created a fascinating foodie fusion. From the fresh ingredients and steamed goodness of the North to the crunchy, fried flavours of the South, Hoi An has brought a blend of both to its own classic cuisine. Across the city you'll find noodle houses, red lantern bedecked restaurants and open kitchens to suit all tastes and budgets. Cau Lau noodle soup is certainly one to try, as is Mi Quang noodles, although it's hard to resist steamed or fried bánh bao dumplings, or barbecued anything in a rice paper wrap with fresh seasonal veggies.
Embark on a journey through Vietnam’s less-visited north - lush rolling hills, remote villages and friendly locals, with a side of morning noodles in Hanoi.