Located within Vietnam’s Quảng Nam Province, Hội An is a coastal city located in the center of Vietnam, and means “peaceful meeting place” when translated. Recognized in 1999 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site list, Hội An is beautifully preserved example of a 15th to 19th century Southeast Asian trading port, reflecting a fusion of local and foreign architectural design and influence.
My trip to Hội An was arranged by Ho Chi Minh City’s leading luxury travel group Luxperia DMC. They flawlessly managed each and every detail of my itinerary, and curated a thoughtfully planned and bespoke weekend getaway for me. Through their expert suggestions, and my own meandering throughout the city, here is my list of the 5 essential things to do while visiting Hội An.
1. Stay at the Anantara Hội An
The Anantara Hội An is a stunning boutique resort within a short walking distance to Hội An’s Ancient Town or “Old Town”. With 94 rooms and suites, I stayed in a beautiful riverfront room equipped with every luxurious amenity and they even provided a fresh tropical fruit platter to snack on, replenished daily, highlighting the “Exotic Fruits of Vietnam”.
Their pool is truly magnificent, and after indulging a bit too much at the daily breakfast buffet, I spent my mornings lounging beneath the shade of a waterside umbrella, catching up on my social media and U.S. news.
They also have an onsite spa and fitness center and offer unique leisure activities like Lantern Making Classes, Creative Writing Classes and Spice Spoons- a private Vietnamese cooking class, expertly lead by the resort’s Sous-chef Ms. Dung. I was lucky enough to have been invited to participate in a class and Ms. Dung taught me how to make traditional rice paper spring rolls and Beef Pho, the signature dish of Vietnam.
You can also grab an Anantara bicycle for the day and take a scenic ride down the river bank.
If you chose to stay at the Anantara Hội An, do not miss enjoying a dinner at their restaurant as the food is EXCEPTIONAL! I had the opportunity to spend some time with acclaimed Executive Chef Geert-Jan Vaartjes during my stay, and he so kindly made some suggestions of what I should order. And I mean… Wow… Just WOW!!!
To say that my experience at The Anantara Hội An was fantastic is honestly an understatement. From the friendly staff to the beautiful grounds, it is THE place to stay in Hội An and I greatly look forward to visiting the resort again very soon.
2. Have some custom clothing made
Hội An is known for their tailoring, and there are a plethora of shops spread across the city where you may choose your fabric and custom create a new wardrobe at an incredibly reasonable price. As my nephew and his fiancée resided in Hội An for nearly 2.5 years before moving to Ho Chi Minh City, I asked Michelle the name of her favorite spot to have clothing made in town, as nearly all of her apparel is custom, and she highly recommended Milan Custom Tailor.
The ladies first took my measurements, and then I told them what I wanted – two button down blouses, a romper, two pairs of shorts and two dresses, all produced in their finest quality linen. The weather in Vietnam ranges from hot to hotter to beyond SIZZLING, so linen is the fabric of choice and necessity to wear here. Once I confirmed the styles, chose the colorways and paid my bill, they were on the floor, cutting my fabric. I arrived to the shop in the late afternoon, and was told to come back at 11am the next day for my fitting. Yes, it was less than a 24 hour turn around!
The next morning, I arrived to the shop and tried everything on. Although the clothing fit beautifully to me, the store owner pinned the areas that were not 100% to her satisfaction, and told me that she would have everything hand delivered to me at the Anatara by EOD.
By the time I finished my sightseeing for the day, my package was waiting for me at the Concierge Desk, and the clothing was pressed, labeled, folded and bagged to go right into my suitcase for home. Now THAT is customer service at its finest, and my total bill for all 7 pieces was around $140!
3. Visit Old Town both by day and by night
The must see tourist destination in the city, Old Town Hội An is known for its historic charm, ornate Chinese temples, the Japanese covered bridge, narrow walking streets adorned with colorful paper lanterns, wooden buildings with store fronts selling endless souvenirs, quaint cafés and restaurants. During the day, Old Town was nearly empty, partially to do to the heat but mostly due to the lack of foreign tourists as a result of the Vietnamese border closure. As a tall Westerner with bright pink hair, I am pretty hard to miss, and I felt a bit overwhelmed by the locals seemingly approaching me at every second, wanting to sell me their wares, take a boat ride, walk into their shop, sit down for an ice cold coconut, etc. etc. etc… But I understood, and bought/ate/rode whatever I could as the local merchants were absolutely desperate to generate any sort of business during these extremely challenging times; It was my pleasure to be their sole customer of the day.
When the sun goes down, the city transforms into a colorful lantern lit virtual Disneyland, musicians play and dancers dance, the locals come out to eat and drink and this once serene and quiet district, just a few hours prior, turns into a crowded and bustling extravaganza. Make sure and visit the paper lantern shops, take a walk through Night Market for a late night snack of charcoal grilled squid, octopus, frog or bird on a stick and say a prayer while sending a paper lotus-shaped candle flower down the river.
4. Take an evening river cruise on a Lantern Boat
Although this is actually a part of the Old Town Hội An experience, I felt that it deserved its own listing as it was, without a doubt, the favorite part of my journey. I sat on the river bank for an hour, and watched the dozens upon dozens of colorfully lit boats go by. Honestly, the photos I took do not in any way do it justice as it was truly one of the most enchanting and picturesque events I have ever witnessed in my lifetime. It’s a MUST SEE and DO while in Hội An.
5. Travel to the Ba Na Hills and visit the “Golden Bridge”
Suspended almost 4,600 feet above sea level, and stretching 500 feet long, Cau Vang, which translates to Gold Bridge, is the most popular tourist attraction and destination of the region. The golden colored bridge looks as if it is being held up by two giant carved stone hands, and it is an unbelievable sight to behold. As you need to fly into Da Nang, and then drive 45 minutes to reach Hội An, I suggest that you check out of your hotel early in the morning on the final day of your vacation, get a driver for the day, and have your car take you to the Sun World Ba Na Hills Fantasy Amusement Park, which provides the only access to the Golden Bridge. You must purchase a ticket to ride the long Ba Na Hills Cable Car in order to reach the Golden Bridge, and it will cost around 750,000 VND or $33 for adults and 600,000 VND or $26 for children, but it is well worth the price of admission. Allow your self at least an hour to get all the way up the mountain from the entrance gate, but once there, the panoramic view is not to be believed!