Places to visit – Hoi An, Vietnam

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In March, we spent a week staying near An Bang Beach which is just outside Hoi An in Vietnam. After our holiday in Kyoto last September, we wanted to do as little as possible on this holiday, and I think we pretty much managed that! So there’s not a lot to tell you really, but it was such a lovely place to visit that I thought I’d share it with you.

We chose to visit Vietnam partly because it is a very short flight from Hong Kong! Only 1.5 hours (which you would think would be short enough to make it ok with 2 year old twins, but there were still issues *sigh*). Also, the flights were pretty cheap to Da Nang from Hong Kong. And the airport is only a 30 minute drive from An Bang, so it’s quite convenient.

We stayed at Be’s Beach Bungalow, which is a lovely little single storey cottage, run by the equally lovely Aaron. We found it through good reviews on FlipKey website. From our first contact, Aaron was very accommodating and helpful and managed to find us two cots for the twins. He also sent a grocery list so that we could order some groceries to be waiting for us when we arrived!

The bungalow itself is really pretty and well-equipped with 2 double bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a kitchen inside. Outside there is a long porch with an outside day bed, low chairs and a coffee table, sun loungers and dining chairs and table. It could easily accommodate two couples, but it worked very well for our little family of 4 too. The couple that live next door look after the property for Aaron and they clean daily and can order taxis for you (helpful to get into Hoi An). They even put a paddling pool out for the kids! One additional thing that we really enjoyed was a home cooked meal – it was cooked next door and brought to us! It was a lovely treat for us because we can’t go out for long dinners in the evening because the kids were in bed. It helped that the food was really delicious too!

Bes beach bungalow

The bungalow is situated in the village of An Bang, which is a pretty quiet, local area, although I hear it is getting more popular with homestays and tourist cottages like the one we stayed in. There was some general night noise but nothing too bad apart from one night when there was some sort of local festival – it was like someone was playing a sound system on the highest setting in our bungalow! But thankfully the kids slept through it (I have no idea how) and it didn’t go on too late. The village has lots of little restaurants (see below) and a few mini marts dotted around which was helpful for getting snacks and breakfast cereal and things like that.

The beach was literally a 2 minute walk away from the bungalow (behind the house next door) and had sun loungers with umbrellas available to rent for VND40,000 (about £1.30) per pair per day.It was a nice beach with lots of shells and good quality sand but not that wide. The sea was very cold when we went (in March) so we didn’t swim in it but did a bit of paddling. It also got very rough and strong after a day of strong winds and you wouldn’t have been able to swim in it then even it had been warm enough! The beach was pretty quiet by where we were staying but the closer you get towards the main restaurant strip the busier it gets (only a few hundred metres away).

An Bang beach coracles

As I already mentioned, a short walk down the beach was the main restaurant area where day trippers from Hoi An tend to go. There are lots of restaurants there and we tried a few and enjoyed them all. The atmosphere is pretty laid back and it was mostly a fairly young crowd. Actually, there weren’t many families that we saw in An Bang, but I don’t know why that is – maybe they tend to go to the bigger resorts around Hoi An and Da Nang. But as with a lot of Asian places, children are very welcome and very loved here. Ours got a lot of attention, but it was very friendly and we didn’t mind it.

We spent most of our time in An Bang but we went into Hoi An 3 times, twice in the morning and one evening. It was generally not too crowded in the morning although there were plenty of tourists around all the time. The evening was much busier, especially by the river.

Hoi An riverside

Hoi An is a beautiful old town, one of those places (like Penang in Malaysia) where development halted, in this case due to the river silting up preventing further trade, and therefore the old buildings were preserved. It was much more touristy than I was expecting – every single building is either a souvenir shop, restaurant or tailor’s – but it still has a lot of charm though.

Pretty building Hoi An

We enjoyed walking around and exploring the streets. The old centre is not big so it’s very easy to get around. You can buy a ticket which gains you entrance to 5 attractions. We visited the Japanese covered bridge (Hoi An’s main attraction)…

Japanese covered bridge Hoi An

…Tan Ky house…

Tan Ky House Hoi An

…Fujian Assembly hall…

Fujian Assembly Hall Hoi An

…and a couple of other places. You could do the whole place in a morning if you wished and still manage to see pretty much everything but our pace was a lot slower with the kids! We enjoyed shopping there too, although many of the shops sell the same thing. Our prized purchase was a large teal coloured Vietnamese style lantern, which was surprisingly cheap (less than £5). We didn’t visit any of the tailor’s but if you want some clothes made up you really are spoilt for choice!

Hoi An street with lanterns

I have to finish by talking about the food, which was AMAZING. So fresh, with lots of herbs and beautifully cooked seafood. I ordered wontons in one restaurant, expecting a Chinese style noodle soup, but they came as fried flat wanton wrappers with a beautiful pile of prawns, vegetables and herbs on top! Really yummy! The food was also really cheap too. I’ve listed below the restaurants that we ate at. We were perfectly happy with them all, the food was good wherever we went :)

An Bang:
Cay Me (also known as the Tamarind Tree) – this was our favourite. The service is a bit slow but the food was amazing! And it was just a few minutes walk from our bungalow, on the main village road
French Bakery and Restaurant (I’m not sure if this is actually the name) – just a few doors down from Cay Me, great pancakes and pastries. We went there for breakfast a couple of times.
Purple Lantern – just off the main village road (although there is a handy sign on that road pointing to it). Nice outdoor area to eat in, good food.
Sou – one of the beach side restaurants, probably the most ‘local’ place we ate. The food was good but there was little effort on service or presentation!
Soul Kitchen –  another beach side restaurant, we went there twice because it was a nice place to hang out, and the food was lovely (both western and local dishes). It has a very laid back international vibe, and outside there is a nice grass area with booths and loungers.

Hoi An:
Miss Ly Café – great food and a nice atmosphere. Our favourite restaurant in Hoi An.
Mermaid Café – I think this place is quite famous. It isn’t very big but it wasn’t that busy when we went for lunch at about midday. The food was lovely.
Cargo Club – we stopped here for a drink and a pastry. Nice decor, and yummy cake.
Ancient Faifo – this was the priciest restaurant we ate in, but the food was wonderfully presented and a delicious mix of Vietnamese and western flavours. Another beautifully decorated place, and the service was very good too.

So, I hope this has tempted you to visit Hoi An and An Bang! It’s a lovely area and well worth a visit, be it a week by the beach like we had or just a long weekend of shopping and sightseeing (and some beach time too).

Thanks for reading!