Before being listed as one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in December 1999, Hoian Old Town is already famous. Now, travelers worldwide consider this charming town is one of their must-visits whenever they get to journey to the middle section of Vietnam. When you come to Danang or Hue, you can’t not visit Hoian, too! For these places are already very close to one another and it’d be a shame if one misses out a wonderful place like Hoian Ancient Town.
Unlike Hue or Danang as each of which has its own airport, if you want to go to Hoian, you’ll have to arrive in either of these cities first, then continue to drive 100km (if you start from Hue’s Phu Bai International airport) or 30km (if you start from Danang’s International airport) to the south.
Compared to other cities in Vietnam, Hoian actually centers itself in tourism. So, you’ll find dedicated establishments catering to such a purpose anywhere. Now, before you go, read on this article to know more about what to do in Hoian, then spend a couple of days exploring and enjoying every nook and cranny of this fascinating community!
Famous Tourist Attractions
Since Hoian Old Town is a tourist attraction itself, you’ll have to buy tickets if you’re planning to visit the clan associations or certain top temples. The ticket will allow each guest to visit up to 5 tourist spots. Otherwise, there’s no entrance fee for entering Hoian Old Town or communal places.
Cua Dai Beach
What to do in Hoian? – Since the region is on the central coast, so just do as usual: Go find the greatest beach site to sunbath or play with the waves, of course! Hoian also happens to be one of those beautiful cities by the beaches of Vietnam. And Cua Dai beach is both pretty and only 3km North of Hoian Old Town, also in Quang Nam Province. You can reach here either by car or a 20-minute of cycling along a scenic country road.
However, since this place is very popular and the climate in Hoian can be rather high, expect Cua Dai beach to be quite crowded on mornings and evenings, particularly in summer.
The Chinese Assembly Halls
There’re many Assembly Halls of the Chinese can be found throughout Vietnam. This is due to the Chinese people’s tradition to set up a place for the community to socialize as well as to remind the next generations of the old time when their ancestors carried out business or migrated to another country. That’s why Hoian Ancient Town, which inherently possesses a long history of international trade with the Chinese, also has Chinese Assembly Halls.
These remaining Congregation Halls are Fujian, Chaozhou, Hainan, Cantonese, and Chinese. All of them located on Tran Phu Street, facing the tranquil river of Thu Bon and have always been one of the most famous tourist attractions of Hoian. Out of the five Assembly Halls still remain in Hoian, Fujian Assembly Hall is the greatest and most famous. Its location is at 46 Tran Phu St., Hoian City, Quang Nam Province. Its admission is free and the opening hour is from 8.00am – 5.00pm every day.
This ancient hall dates way back to 697 and is the oldest, grandest, and also most colorful in the town. There’s a pagoda inside the hall that contains elaborate artworks, statues in part devoted to the Goddess of the Sea and benevolent Guardian of fishermen. There’s also a mural inside this building depicting Her rescuing a boat in trouble at raging sea.
Other names for this ancient bridge are Japanese Covered Bridge or Chua Cau. The 18-meter bridge was designed and built in 1593 by the Japanese community. It was situated over a small canal to connect two quarters of the Japanese and the Chinese on either side (now are the Tran Phu St. and Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St.), looking over Thu Bon River.
There’re the carved statues of 2 dogs and 2 monkeys placed at both ends of the bridge. This could be referring to:
- The years when the construction was begun (year of the Monkey – 1593) and finished (year of the Dog – 1595).
- The pairs of animals also represent for the bridge’s guardians.
- These are worshiped animals in the Japanese’s belief (since many Japanese Emperors were born in either a Year of the Dog or the Monkey).
The wooden structure still remains intact after all these trying times and has become an invaluable property and symbol of Hoian Old Town. Opening time is 7.00am–5.30pm every day and no entrance fee required when you want to get here.
Tra Que Herb Village
Situated just 3km North and outside of Hoian Ancient Town, still in Quang Nam Province, is Tra Que Village. The name is stemmed from a fact that the village specializes in the growing and supplying fresh vegetables to Hoian as well as its neighbors.
The history of the place dates back over a century ago, when a group of fishermen opted for settling down on the mainland and start farming. Today, Tra Que village is still surrounded by lush fields of crops and vegetables. Many kinds of vegetables are grown here like salad, basil, lettuce, flagrant knotweed, Chinese parsley, houttuynia, etc. Most of which are unique ingredients for making traditional specialties of Hoian and distinctive dishes of central Vietnam in general.
Travelers visiting Tra Que Village can watch the local farmers carry out the farming procedures and listen to them talking about the techniques of organic farming, which include the use of a kind of algae living only in one of Tra Que’s lagoon instead of chemical or fertilizers. It is because of this green technique, the herbs and veggies from Tra Que are widely received for their safety and excellent taste and flavor particularly.
Additionally, visitors can try doing some actual farming or taking cooking lessons –provided also by tourism companies.
The admission is free and tourists can come here every day of the week!
This rice noodle dish is the first symbol of Hoian because it can only be found here. It strictly needs the combination of all Hoian’s essential factors to make this dish. Particularly, when making Cao Lau noodles, the noodles must be made from local sticky rice, the water used to soak rice and make the soup must be taken from ancient Cham wells of the Ba Le Village, the herbs are delivered from Tra Que village. Among other things, only ashes taken from Cham Island are used to soak the noodles in. Cao Lau is truly the typical dish of Hoian Old Town.
- Pork, shrimp, chicken
- Vegetables and herbs
Cơm Gà Hội An (Hoian Chicken Rice)
Chicken Rice can be found anywhere in the country. The ingredients are simple, but when combined with a unique cooking art, the creative people of Hoian has taken it to a whole new level – Enough to be granted the name of Hoian Old Town and be one of its signature dishes. Seriously, no chicken-lovers should ever miss this special Chicken Rice of Hoian!
- Pickled carrots and vegetables
Mỳ Quảng (Quang Noodles)
“Quang” is a brief way to call Quang Nam Province, the dish’s origin. So you can call it Quang Nam-styled noodles. This dish is quite popular not only in the region and throughout the country, but also even among foreign visitors. In fact, Quang Noodles was listed “The worth of Asia Cuisine”.
- Flat rice noodle
- Toppings: Pork, shrimp, fish, chicken, snails, eggs, frogs, squids
- Peanuts and crackers
Hoian isn’t a particularly big town, but there’s much to see if you take time to explore. It could be all the more enjoyable if you go around the town by cyclo, walking on your foot, or by a hired bicycle. Visitors only need to spend half an hour pedaling at a slow pace to arrive at Cua Dai beach.
Or, whether you already know how to row or not, you can rent a local flank boat to row there yourself or just sit and enjoy a serene boat ride leisurely downriver to the beach.
Beside excursion tour in Hoian, there are two outstanding courses with equipment rental available. Weekdays offer the best rates and also more space on the course and both the courses listed here have a clubhouse and restaurant on site: Vinpearl Golf Nam Hoian & Hoiana Shores Golf Resort.
Here’re some other great suggestions for what to do in Hoian if you take the trip in special months!
Hoian Lantern Festival
Regardless of the month you choose to go, you can attend this monthly event on every 14th day of lunar month. During this day, all temples’ admissions are free and you get to see the candlelit ceremonies are carried out by the monks and locals. The best place to celebrate Hoian Lantern Festival is along the town area. Practically every establishment – every shop, bar, restaurant, and even businesses in this Ancient Town will turn off all electricity in the evening to only rely on the lights generated from hundreds of candles and paper lanterns. The sight then is truly amazing.
Aside from admiring the fanciful scenery, visitors can enjoy many other musical performances and games on the streets like poetry readings, Chinese chess, or take part in crafting paper lanterns in lantern-making classes.
This religious event occurs in early May – corresponding to the 8th day of the 4th Lunar month, and is celebrated by Buddhists and ordinary devotees nationwide. However, Hoian Old Town is possibly the best place to enjoy this important festivity. During this holy day, all temples and pagodas are decorated with lavish ornaments while the locals place lanterns, offering fruits, and fresh flower garlands.
In Hoian, Phap Bao pagoda – being chosen as the place to hold this event, looks even more splendid and crowded than normal for it often attracts thousands of visitors who wish to partake in street processes and prayer sessions.
The event starts from early morning with the monks process along Hoian Old Town’s streets into the pagoda. All the while, locals and Buddhists respectfully watch them from either side of the roads before flocking to the pagoda to perform or witness religious rites, as well as listen to or recite Buddhist scriptures. There’s usually a lively parade in the evening, which takes place along the town’s main road. In the pagodas’ yards and along the riverbank, animals like birds, fish, turtles, etc. are set free.
Also, on this particular day in Hoian, visitors get to enjoy various Vietnamese vegetarian dishes that are widely sold by street vendors.
As the name suggests, this big festival is held in 2 days: on the 14th and 15th day of August in the lunar calendar. Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated in all regions of Vietnam, but it is best enjoyed in Hoian Old Town because visitors will get to see many exciting street performances, the unique lantern processions, and valuable arts exhibitions throughout this time-tinted Town.
In older times, the festival was held to celebrate a successful harvest – that explains the name harvest festival. Later, it has another meaning that it is a festival for children. So, on these days, there’re many interesting activities for the young ones. They’ll get to receive gifts, sweet treats, and participate in contests like drawing, coloring, or writing essays.
As for the adult visitors, they can enjoy the spectacular sights of paper lanterns of all colors lining the historic Japanese Bridge and poetic Thu Bon Riverside, or watch the lovely little ones carrying paper lanterns in a parade; experiencing the local cultural performances like lion dance; and buy typical foods like mooncakes, fruits, sticky rice, sweets, etc. sold at any food booth.