Do you ever dream of going back to a past, picturesque moment in time? At Hoi An, dreams become reality. With its vast land boasting timeless allure, this UNESCO historic city is a hot destination for many; including Eric Nam. Joining Booking.com in the 2023 edition of their Explorers campaign, Eric basks in the beautiful sights, filling his senses with a myriad of different activities.
And now you can too! We’ve curated a list of Eric’s favourite activities in Hoi An, courtesy of Booking.com. With an itinerary mirroring Eric’s, you’re promised a tranquil and splendid time.
“I get a buzz whenever I think of Vietnam,” he says. “There’s something for everybody in Hoi An, and you can be as active or as lazy as you want – that’s what makes it so attractive.”
Take a spin on a basket boat
When in Hoi An, be sure to hit the water in a thúng chai or basket boat, a circular vessel often made by hand using strips of bamboo. “I’ve read that they have been around for hundreds of years and are mainly used by local fishermen,” Eric shares. “As well as being handy when catching fish, they’re also a cheap and simple way to travel – and something that’s pretty fun too!”
The best place to try riding one of these circular vessels is the Bay Mau Coconut Forest, located around 7 km from the centre of Hoi An. Here, visitors will meander through lush coconut groves on a basket boat, listen to riveting tales about the forest and even try their hand at crabbing the traditional way using bamboo poles.
Visit the Cham Islands
For an alternative water-based activity, take a day trip to the Cham Islands off the coast of Hoi An, which can be reached via a quick 30-minute speedboat ride. “It’s quite the contrast to Hoi An. It’s so peaceful and quiet – all you hear are the waves, and every once in a while, a boat going by,” Eric enthuses. “Plus, the water is beautiful and perfect for swimming.”
Other popular activities here include snorkelling and diving – the islands’ waters are, after all, home to hundreds of marine species and a colourful array of coral reefs. You can even try a novel activity called underwater walking, which essentially involves walking along the seafloor while wearing a helmet fed with fresh air. “This is a really cool experience – I would say it might even be better than scuba diving. I’ve never seen anything like this before!” Eric says.
Where to stay: End off your beach day on a high with a stay at Zest Villas & Spa Hoi An. Nestled between serene water bodies, this resort is one for the memory books. Be spoiled by the wide range of amenities and the resort’s strategic location, where restaurants and cafes are within walking distance. If you’re feeling tired from a full day of activities, take advantage of the hotel’s spectacular room service instead, complete with a drink at the bar to wind down for the night.
The Field Restaurant & Bar
Before continuing your adventure, be sure to stop by The Field Restaurant & Bar for a recharge. Overlooking an expansive rice paddy field, this open-air restaurant serves up healthy, tasty dishes using the freshest organic ingredients – think spring rolls with edible flowers, duck soup with vermicelli noodles and steamed chicken with herbal leaves. It also prides itself on its eco credentials, which include turning food waste into dishwashing liquid.
“I love that The Field takes sustainability very seriously. Not only is it set in a beautiful location, its food is incredible and its zero-waste policy is groundbreaking,” Eric says.
Traipse around the Ancient Town
Of course, it’s a must to explore Hoi An’s picturesque Ancient Town – be it on a guided walking tour or by bike. Many hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and cafes in Hoi An offer affordable bike rentals. Plus, motorised vehicles are banned from entering the historic district, making it a breeze to get around on two wheels.
Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1999, the Ancient Town is known for its cobbled streets criss-crossed with canals, as well as its charming blend of European and Asian architectural styles. “Places like these – where you get to see architecture and history and culture – are actually quite magical,” Eric reflects.
Top attractions here include the Japanese Bridge (Chùa Cầu), an ornate 17th-century structure constructed from red lacquered wood and stone, and The Old House of Phung Hung, a historic home filled with antiques. “The Ancient Town is so beautiful, so it’s super important that we preserve and respect it,” Eric says.
Where to stay: For those who can’t get enough of Ancient Town, consider booking a stay at Hoi An Babylon Riverside Hotel & Spa. Decked out in traditional Vietnamese interiors, this idyllic stay is located just a stone’s throw away from a myriad of restaurants within the charming old town. And if tranquillity is what you seek, look no further as the premise offers a private beach that’s open to all guests.
Check out the city’s famous lanterns
When night falls, Hoi An’s lanterns – thousands upon thousands of them – light up. “After chatting with the locals, I’ve learnt that lighting a lantern has great spiritual meaning. It’s a prayer for luck and peace not only for yourself, but also for your loved ones,” Eric shares.
One of the best places to admire these lanterns is Nguyen Phuc Chu Street, which is lined with paper lanterns in an assortment of colours and patterns. Want to take home a lantern of your own? Sign up for a lantern-making class or head to Nguyen Hoang Night Market, where you’ll find several stalls selling beautiful handmade creations.