Wondering how to spend 3 days in Hoi An? Here’s a rundown of our itinerary from shopping to coffee to food and more!
After leaving Con Dao and making a pit stop in Saigon, Alyshia and I made our way up to Da Nang to spend some time in central Vietnam! We were working with Anantara at their Hoi An property as well as their luxury train experience, the Vietage, and at their seaside villas in Quy Nhon. Both of us had been to Hoi An before, but not for some time, so we were excited to re-visit.
Hoi An is something of an anomaly in Vietnam. While it’s known to be a picturesque town on many a visitor’s bucket list, it is also home to a rather resilient nature. Once upon a time it was a major trading port under the Nguyen lords before fading into oblivion during the 1700s as Da Nang became a more popular port. It was more or less a backwater town and kept away from Vietnam’s rapidly changing history for the next 200 years until a Polish architect helped breathe new life into it in the 1990s.
For the next three decades it slowly grew into a UNESCO World Heritage-type of tourist attraction — becoming less of a hidden gem and more of the most photographed spot in the country. With some of the most skilled tailors in Vietnam, the prettiest yellow buildings that glow during golden hour, delicious food, and a position on the river, you only need to see a few photos or watch a video to see why it became so popular with foreign visitors.
However, this also means it was hit hard last year when Vietnam shut its borders in March. Not only was hit by the pandemic, it was hit even harder by the relentless flooding that plagued central Vietnam even as domestic tourism opened back up.
That’s all to say Alyshia and I were intrigued to see what would greet us when we revisited a spot we both knew decently well. Plus, we were more than happy to, you know, buy all the food, trinkets, and tailor-made clothes in the name of boosting Hoi An’s economy.
Anyway, here’s what we got up to!
Checking in to Anantara Hoi An
First thing first — checking into the beautiful Anantara Hoi An! We were picked up in Da Nang by Anantara’s private transport and whisked away to their property only a kilometer outside of Ancient Town. After meeting Kate and Mrs. Hai, who showed us to our river view suite, we ran around taking a million photos because our room and the grounds because they were just that pretty.
The resort design itself is takes inspiration from much of the French colonial architecture still present around the country. When we were there, the surrounding tropical gardens and flowers were super lush. While it’s so close to town, you can just walk to the river, it really feels like a bit of an oasis. As soon as you’re on the grounds, the noise outside buzz just disappears. It’s like there’s an invisible noise barrier, I swear.
If you can, I definitely recommend getting a room on the second level with views out to the water. It’s just so peaceful looking out on Thu Bon River, especially as the fisherman boats motor along. Plus, each room has its own porch with daybeds, so it’s perfect for a little lounging.
Our split-level suite is designed in three parts. When you enter, the first part is made up of the sitting and desk area, decorated in a cheerful teal blue color, and a table with a little welcome present, fresh fruits, and other snacks.
In the next part, you have the sleeping area, which includes two beds and the TV and closet. One unique feature of Anantara Hoi An is the huge Réhahn photo that hangs over your headboard. Just like with Anantara Mui Ne, our beds were like little clouds and we both slept quite soundly!
At the back of the suite, in the third part, is a huge bathroom split between a bathroom section, a tub and shower section, and a sink/vanity section. When you close the double doors, you’ll have a full length mirror to look into. And if you’re wondering, yes, I did bring my L’Occitane lavender bubble bath to sneak in a soak.
Once we were done photographing the place, we sat down to enjoy our welcome snacks — a little meat and cheese platter with some chocolate from Lâm Đồng province. While we snacked (and subsequently realized we were pretty hungry after a day of travel), we made a game plan of how to spend our weekend.
To the Tailor
Once we finished, we made our way over to the tailor to give them the maximum amount of time to make our clothes and do any alterations! When we actually started walking over, it was golden hour, so we kept stopping to take photos and remind ourselves just how pretty Hoi An is! I’m telling you, golden hour is magic. The sunny yellow colors of the buildings basically grow and the worst of the heat and humidity is gone for the day. Every alley and storefront seems like it should be photographed and framed.
Anyway — back to the tailor! I’ve written about my tailor experience in Hoi An before (need to update it now), but this time around we went to IZI Wear Hoi An based on my friend, Caitlin’s recommendation as I loved the pieces she had made and it wasn’t even ten-minutes from Anantara.
We spent maybe an hour or so in Izi looking at photos both in their albums and in my secret Pinterest board, figuring out fabric, and getting our measurements (okay I say we, but Alyshia was getting ready to leave the country so really it was me :p)! We left with instructions to return same time tomorrow.
A Cao Lau Dinner
By the time we finished at Izi, we were pretty famished! I don’t think either of us had properly eaten breakfast or lunch, plus we were excited to sit down for some central Vietnamese cuisine (can’t decide if Mekong or central Vietnam is my favorite place for food now!).
Alysha definitely wanted cao lầu, so we kept our eye out and pretty much sat down at the first place we saw with a giant cao lầu sign. Turns out we got pretty lucky too because Mr. Trung told us his family has been running this food business for 70+ years. I want to say this is the location! Look for “Trung” on the sign with three dishes listed underneath including cao lầu, cơm gà, and cháo vịt.
At face value cao lầu isn’t much different from most Vietnamese dishes. It’s a sort of rice noodles and soup dish with pork, greens, and herbs. However, what makes cao lầu noodles special is that they’re soaked in lye water which makes them chewier. Apparently, this lye water can only be made with ashes from specific plants on the nearby Cham Islands and that the water itself can only be taken from the Bá Lễ well in Hoi An, so you really can only find authentic cao lầu here.
Whether that origin story is still true or not, cao lầu is definitely one of the best dishes I’ve had in Vietnam! I’m already wondering if it’s too soon to go back to eat more?
Wine Me Down at Art Space
After we finished our dinner, we walked back to Anantara for their Wine Me Down event. They have it in their Art Space and has some live music as well as wine and a small buffet designed by their head chef. Art Space is one of Anantara Hoi An’s restaurants. Designed to feel like an art gallery, they normally serve up wood-fire pizzas, tapas-style dishes, and alcohol.
Wine Me Down happens on the last Friday of every month from 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM. For 550K VND (~$20 USD), you get a free-flow of sparkling, red, and white wine, beers, and treats. When you go, you’ve got to try Chef Geert-Jan Vaartjes’ Hoi An twist on the Dutch meat-based snack, bitterballen!
Alyshia and I popped in a little after six and had a lovely time. I obviously don’t drink, so I made up for it sampling all the delicious food they had out. Even if you’re not staying at Anantara, you can go!
Down by Thu Bon River at Night
Of course, one of the reasons we were in Hoi An when we were was to try and catch the Lantern Festival that happens during each full moon, so we pulled ourselves away from the free flowing wine and snacks to walk down to the river!
Unfortunately, this festival was a more subdued affair — one of the downsides of having much fewer visitors. It mostly felt like a normal night in town — the vendors selling food or souvenirs at the night market and lots of people eager to take you for a ride in their pastel lit-up boats.
We walked around a bit before crossing over to Hoi An islet to look for an Irish pub Alyshia remembered from her last trip. We finally found it by finding the lanterns strung up with the colors of the Irish flag ha!
I think in normal times The Shamrock is a pretty busy spot with live music but I didn’t mind it being a bit more relaxed. We sat outside and had some drinks while we people-watched.
At this point we were pretty beat, so we walked back to Anantara, got ready for bed, and passed out. We were so tired, we actually missed our fun turn down cookie until the next day!
Breakfast at Anantara
Before we did anything on Saturday, we filled ourselves up on a delicious breakfast and cà phê sữa đá. Anantara Hoi An’s breakfast offerings do not disappoint. Held in their Lanterns restaurant, they have a pretty big variety of Vietnamese and Western offerings. I obviously went to town. I also noticed the little cà phê sữa đá stand that Anantara Mui Ne had.
Shopping in Hoi An
Of course, one of the fun things to do in Hoi An is to shop! You’ve got the tailors the shoemakers, the leatherworkers, and probably more. Then you’ve got the cute boutiques and shops that are more curated versions of what you’ll find around Vietnam. And then, of course, you’ve got the markets which sell cheaper clothes and trinkets and honestly all sorts of random goodies, that you’ll probably find something fun to buy. After breakfast, we had a few places in mind for the morning…
During the night, Alyshia actually got a message from one of her friends from home with bridesmaid dress colors and guidelines. With this new knowledge in hand, she actually did want to get something made in Hoi An, so after breakfast we went back to Izi to look at hunter green fabric! Even though it was a whole twelve hours later, they still told her they’ll finish most of her dress the same time as they were hoping to finish mine later that afternoon!
Stopping at Izi worked out perfectly, because another shop I wanted to check out was SUNDAY in Hoi An, and it was just a few minutes on the same road. Not only had I seen the shop’s fun interior splashed over Instagram, I’d been following them on Facebook for a while and I wanted to see their mulberry silk pillowcases in person.
Well, turns out they were getting ready to close their shop location and look for a new location and everything but their bedding and silk collections were 50%… Oops. Walked out with two very cute little purses, my aforementioned pillowcase, and a silk face mask for good measure!
92 Station Coffee
Next to SUNDAY in Hoi An is one of the best spots for rooftop views in Hoi An — 92 Station Coffee. This was also on my list since I somehow missed the rooftop cafe memo on my first trip. This spot is super cute and while we just got drinks, I do think it’s also a restaurant with proper food offerings. Just order your drink on the first level and make the climb up (maybe 3 or 4 flights?) to the top. There’s very little shade up there but look at those views!
Lunch at Banh Mi Phuong
By this point we were ready to eat, so we went to Bánh Mì Phượng, made famous after Anthony Bourdain visited. They even print his photo on the bánh mì packaging, which I thought was too cute.
When you go in, the ladies are running a well oiled machine as a few of them stand behind the counter making bánh mìs seemingly in bulk. At one point I witnessed one woman just plop down a basket with more baguettes than I’ve ever seen at once!
You kind of just have to figure out how to order and pay in cash quickly — they’re not waiting around for you to decide. I ordered a bánh mì while Alyshia ordered a cao lầu, and we sat inside to eat. Definitely recommend for either dish!
After lunch, we decided the best way to meet the midday sun in Hoi An was to head for the pool, so we walked back to Anantara, changed into our swimsuits, and beelined for their little square pool. It’s actually quite cold, which was refreshing! We swam around a little and relaxed on their blue sun loungers for the rest of the afternoon.
Quick Pick-Me-Up at Hill Station
I got caught up reading my book instead of taking a pool nap, so after we got ready for dinner and checked back in with Izi, we walked to this nearby cafe called Hill Station so I could grab a quick iced latte. Very lovely, old school vibe, and also another place that I believe also serves food and alcohol.
Full Moon Seafood Buffet
Then it was time for dinner. This evening, we were in for a real treat! At Anantara’s Hoi An Riverside restaurant on the terrace, they have a seafood buffet each weekend. For the full moon, they’ll make it extra special. Kate told us that even locals even give their seal of approval, which you don’t normally get when it comes to hotels in Vietnam! The buffet is incredible with a ton of seafood and other dishes including one of our favorites, bánh xèo. I’ll just let the pictures do the talking:
Like actually incredible, right? Between Mui Ne and Hoi An, Anantara was 2/2 in my book when it comes to food! I definitely ate as much as I could, and by the time we rolled back to our hotel room, we were stuffed!
Breakfast on a Full Stomach
Somehow we still had some room the next morning to eat breakfast, though I’m pretty sure we were still very full from the night before. I didn’t go quite as ham on the food. Good thing our first plan for the day was to take out Anantara’s complimentary bikes!
Bike Ride around Hoi An
After breakfast, we took out two bikes to ride around town. I would only recommend trying to bike through Ancient Town in the earlier morning as it gets busier as the sun goes down, and you’ll be doing a lot of dodging even now!
We first made our way over to Hoi An islet, which is much quieter than the side with the Japanese Bridge. While there I had to re-create a photo I took on my first visit five years ago! Funny how much changes and how much doesn’t :p
Since had some wheels, we could venture a bit farther out, so we biked over to Espresso Station which is hidden away in a little alley a bit out of Ancient Town. It’s a super cute spot with mainly outdoor seating. While you’ve got traditional coffee offerings on the menu, the owner has also experimented with some more unique ones like the charcoal latte which I had to try just for fun! Alyshia got an egg coffee, and I also got their signature drink, Coffee Ice Cubes.
Over all, it’s a really nice spot and I think if you lived here or were here long term, it’d be a fun spot to come and read or relax! Their dog is adorable and, again, this is another spot that I believe offers food too.
Our Final Tailor Stop
After Espresso Station, we had our final tailor appointment! One of my dresses was ready to take with me, and then Izi sent the rest to Anantara for us to pick up later. Overall, I’m quite pleased with all my outfits! I had to fix the shoulders on my own dress back in Saigon but that was the only small change. The dress above is the one I could take after this visit. How gorgeous is it?! Makes me feel a bit like a creamsicle in the best way possible, and I immediately put it on for our sunset boat ride!
Lunch of Chicken Rice
Once we finished at Izi, we began to bike back to Anantara, and stopped off at a random spot on the side of the road for some Hoi An chicken rice or just cơm gà. It was okay, but I think you’re normally supposed to cook the rice with the turmeric broth so it’s yellow by the time you get it. This was pretty plain even when I put some of the broth/sauce on it. The one we ate later had more flavor.
Pool Time (Again!)
We got back to Anantara in the middle of the day, so it was pretty hot and sunny. Since we had a few hours, we went right back to the pool to swim and relax and get some snacks and drinks! I even swam some laps, though the pool is a bit too shallow for flip turns, because I really had to do something a bit more to work off all the caffeine I’d ingested! And it was just nice to stretch out.
A Sunset River Cruise
To (almost) end our last day in Hoi An, we did a little cruise through Anantara in their long tail boat decorated with lanterns. Such a perfect way to enjoy the sunset! Mr. Tai drove us peacefully along Thu Bon river while Mr. Ngoc was there with food and drinks to make sure all we had to do was lounge on pillows at the bow and enjoy the views!
The whole boat ride lasts around an hour and leaves around 4:30 PM. Along the way you’ll pass under Cam Nam bridge, go by Ancient Town, and some islands. Say hi to the fishermen you’ll see along the way!
Once we got back to shore, we decided to head back into town as Alyshia wanted to pick up some things from the market, and we wanted to eat some Hoi An food one last time!
I will warn you of all the places I’ve been in Vietnam, I think the market vendors in Hoi An are the most aggressive. They were like this in 2016 too, so this isn’t a post-covid/flood thing. They can be pretty incessant, but they will eventually leave you alone if you just keep walking.
Anyway, I also wanted to try dragon’s breath ice cream I’d seen once or twice before. It’s basically cereal dipped in liquid nitrogen and when you eat it, the smoke comes out of your mouth. It’s… okay haha. I think it looks cooler than it tastes — to be honest it doesn’t taste like much but it’s fun to eat! Add some chocolate syrup to at least get something sweet.
The thing I fell in love with were these mango cakes, or bánh xoài. They’re called this because they’re apparently “look” like mangos lol. But basically it’s some dough filled with peanuts and granulated sugar and then dusted with rice flour to keep from sticking together. Reminds me ever so slightly of Korean hotteok.
As soon as Alyshia saw it, we stopped to get some and then we got more for later!
Late Night Dinner
After all that, we headed back to Anantara, making sure to stop by at Mr. Trung’s spot once again. Last time he told us we had to come back and try all his dishes, so we did just that — cao lầu, cơm gà, and this cháo vịt. SO GOOD.
This chicken rice was better than the first one, and the duck soup is so good and fatty. We were definitely pretty full by the time we sat down, but we still ate most of our food because we didn’t want to waste any of it!
With some macarons as our turn down service treat, it was the perfect ending to our three days in Hoi An and our introduction to Anantara Hoi An.
The next morning it as time to say goodbye! We had a light breakfast and had to check out around 8:00 AM. We’d have been pretty sad to leave if we didn’t have the next leg of our adventure waiting at the Da Nang train station…
Have you been to Hoi An multiple times? How did it compare?
If you also want to stay at Anantara Hoi An, be sure to check their website. They’re having some awesome offers these days!
for more on vietnam
This country is a lot bigger than people expect! When planning your trip to Vietnam, I recommend breaking it up into north, central, and south. Northern Vietnam is known for is stunning landscapes like Sapa with minority tribes like the Red Dzao, the limestone islets of Halong Bay, the lesser known Mu Cang Chai, and the caves of Phong Nha. If you visit, your main city base will be the capital of Hanoi.
Moving towards central Vietnam your main city will probably be Da Nang, which is where the intriguing Marble Mountains are. There’s a ton of picturesque history in this region from the royal city of Hue where you can stay at the historic Azerai La Residence, Hoi An, of course, quirky Dalat in the Central Highlands, and they very cool Mui Ne and Phan Thiet where you can chill by the pool at Anantara Mui Ne.
Down south, there’s a ton of things to do in Ho Chi Minh City, the main hub here. Start with District 1, which has most of the main tourist attractions as well as a lot of cool gems like Little Japan. Then branch out to the temples of Cho Lon and District 5, the pool cafes and foreign restaurants of Thao Dien, or the fun spots around District 3, Binh Thanh, and District 10. Move further south to the Mekong Delta, either on a day trip or for a slower visit to one of its cities like Vinh Long or Can Tho. Don’t miss the islands like Phu Quoc or Con Dao either!
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As a reminder, I was a guest of Anantara Hoi An. However, all opinions are my own!