Hoi An ancient town with kids

I’m going to start this blog with a positive! It is a really beautiful place and I loved all the lanterns lit up at night! But that’s where my love of Hoi An ancient town ends. I’m sorry! I know it’s controversial and most comments I’ve read told of their love of the area.

But I didn’t find it a very budget or family friendly destination. But i did think it was pretty .

Hoi An & surrounding areas

Hoi An is the name of the area, as well as the name of the old town.  If you are to consider coming here, there are a few areas you can look at:

  • Hoi An ancient town (with night markets)
  • An Bang Beach
  • Da Nang city and beach

When people talk about Hoi An they mainly talk about Hoi An ancient town!  But, it’s not all about the old town! After a couple of days of tourist madness, we moved to An bang. 

Early morning walk in Hoi An

It’s a 15 minute drive away and if you wanted you could cycle between the two (which we did! Although it’s very hot and humid!!)

We stayed in Hoi An ancient town area, but I would suggest (of you are on a budget) to stay only 1 night. This this way you can enjoy the nightlife and night market. Then stay further out and instead stay closer to the beach.

I can imagine if you are on holiday here with a higher budget then you can afford to stay longer and enjoy the tourist shops, tailors and upmarket restaurants dotted along the waterfront.

How to get to Hoi An

We opted to take an early morning train from Dong Hoi to Da Nang  (which is the nearest station to Hoi An).

Unfortunately we had a 3 hour delay to our train and after getting up at 5am, it was a long slog!  Once we arrived, we opted to take the local bus to Hoi An for 30,000 per person.

It’s about 40 minutes by car (around 220,000 dong) or 1 hour by bus and is roughly half the price. So, although we were very tired from the long travels so far, we decided to keep our budget traveller hats on!

Sometimes it feels easier to just grab a taxi and be fine with it, but actually this route wasn’t too bad.

After getting off the train we walked to the nearest bus line between Da Nang and Hoi An – Bus #1.  Type in 162 Ong Ich Khiem to Google maps, only a 10-minute walk from the station and easy. Once you get on you pay the bus driver once the bus gets moving.  Note: the buses only run from 5.30am to 6pm.

 

Hoi An ancient town

Several people suggested staying in the outskirts of the ancient town so that you are between the beach and the ancient town.  A few recommendations were a homestay called ‘La Me’ and ‘Tribee Ede hostel’ for other budget stays. 

Either way, I would recommend staying in the centre of the ancient town for only 1 night to access the night market. But then stay further out and enjoy the area from a distance!

As for things to do in Hoi An there are a few museums and ancient buildings to explore.  It costs 120,000 dong for all sites

Central market – this was my favourite place to go. We picked up some cheap for from the stalls here and I managed to find a seamstress to fix 2 pairs of trousers for £1!

Sightseeing and shopping – this is the place to go for a tailored suit! My only thought was… Why?! I guess that’s one for the fashionistas (of which I am definitely not one!!) Personally wet loved just strolling along the pretty alleyways where no one pestered you!

 

Night boat ride – lots of hawkers offering their boats and lanterns for sale. But unlike places like Venice it wasn’t a serene experience. There were sooo many boats, some decorated and some with neon lights. But most annoying was the paper lanterns being put into the water and then being washed up like rubbish at the sides! Again..  why?! Sorry – that one annoyed me!

Night market – ooh the lanterns. The night market is a must in Hoi An. You can squeeze your way through the Mather stalls ask seeking highly the normal tourist fans, hats, keyrings and cases all at a highly inflated price. But it’s nice to look!

Where to stay in Hoi An ancient town

Several people suggested staying in the outskirts of the ancient town so that you are between the beach and the ancient town (as mentioned above).

Either way, I would recommend staying in the centre of the ancient town for only 1 night to access the night market. But then stay further out and enjoy the area from a distance!

Cosy house homestay – a family run place right next to the night market. It’s a great location to get in amongst the hustle – but he prepared to be hassled wherever you walk. Especially if you decide to peruse the menus!  We had a large family room with ensuite and good air conditioning. It was clean and comfortable and reasonably priced. 

 

Where to eat in Hoi an ancient town

At first glance the menus in this area will give quite a shock to the budget system. Having been used to paying only 50,000 for dinner and suddenly these prices are over 100,000! A 50% increase is quite a mark up!

We did find a reasonable restaurant near the markets called Goc Viet.  The host was very hospitable and the food was a little more expensive than we were used to, but very fresh and tasty.

We were still hoping to find some cheap eateries. Luckily we researched and found a row of eateries all serving the same cheap food and cheap drinks.  The ‘restaurants’ are based at the end of the waterfront near the night market. They are called:

Mr Son or Ms Nam or Hi restaurant. 

Some are mentioned on trip advisor but they all do good viatnamese food (especially Cao Lau) and local beers for 4,000 dong (about 15p!)

Kebab shack – ooh, we find a naught but nice British greasy spoon. I mean when you see chip but on the menu you have to stop! The boys both had a full on burger with all the works which they devoured and I had a filling chicken kebab! If you’re looking for a taste of home (UK) then this is your place! A bit above our  normal budget but soooo nice!

Plus they had a few games to keep the kids entertained!

Banh mi phuong

A very busy food counter with small seating at the back.  It’s obviously been mentioned in a few guide books as it was very busy with tourists! The queue was out the door. But it wasn’t that great if I’m honest – we had much better in Hanoi. But it was a good breakfast stop before our cycle to An Bang beach. 

An Bang Beach

A short distance from Hoi An ancient town is the beach area. When people talk of Hoi An I hadn’t realised that they were including the beach (15 minutes drive away) into this reference.

We were disillusioned by the ancient town and it’s tourist shops, so decided to visit the beach to see if this was a better area. As soon as we arrived we knew we were moving to here! We cycled through paddy fields and quieter areas to reach cua dia beach. (Use OsmAnd offline maps for the route)

 

It had crystal blue water and smooth sand, plus there was hardly any one around. However, this area wasn’t actually the best beach area. There were signs of erosion and not much there. So we pushed further along checking out possible accommodation and beach areas.

We decided on the main An bang beach. We stopped at sun and sea which was near the coconut tree shack on the beach. And reeeellax!! We certainly needed it after that rather sweaty and tiring bike ride. The heat was a killer! Jumping into the sea was bliss! 

The sun and sea shack had sunbeds, which you could use for free if you had lunch and drinks. If not the cost for 2 beds was 50,000 dong. It was a slower, quieter and more chilled version of Goa! They didn’t hassle you but they also weren’t always around.

The next day we visited & stopped at the coconut tree shack. The service was even slower, but provided similar food and price of drinks was the same.   The sea was a little rougher today as it was windier. The kids loved playing in the wave.

There are no lifeguards on the beach but there are swimming areas as there’s a few parasailers and jet ski riders around. 

 

Where to stay in An Bang beach

We stayed at a lovely family run guesthouse with a lovely light room with ensuite and air conditioning. It was called An bang My village homestay. So lovely and less than 5 minutes to the beach. 

They had a nice long table for sitting outside and a swing seat. Such a nice area to relax in.

 

Where to eat in An Bang

We found a lovely bakery (albeit a bit over budget) which served delicious bagels & croissants – hmmmm! So we indulged ourselves with a lovely breakfast twice!! Called 7 Son bakery & coffee.

We are at Cay me vegetarian restaurant. But then again, most restaurants around here are called cay me!? It was good food at a cheap price.

Our last night we are at a lovely restaurant directly opposite our homestay, Purple lantern. It was very family friendly and served delicious food. Great place on our doorstep!   

There are lots more restaurants around the area which all seem to have fairly good reviews!.

 

Da Nang city & beach

We didn’t actually stay in Da Nang, but due to our late train departure had an afternoon there. I really liked it and wished we’d spent a few days there. It felt like it was more authentic than Hoi An for a taste of Vietnam. The city was easy to get around and it was the same stretch of beach as An Bang.

Plus we had lots of choices to keep the kids entertained. We went to the helio centre with a friend and the kids loved it. There was a huge good court outside and was full of people.  Next door to this was another recommendation, Sunworld Da Nang wonders (see here) which opens after 3pm.

 

Conclusion

Overall I liked An Bang beach area much better than Hoi an ancient town. It’s great to visit for a day and to see the night markets. 

Other than the handful of museums and tourist shops there’s not a huge amount that we were drawn to. It’s nice if you plan to sit in coffee shops all day or have a tailored suit or dress made though! But as you can tell, it wasn’t the place for us. However, I will say I did enjoy wandering around the night market and seeing the lanterns lit up. 

But I’d definitely stay further out and enjoy the countryside around the outskirts of Hoi an ancient town and An Bang. You don’t need to be in the centre of it all! Just make sure your hostel has bikes you can hire to get around. Or if you prefer then stay 1 night in Hoi an and a few nights at the beach. 

I would have liked to have explored Da Nang a little more. It had a more Vietnamese feel and feeled like a good place to be based.

Lots to choose from and definitely an area to visit! As long as you choose your destination wisely, based on your budget and requirements. 

 

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