Experiences in Hoi An: Get Insight Into Hoi An’s Local Culture

As the most unique Vietnamese town, Hoi An is definitely worth visiting. Here, visitors have many things to do and experiences for their holiday time. Everyone knows that it has an old town featuring houses of yellow walls, colorful lanterns, tailor shops and such diverse street foods. The beach – sandy expanses, clear water, island view and the countryside – peaceful villages, rice fields, traditional handicrafts are not really far away from this world heritage town. Travelers even can cycle to them. For adventure seekers, majestic mountains, surprising caves and off-shore islands absolutely are cool places to go. They also love watching the sunrise and sunset.

Hoi An has evolved since 15th century as a melting pot, its culture is distinctive and well-blended between different nationalities. That is a great interest for those who are willing to explore cultural experiences in a strange city. Tasting or preparing foods, learning traditional crafts, joining daily works with farmers or fishermans, riding across countryside and others, allow travelers to have a deeper knowledge. All are hands-on, requiring an interaction with local people.

Thus, experiences in Hoi An are what travelers today would like to do.

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Table of content

Be a Farmer in Tra Que Vegetable Village

5 mins away from Hoi An’s centre, on the way to An Bang beach, Tra Que vegetable village has lush vegetable and herb gardens. Locals still believe that farmers here produce veggies of the better quality than from everywhere else. Over some hundreds of years, they have used traditional organic farming techniques. On 7th day in the first lunar month of the year, locals celebrate Lễ cầu bông to pray for good weather and harvest. Most families will make a fresh roll from shrimp, pork and herbs that is called “tam huu” or three friends”.

No matter joining a tour or self traveling, it’s easy to see farmers in Tra Que village and to be a farmer too. In their family’s garden, they will teach visitors how to grow vegetables like they do day to day: preparing the soil by tools, fertilizing the soil by seaweed, planting vegetable babies and then watering them by a shoulder pole. These works make so much fun, especially for kids. Besides that, travelers also can visit a family to learn how to cook local foods, have a herbal foot massage and chat with members. Our guided Hoi An countryside tour includes farming class at Tra Que village and other experiences.

Read also: An Bang Beach Travel Guide

Ride a Bicycle Through Cam Kim Island

Opposite to the Hoi An ancient town by the Thu Bon river, Cam Kim island is a peaceful rural land with small villages, rice fields and fishing boats. Here, people are friendly, smiling and their ways of life are unchanged over time. Additionally, Cam Kim island is home of Kim Bong carpentry village where locals have crafted sculptures and built boats since 17th century.

The best way to explore Cam Kim island, a real Vietnam and see the daily life of people there is by bicycle. At a slower pace, on low traffic roads, travelers will see up-close tranquil villages, lush gardens, paddy fields, old brick kilns, canals, coconut forest and even a cemetery. Our guided Cam Kim island cycling tour also includes a visit to local families where the guests can chat with members, know their life story and daily works, and even join them. Popular experiences are making rice papers and noodles, trying noodles later or weaving a sedge mat. Absolutely, the ride is worth it to go on. In organized cycling tours, travelers follow a guide who learns by heart the area and assists while interacting with locals.

Read also: Bicycle Routes in Hoi An

Make Pottery by Potter’s Wheel

Only three kilometers from Hoi An’s old town, inhabitants in Thanh Ha pottery village have made pottery for 400 years already. Today, their handicraft tradition is inscribed and protected by Vietnam government as a national intangible cultural heritage. Every year, pottery makers honour their ancestors in Nam Dieu communal house in 7th lunar month. Tourists an reach the village by a Thu Bon river cruise from the Ancient town.

In one of the workshops at the village, visitors see real artisans who learnt the craft from older generations. He or she will show their skills in making a complete pottery first and then the learners do it by hands under their instruction. According to traditional techniques, a pottery’s wheel is used to spin for forming the objects. Learners can choose to make a vase, pot, teapot, bowl or plate. Nowhere else in the region, this kind of experience is seen. So, it’s only a chance to participate and have fun. Our Hoi An countryside tour includes it and others in different villages.

Read also: Hoi An Memories Show

Lantern Festival in the Full Moon

Hoi An is famous for its monthly lantern festival in the full moon, in Hoi An ancient town. Traditionally, locals hang up lanterns to celebrate the day and also pray for luck and happiness. By the river, they light up candle lanterns (made of paper) and then release them prior to making wishes. Many people would like to have a lantern boat ride to cruise the river and photograph. For that reason, the town is filled by uncountable lantern lights that vary in color. Lanterns themselves have different size, shape, patterns, materials and location. No surprise that a visit to this festival becomes a must for travelers (and even locals). In the full moon, many outdoor activities are organized, including bai choi – a folk game with performances listed by Unesco. Anybody can be a player. Breaking the clay pots (game), learning how to sing traditional songs, and others can be seen too.

Read also: Hoi An Night Market

Make a Lantern at Your Hands

Lantern is one of the emblems of Hoi An and its old town. It was introduced by Chinese people when they moved to the area for living and business. They hang up red lanterns in their houses and streets, in order to bring luck and other good things. In the full moon or festivals, most families in town will do it. That is the reason why Hoi An gots its nickname “town of lanterns”. Lanterns at Hoi An were not foldable formerly, but after tourists like to take them home as souvenirs, local makers design them to be foldable like today. Today, it’s easy to put them in handbags or suitcases. See further information in Hoi An lanterns.

Making a lantern is a favourite activity of many travelers. It’s not really difficult no matter if they have experience before or not. In workshops, an artisan will instruct how to make a lantern from scratch. Steps in turn are forming a frame in a favourite size and shape, selecting pieces of fabric (or silk) with a favourite pattern and color, sticking them by glue, and how to open or close the lanterns. For those who don’t have much time, they can start learning with a pre-made frame.

Note: Many lantern making workshops are in Hoi An ancient town. So, a class to make a lantern is well combined into one walking tour there.

Read also: What to Do in Hoi An at Night?

Hoi An Cooking Class: Preparing Local Foods

Hoi An is one of the food capitals in Vietnam. Thanks to cultural exchanges between Vietnamese and foreigners for such a long time, Hoi An’s local cuisine is distinctive. Today, several dishes here are well known by the rest of the country, and even the world. Browse Hoi An food specialties to see a list of them.

There are many cooking classes and schools to choose from in Hoi An. Each has its own menu or list of foods to guide travelers how to prepare. However, similarities are classic Vietnamese foods and local dishes, such as fresh and fried spring rolls, rice pancakes, noodle soup, salad eaten with rice crackers, etc. Not only knowing more about Hoi An’s cuisine, learners also have a fun time with different ingredients (some never seen before), cooking utensils and skills (chopping, cutting, mixing, etc). In fact, this kind of experience is best for families with kids. After turning off the stove, it’s time to taste what was just made.

Cooking class is an experience of our guided Tra Que vegetable village tourHoi An countryside tour or Hoi An coconut village tour.

Explore Hoi An’s Coconut Forest by Basket Boat

10 minutes drive from Hoi An old town, Cam Thanh fishing village is home of a vast naturally-grown water coconut forest. Here, fishers created basket-like boats to access easily into a maze of canals in that forest and also to avoid French colonist’s taxes. Not only used to harvest seafood for living, now, they take visitors to discover their village and give a demonstration of their daily activities. Browse Hoi An coconut village for further details.

The favourite thing to do here is the basket boat ride. In which, locals will row a round bamboo boat to carry travelers on rivers, around their hometown’s palm forest. The kind of boat is unique to central Vietnam. Due to its design, it’s really not easy to keep balance and propell. When passengers try to walk in, sit down and practice rowing it, they will feel that challenge. Besides peaceful waterways and exotic coconut groves, locals also showcase a performance of “spinning boat”. The audience is amazed by this entertainment more than others. Then, travelers can join in singing a song or watch how a fisherman catches fish by net. During the trip, they all wear conical hats (nón lá) on the heads. By that, some fun pictures about Vietnam can be produced.

Basket boat ride experience is a part of our guide Hoi An countryside tour. Text us in whatsapp number +84968009827 to ask for details and reserve.

Read also: Cua Dai Beach Travel Guide

Taste Hoi An’s Street Foods with Local Foodie

Hoi An is famous for street foods that are abundant and yummy. They are easily found around this ancient heritage town, from day and night markets, major streets to smaller laneways. Some snacks are well known worldwide, such as banh mi sandwich, cao lau noodle or mi quang noodle. Joining a guided street food walking tour is the best way to taste different dishes, learn about them and how to like them from local foodies. Besides that, food lovers also have a chance to see the makers prepare the foods, chat with them and take pictures with them. Stories about their life and history of their family business are shared. That’s why a food tour is amongst the best loved cultural experiences elsewhere.

We also design vegetarian walking food tour for vegetarians, vegans and those who like to know local vegetarian dishes. On the first and 15th days of each lunar month (full moon), there are more options to taste, including the ones at Buddhist temples.

Read also: Hoi An Food Guide

Water Buffalo Ride in Rice Fields

Water buffalo are the best friend of Vietnamese farmers who cultivate the rice in fields. For such a long time, the kings prohibited killing and eating this friendly and helpful animal, to increase the growth of agriculture. Before a new crop, water buffalos are used for plowing the soil and after the harvest, they bring the rice home. While the rice is still green (growing), children will hang out with them and feed them with grass and fruits. For many adults, this activity is a lovely memory about their childhood. On hot days, water buffalos enjoy a “mud bath”.

In Hoi An’s countryside, it’s not too difficult to see farmers and their water buffaloes. Travelers can see them along Hai Ba Trung road, between the Old town and An Bang beach, or along Vo Chi Cong road, between De Vong bridge and Cua Dai road. Buffalo’s owners are never minded to allow strangers to have a ride like what they do everyday. With a conical hat on the head, definitely some unique pictures about authentic Vietnam are captured.

A water buffalo ride is covered in our guided Hoi An countryside tour.

Read also: Hoi An Countryside: Villages, Rice Fields and Tours

See Sunrise or Sunset in My Son Sanctuary

My Son sanctuary is a complex of nearly 70 Hindu temples built by Cham people in a hilly area 50 kilometers away from Hoi An. It played its role as the holy land of Champa kingdom where emperors celebrated important ceremonies from 4th to 13rd centuries. Abandoned for such a long time in the jungle and bombed in the Vietnam war, only 20 buildings now survive. The sanctuary was declared by Unesco as a world heritage site in 1999. Since then, more and more tourists come to visit. To beat the heat and crowds, sightseeing My Son’s temples in the sunrise is the best choice. At that time, the nature is extremely fresh and sightseers can hunt unique pictures. If can’t arrange time for sunrise or not for an early bird, sunset is another perfect time to discover ancient Cham ruins. A guided My Son sunrise or sunset tour allows to deepen your knowledge and know secrets that aren’t fully understood.

Traveling by yourself? You can ride a motorcycle or hire a car. The price of a roundtrip by car ranges from 800,000 to 1,000,000 VND, including waiting. Text us in whatsapp number +84968009827 to book. At the present, My Son entrance fee is 150,000 VND per adult.

Note: To see the sunrise in My Son, travelers need to leave Hoi An at 5 am. The sanctuary opens at 6 am, and then a transfer (and walking) is needed to visit temples. Sunset is easier to time for watching and photography.

Read also: – The Best Places to See Sunrise in Hoi An

– The Best Places to See Sunset in Hoi An

Hike the Marble Mountains: Caves, Peaks and Temples

The Marble mountains (Ngu Hanh Son in Vietnamese) comprises five spectacular marble hills, 20 kilometers away from Hoi An and each one is unique. According to a local folk tale, these towers are formed by the shell of a dragon’s egg. The highest and largest mountain is called “The water mountain”. Here, visitors have to climb many stairs to see Buddhist temples, explore caves and reach the peak (108 meters). The complex is also known as the Five Elements mountain.

The first Linh Ung pagoda ever built in Da Nang is by the hiking trail. While standing in a cave, especially Huyen Khong cave, sightseers will be amazed by an incredible shaft of light from its ceiling. Diverse rock formations, holy shrines, occasionally Hindu altars, and living bats make the caves definitely must-see places. At the summit, the view is 360o and sure, hikers enjoy cool breeze and stunning scenery. There are so many photo opportunities during the trip, including elaborate hand-crafted stone sculptures in the village. If seeking a guided tour, see details in the Marble Mountains tour.

Read also: – Da Nang Cave Tour

Am Phu Cave Tour

Cruise Hoai River by Boat and Release Paper Lanterns

Nobody misses a boat ride in Hoi An’s old town at night. And of course, they never forget to light up a candle paper lantern and then drop down the river to make wishes. This kind of cultural experience originates from Buddhist tradition in the full moon, a special time of the month. From the boat, passengers will see the beauty of the town from a different point that features numerous lantern lights. It’s gorgeous, colorful and inspires romantic souls. Shimmering floating lanterns on the river and ladies who sell the paper lanterns are favourites for photographers. Read everything in Hoi An lantern boat ride on Hoai river.

Note: Come to the river by the Old town to buy tickets and then board. For 1 to 3 people, the price is 150,000 VND, and for 3 to 5 people, it’s 200,000 VND. The lantern boat ride lasts 20 minutes at the present.

Read also: Hoi An Evening Tour from Da Nang

Visit Hoi An’s Fish Markets in Sunrise

Hoi An is by the sea and the river, so catching fishes and seafood is still a main job for locals. Before the sunrise, travelers will see a vibrant, bustling harbour where fishermans off-load fishes from their boats. Around there, the ladies sell them for small traders who bring them later to markets. A variety of fishes is another bonus for the visit. Some creatures that travelers have never seen before. For photographers, this is a wonderful chance to take pictures about a different slice of life at Hoi An. The experience lies in the itinerary of many tours, including photo tours. See further information in Hoi An fish markets.

Read also: Hoi An One Day Itinerary

Stay Overnight on the Cham Island

Cham island is the main island of an archipelago of the same name, 30 minutes away from Hoi An’s coast by canoe. It’s home of about 3,000 inhabitants who catch fishes in the sea to earn for living. Today, they are hosts in their own homestays. Tourists can stay there, to escape from busy and noisy cities, especially in the evening and know about their daily life. The guests usually go to the market with family members, cook with them and eat with them. Men have no reason to not have some drinks with guests and even allow them to go fishing together. In addition, they can explore everything if sleep on the island, instead of participating in a day trip. The time in Cham islands is really deserving and unforgettable.

Note: Travelers can pay for a speed canoe to reach the Cham island and back. To be a local, let’s experience the boat ferry from Hoi An.

Read also: Beaches in Hoi An

Discover Underwater World of Cham Islands

Cham islands is famous for its wealth of undersea life. This richness is proven by Vietnam’s government and Unesco designations are national marine park and world biosphere reserve. According to the latest report, there are nearly 950 kinds of living creatures in the surrounding waters of the archipelago. The collection includes 135 corals, 180 fishes, 145 shellfishes, 122 seaweed, 25 crustacean and many rare species. Not many spots around Vietnam, travelers can see a similar diversity to Cham island’s. That is one of the reasons why so many people visit it for diving, snorkeling or trekking throughout the dry months. If possible, staying overnight on the island is highly recommended.

Read also: Hoi An Fishing Tour

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