Today, travelers seek more experiences in the destination they go to. They want to have a deeper understanding about the culture of local people and interact with them. No other place in Vietnam is more fitted to this travel purpose than Hoi An.
Hoi An is home to unique experiences and things to do. Up the mountains or down the rice fields, rivers or sea, travelers will see something that can’t be found in other places in Vietnam and the world. For example, the lantern festival occurs each lunar month that is praised “have to be in the bucket list of all travelers”. That’s why it has become a favourite place for so many people and even they visit it more than one time in their life. That’s normal because Hoi An is truly deserving!.
Here, there is a list of unique experiences in Hoi An and reasons why they are unique. Don’t miss! They make your stays in the town become memorable.
Basket Boat Ride in the Sea Palm Forest
15 mins from Hoi An centre, Cam Thanh has rice fields, villages, waterways and a vast sea palm (“water coconut”) forest. Here, local people carry travelers around that forest by a basket boat aka Vietnam’s coracle. Not only touring the rivers to see the nature and fisherman village, they also watch performances for fun and about the daily life of locals. Today, the ride becomes a must do in Hoi An.
Read also: – Basket Boat in Hoi An
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Why Is Hoi An’s Basket Boat Ride Unique?
Nowhere else in the world, not only Vietnam, travelers can’t see a tour around a palm forest by bamboo basket boats. Yes, it’s unique to Hoi An. The round boat itself is the creativity of local fishermans who wanted to not pay the fax from French colonizers (19th – 20th century). Its size is smaller and its shape is like a “rice bowl” that is totally different from traditional fishing vessels. If row it by yourself, you will feel that it is not easy to keep balance and go straight forward.
The sea palm forest where locals carry travelers around is also special. It’s a huge community of millions of mature palms, a nature reserve that is protected by government. The first seed was brought here from the south of Vietnam. This forest is characterized by so many small rivers and canals, woven together like a spider’s web. Their water is up and down, depending on the tides and seasons and is mixed between the sea and the river (called “brackish water”). That’s why the Vietcong or communists hid inside this natural maze during the Vietnam war.
Not only a sightseeing ride, travelers will admire a surprising spinning boat performance. One man stands in the boat, and he spins his boat around and around. The watchers are amazed by how he can do it for a long time. Karaoke (singing) on the river and a demonstration of throwing a net to catch fish like a local are other parts of the tour.
The boat, the forest and locals make Hoi An’s basket boat unique.
Read also: My Son Sunrise Tour
Bicycle Tour in Cam Kim Island
Not far away from Hoi An’s old town, Cam Kim island is loved by many travelers because it’s a countryside that is peaceful, unspoiled and the people retain their rural ways of life. Surrounded by the Thu Bon river, this island is fertilized all year round. That’s why it’s always green, with rice fields, vegetable gardens, lush bamboo groves and sedge fields used for making Vietnamese sleeping mats. The best way to discover Cam Kim island is by bicycle. It is also home of Kim Bong carpentry village.
Read also: – Cam Kim Island Travel Guide
Why Is Cam Kim Island Cycling Tour Unique?
A guided cycling tour in Cam Kim island is unique, not similar to others in Hoi An and the region. The island itself is untouched from modernization and tourist activities in the city. If come here, travelers will see the real countryside of Vietnam, with rice fields, herb gardens, water buffalos, farmers, blue rivers and more.
Cam Kim island tour is guided by a local who learns by heart villages. He or she shows travelers laneways or roads that traffic there is low. By that, they also have the chance to see the life of islanders, instead of boring urban buildings.
Not only sightseeing, travelers also interact with locals and learn about their daily life. Some families have a handicraft as their main income to earn for living. With translation from the guide, family members will instruct how to make something. If traveling alone or by yourself, it’s not easy to find them and join their work.
Unspoiled rural scenery and interactions with locals make Cam Kim island bicycle tour special. And sure, it’s definitely worth participating.
Read also: Cham Islands Travel Guide
Watching the Hoi An Memories Show
The Hoi An memories show debuted in June 2018. It’s known as the most spectacular outdoor performance in the country in which people, music and light depict the history of the land. Today, it’s a must in the itinerary of all Hoi An night tours and in the bucket list of all visitors. Depending on the position of the seats, the price ranges from 600,000 to 1,200,000 VND. Read more information in the Hoi An memories show travel guide.
Read also: Cultural Shows in Hoi An
Why Is the Hoi An Memories Show Unique?
The Hoi An memories show is special and incredibly amazing. First of all, it’s the largest outdoor art visual performance in Vietnam. More than 500 male and female artists make this spectacular show, for more than 3,300 audiences. Lighting and the music and songs of Vietnamese lyrics absolutely respect the local culture, instead of selecting a global trend.
Stories in the Hoi An memories show tell the watchers more about local culture and history. From beginning to end, a lady plays Vietnamese traditional one-string zither (called dan bau) that is not similar to any other kinds worldwide. Each of five performances of the show give a meaning and indicates a turning point of the land. Read our guide to know the details.
Before and after the show, travelers have a bonus of the Hoi An memories land theme park (formerly the Hoi An impression theme park). It has a trading quarter of shop houses, performances, the Japanese village, the Chinese village and a fantastic bamboo restaurant.
Read also: Vinwonder Nam Hoi An Theme Park
Cruise Hoai River by Boat and Release Lanterns
At night, a lantern boat ride on Hoai river is another unique experience in Hoi An and its Old town. Travelers can easily see sampans carrying people with two pumpkin-like fabric lanterns, one in each tail. Thanks to the ride on them, people have the chance to watch a colorful and vibrant world, and light up a paper lantern by themselves to release. This easygoing and relaxing boat trip also provides many photo opportunities. To experience, travelers just need to come to counters along the riverbank, to buy tickets and then go. The price is 150,000 VND for 1 to 3 people, and 200,000 VND for 3 to 5 people. See more details in Hoi An lantern boat on Hoai river.
Why Is Hoi An’s Lantern Boat Unique?
An experience on the lantern boat in Hoi An is unsimilar to anywhere else in Vietnam. It’s a leisure ride in which travelers enjoy the beauty of the ancient town from the river. This beauty is made of millions of lantern lights in streets and houses that are different in color and people, activities and events on the riverfront. Hoi An is one of the most happening towns in Vietnam.
The lantern boat ride, it’s not just a trip for pleasure, it’s linked to Vietnamese culture. Traditionally, locals get it to release paper lanterns lit by candle, down the river prior to making wishes. The day they do most is the full moon, 15th day of each lunar month. In several Buddhist festivals, this cultural activity is a part.
Read also: Thu Bon River Cruise
Make a Lantern at Your Hands
One of Hoi An’s symbols is the lantern. It’s firstly brought here by the Chinese and then they teach other people to make it. Until now, the tradition of making lanterns is still living in the town. The lantern itself definitely is amongst the best reminders about Hoi An. You can see more stories in our own article for lanterns in Hoi An.
In the town, there are plenty of lantern making classes. Travelers spend at least 1 hour to create a lantern by their hands, with a premade frame and instruction from artisans. Of course, they can choose their favourite color, fabric and shape. If willing to do from scratch, for sure, they need to use more time to complete one. How long it takes also depends on the size of lanterns.
Not only to learn about local handicraft with new skills and knowledge, travelers also make their time in Hoi An more memorable. Lanterns they create will become the best souvenirs to bring home.
Read also: Craft Workshops in Hoi An
Be a Farmer at Tra Que Vegetable Village
3 kilometers north of Hoi An ancient town, Tra Que village is known for growing vegetables and herbs. Locals believe that veggies from here have better quality than any others else in the region. That’s why they become unreplaceable ingredients for several Hoi An’s food specialties. The village is accessible by all road vehicles and walking (on the way from the Old town to the beach). You can see further details in Tra Que vegetable village travel guide.
Why Is the Farming of Tra Que Village Unique?
Farmers in Tra Que village still use traditional techniques to grow vegetables, and that makes the farming class here unique. It seems that this know-how is forgotten elsewhere after modern technologies are introduced recently. In the class, travelers will learn them. In other words, they are taught to grow vegetable babies like a local. Definitely, they have a fun time with different farming tools, such as tilling the soil, planting or watering. To fertilize the soil, locals use seaweed. This method is organic, friendly to the environment. A farmer class in Tra Que village is a good choice for those who like to know rural life and especially, kids. Additionally, local people also make new friends around their hometown to show different veggies and inform how they use them for cooking.
Restaurants and cooking schools of Tra Que village use vegetables in nearby gardens for cooking foods and teaching. The specialty dish of the village, Tam huu (means “three friends”) is also made of fresh local herbs.
Read also: Tra Nhieu Fishing Village Travel Guide
Taste Hoi An Local Food Specialties
Hoi An is one of the food capitals in Vietnam. Thanks to a special history (as an international trading harbour), this town boasts a unique culinary culture. Definitely, nowhere else in Vietnam, travelers see the same dishes, with the same taste and décor. The most well-known dish is cao lau. It’s a noodle that expresses a mixture of three cuisines (Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese). How to prepare it is also special: local makers use wood ash from Cham islands, fresh water from Ba Le well and herbs from Tra Que village. So, it’s never copied successfully in other cities and restaurants outside Hoi An. Banh mi sandwich in the town is praised to be the best in the country. White rose dumplings are made by an only family in town and by that, people have to go to Hoi An to try. Other special foods are fried wonton, chicken rice, pho noodle soup, banh xeo pancake, etc.
The best way to try Hoi An’s local food specialties and learn about them is joining a food tour guided by a foodie. To see up-close everything, walking is the nicest option. The timing is often in late afternoon and evening when the food scene comes to life.
Read also: – Hoi An Walking Food Tour
Play Bai Choi (Game) with Locals
Bai choi is a kind of game and performance specific to central Vietnam. It takes place every spring in Vietnamese villages in this region, including the ones of Hoi An. In 2017, Unesco declared it as the intangible cultural heritage of our humanity. The title ensures that it’s unique on the planet.
In Hoi An’s ancient town, travelers have the chance to see it each night, by the An Hoi bridge. They and locals will sit in bamboo huts or on the yard where the hosts stand. Each player has three cards. The hosts shake a bamboo tube of cards with different words, and after one card drops, they sing a folk song with related lyrics. Step by step, if someone has all cards matching the words, he or she becomes the winner.
Players will pay for cards to participate and receive a gift later if winning. Today, to assist foreigners easier to follow, the hosts also speak English. Bai Choi is also in the itinerary of many city tours, especially the ones by night.
Read also: Hoi An Night Market Travel Guide
Heritage Walk in Hoi An’s Ancient Town
The best known attraction in Hoi An for sure is its Ancient town (or Old town). In 1999, Unesco declared it to be a world heritage site because of its uniqueness and exceptional preservation. Here, streets are only for pedestrians and non-motorised vehicles for many hours during the day. In addition to well-preserved houses of yellow walls and a tiled roof, travelers can walk through the Japanese bridge, marvel at ornate Chinese temples and learn about the life of people in Vietnamese houses. See everything in Hoi An ancient town travel guide.
Why Is Hoi An Ancient Town Unique?
The Hoi An ancient town itself is unique in the world. This Unesco world heritage site is a historic international trading port from 15th to 19th centuries. Merchants with different nationalities come here to buy and sell, including Chinese, Japanese, Dutch, British, Portuguese. Over time, many aspects of life have been exchanged and well blended, giving tourists a lovely townscape. Remains of these people are still seen around Hoi An nowadays. In architecture, the best known building is the Japanese covered bridge – Hoi An’s emblem, and in cuisine, cao lau noodle represents the exchange of cultures.
Walking is the best way to explore Hoi An’s ancient town. Although a walk around it is too popular, but, to be honest, it is a unique experience. Nowhere else in the world, travelers find the same beauty, the same atmosphere. From sunrise to midnight, the town is filled with lanterns, varying in size, shape and color. At night, they are lit up, making it superb, colorful, charming and atmospheric. This is the best time to wander and photograph. In the full moon, a festival is celebrated and the richest, most incredible decoration for the town is made.
Not only sightseeing, travelers also have the chance to try local foods, go shopping and watch the life of locals. Industry in producing silk and tailoring is still alive. Hoi An is titled “the capital of tailors” in Vietnam. Traditional handicrafts again make the town apart from others.
Read also: My Son Sanctuary Travel Guide
Get Lost in Hoi An Full Moon Lantern Festival
Hoi An is famous all over the planet due to its traditional lantern festival in the full moon. It takes place every lunar month and draws so many visitors who would like to see and take pictures with multi-colored lantern lights. Besides that, on the streets, people also play folk games, sing folk songs and drop paper lanterns down the river. Thus, the atmosphere is totally spectacular. Anybody can visit this cultural event and no matter if it’s sunny or rainy, it is still organized. A lot of magazines praised it to be one of the most featured festivals in Vietnam. Read everything in Hoi An lantern festival.
Why Is Hoi An’s Lantern Festival Unique?
Only in Hoi An, people celebrate the full moon by hanging colorful lanterns and releasing paper lanterns on the river. The festival is the best time to visit, an experience that travelers must know when they come to Vietnam. In the moonlight, while wandering around ancient quarters, they will see millions of lanterns and many outdoor activities. This is a wonderful chance to photograph.
Locals hang up the lanterns in their houses, especially red ones, to bring happiness and luck to their families. By the river, they release paper lanterns before making wishes to themselves and beloved persons. In general, the festival is linked to traditional Vietnamese. It is a celebration in which Vietnamese pay homage to their ancestors, Lord Buddha, heaven and the earth. Each family also prepares flowers, fruits, foods and incense sticks for ceremonies.
Cultural significance and gorgeous beauty of lanterns in town make the festival absolutely special.
Read also: Festivals in Hoi An
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