Visiting Hoi An? Here’s what milfams should know
(Photo: Unsplash, Vincent Guth)

Dive into more traditional Vietnam, away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Dip your toe in the water at the gorgeous white sand beaches. And get ready for everyone to just love on your children. If you would like to nosh on noodles and pick up a few custom wardrobe items, you’re ready to travel to Hoi An.

Getting there

Da Nang International Airport is under an hour from the center of historic Hoi An. We flew here as part of our trip in Thailand, but many major Asian airlines do have flights to Da Nang. We chose to fly on Bangkok Air and it was an absolute treat. From an in-flight gourmet meal served on every flight to all-inclusive beverage service, we were in the lap of luxury.

From Da Nang, you can arrange transport with your hotel or resort. Another alternative is to use a taxi to take you to your final destination. Taxis are plentiful and extremely cheap! Our hotel provided a chauffeured van at an additional cost both to and from the airport.

Staying there

Hotels and resorts are plentiful here, with even more being built on the main road between Da Nang and Hoi An. We stayed at a four star hotel with daily breakfast service in a family-style room (one queen bed, two twin beds set into an alcove) for under $100 USD per day. Our hotel provided free shuttle service to a local beach and to the center of Hoi An. There was also an on-site spa (offering treatments for very reasonable rates) and a pool.

Many hotels in the area cost within the $50-125 USD range and include similar amenities. There are also more expensive resorts that offer slightly more or are right on the water.

Friendly faces

The best part about Hoi An was meeting new friends. The staff at our hotel was simply amazing. From check-in to check-out, they went above and beyond to make our family feel welcome and wanted. At breakfast, staff members were waiting to hold our baby and walk around the dining room while we enjoyed a cup of coffee (mostly) undisturbed. They arranged a private cooking lesson for us at the hotel that included our preschooler. They helped her to assemble spring rolls and then entertained her when boredom set in. At the pool, they had a life vest ready and waiting for us every time.

Out in town was no different. Everyone wanted to stroke their hair or admire a chubby leg. We were told endlessly how lucky we are to have beautiful children. I’m pretty sure some store owners even gave us a cute kid discount!

Things to do and see

Honestly, just walking around is a blast! There is so much to look at and experience without ever needing to spend money on a destination.

There are some notable places to visit, primarily the Japanese Bridge in Old Town Hoi An. It costs about $6 USD to enter and walk across, but you can also just look at it from the outside. The same goes for many of the other spots, like temples.

Hoi An is one of the places least touched by the Vietnam War. While it was a major trading port centuries ago, changes in the river caused trade to move to other areas. That decreased its appeal as a military target. Throughout the city there are very old buildings and ancient alleyways. Just walking around, touching history, is a wonderful experience.

A river runs through the middle of Old Town, dividing it into two halves. An endless supply of boats are available to take visitors on rides around the river. For a few extra Vietnamese Dong, you can float candles in paper lanterns on the river from your tour boat.

Many hotels are located near the beach or have shuttles that run guests to the beach. Our hotel recommended Hidden Beach, in between An Bang Beach and Cua Dia Beach. This sweet spot had free chairs, umbrellas, and little chairs right on the beach. The water was warm and the sand was white. Our kids loved splashing in the shallow water and building sandcastles. We rented a towel for 30,000 VND or about $1.50 USD. There was also a restaurant, spa, and tailor.

Almost every other storefront is a tailor or shoe shop. Custom clothing is a huge draw in Hoi An, and it was a factor in our decision to visit as well. There are several upscale tailors that specialize in suits and formal wear. These shops seem to use higher quality materials and offer more fittings with a slower turn around time. Other shops focus on tailored shirts, casual dresses, skirts, and pants. There are fewer fittings and usually a 24-hour timeline. My husband got a suit, shirt, and an extra pair of pants from two upscale shops. I designed a ball gown at an upscale boutique as well as a more casual sundress and a top.

What to eat and drink

Hoi An is known for one specific dish: Cao Lao. This noodle dish is unique to Hoi An. It features crunchy and soft noodles plus pork and sauce.

While in Vietnam, you should really try pho. This is a hearty noodle soup, usually made with beef, bean sprouts, and herbs. There are endless variations and every restaurant has it’s own recipe.

Hoi An, like many cities in Southeast Asia, offers cooking classes. Most hotels offer packages either on property or through local restaurants. We chose to take the cooking class at our hotel. In the class, a local guide takes their guest chefs around the market. Our guide showed us all the different sections of the riverfront market and we selected some ingredients for our meal. Then she assisted us in finding gifts to take home, like Vietnamese coffee and local cinnamon bark.

Vietnamese coffee is not for the faint of heart! It is brewed strong and served either hot or over ice. The version we ordered was slightly sweetened.

Health and safety

It pays to make a stop into the Travel Medicine Clinic at your local MTF. They can advise you about the latest health risks, make sure you are up to date on your vaccinations, and give you some emergency medicine for the unexpected.

When we visited, we were advised to drink only bottled water or to boil the tap water before drinking it. The doctor also told us to be mindful of what we were eating and drinking. We avoided any food stalls that seemed less than busy or had food just sitting out. We also only ate fruits and veggies that were cooked, at our hotel, could be cleaned well, or had a peel.

By Meg Flanagan