Lucy Casley explores one of Vietnam's most beautiful cities.


You'll lose yourself in the vibrant backstreets of Hoi An, exploring its many boutiques while keeping your eyes peeled for the next massage or iced coffee. The unique and carefree vibe of the friendly locals carries over into nightfall, when the city really comes alive. There are beaming lights and hundreds of colourful handmade lanterns everywhere you look, spilling beyond the crowded streets into little lanes. This is the time to barter to your heart's content. End your evening with a stroll down by the river, soaking up the atmosphere and buzz from the area's cafes and bars, and cool off at Morning Glory Cafe by the bridge to the old town with a local specialty, Vietnamese iced coffee sweetened with condensed milk.


Hoi An is often called a "live museum", and you'll soon see why. It's a small city but there are hundreds of ancient temples and bridges, all with a story. Your best bet is to join a tour, where an experienced local guide will explain what you're looking at. Both Chinese and Japanese settled in Hoi An - on different sides of the city, meaning temples and bridges often have features unique to these cultures. One highlight not to miss is the Japanese Covered Bridge, which linked the Japanese and Chinese quarters, built between 1591 and 1593. The temples are picturesque - yes, you can take selfies in them - and each has incense available for visitors to make wishes. The time and effort that went into each structure,rich with intricate details, will blow you away. On a complementary tour of local houses you can watch local artisans at work. The fine embroidered tablecloths were a highlight, at Phung Hung Old House.


At the marble workshops at the foot of Marble Mountain locals hand-sculpt anything from small pieces of jewellery to 10m-tall statues. The delicate detail that goes into each artwork is captivating to watch-the men chisel and shape the marble, then the women polish it with sandpaper and water. Each workshop has a high roof and a big open area filled with thousands of sculptures - different colours of marble represent different mountains. Pick yourself up a laughing Buddha, said to bring abundance and happiness to a home.



For an unforgettable experience in one of the world's best foodie destinations, put aside a half-day for My Grandma's Home Cooking School. More than just a cooking class, your day begins with a boat ride deep into the Hoi An countryside to a small island in the centre of the Delta River. Here you'll be introduced to some of the produce the Vietnamese use, then visit a local family at home where you'll learn to cook four dishes with it. Another place to experience the Vietnamese eating culture is the food hall at Hoi An's Central Market. Cheap and authentic, this is a great place to try culinary specialties: think banh xeo pancakes and crispy spring rolls. There are rows of stalls, each with the same menu, all serving fresh and flavoursome food that has been sourced locally. Recommended. Go there hungry.


Get out of the city onacheap and fun scooter and head out to An Bang Beach - one of the most beautiful beaches in Hoi An, with five star-plus resorts lining its strip. This is an awesome way to see another beautiful part of Hoi An and immerse yourself in the culture by scootering among the locals.


Getting there

House of Travel has

Air NewZealand

flights to Vietnam on sale at $999 return, with a range of tour options for exploring the country.

Active Asia operates tours in Hoi An and throughout Vietnam.