A four-hour bus ride from historic Hue, Hoi An is an old-fashioned city with a cool arts scene, peaceful riverside dining, and a tiny beach. It’s small enough to explore with a bicycle, but has a diverse range of sights, foods and activities. It’s worth a couple days or more.
You arrive on Hoi An by bus or train, and there are quite a few housing options on Hai Ba Trung Road. You can choose from a dorm bed for 7 dollars a night or a hotel with a nice pool for $15-20, and even more for a beach-side resort. Any place you stay in the town, except for the beach resorts, are a couple kilometers from the beach, a kilometer or more from the market, which is in the river and the art of the old town. Get a map, and decide what you want to do. You can rent a bicycle for 1 US dollar per day, or a moped for slightly more. I prefer the bicycle, as it is just as welcome on the busy roads as the scooter is, but feels more fun, in my opinion.
Cua Dai beach is a few kilometers down Cua Dai Road, oddy enough. Once you get on that road, it’s a straight shot through jungle palm trees, past peaceful river cafes, over a bridge straddling a peaceful river, to the beach. Pay $0.25 US to park your bike, and enjoy the beach. It’s small, has a few waves, is populated by intrusive jewelry hawkers and over-priced restaurants, but it’s peaceful. I preferred the bike ride to the beach, stopping so often to take photos that it took me an hour to ride 4 km (2.5mi). The pictures are worth it.
At night, there are many restaurants over the river on Nguyn Phuc Chu. Expect souvenir hawkers to peddle at your table (“No thank you”, “why not?”) if you eat outside, but they can simply be told “no” politely. There is some nightlife, including a few clubs that specialize in alcohol buckets, while others simply sell local beer for 3000 dong ($0.25) per 8-ounce. Its flavor is appropriate for the price.
Old Town Hoi An is known for its art and history. Cross the Japanese bridge (a small, red covered bridge with attached temple), and find various galleries display different energies in their paintings; many themes include vibrantly-colored tranquility or whimsical brush strokes of vitality. Local artists also include talented silk tailors who can whip up anything cheaply and efficiently to a customer’s specifications.
A popular day trip from Hoi An is to My Son, A Unesco World Heritage Site. This site is the most extensive display of ruins of the Cham empire, surrounded by gorgeous jungle. It is probably best to take a guided tour here to appreciate the history and avoid any scam artists vandalizing your rented motorbikes and charging for repairs. If you spend two or three days in Hoi An, make sure one of those days is spent at My Son.