Hoi An – Ancient Town and the My Son Temple

After a long sleeper bus from Nha Trang to Hoi An, we arrived at the bus station a short distance from Ancient Town where most hotels and hostels are found.  Despite being hounded by taxis, we decided to walk instead, to save a few dollars.

We ended up at the Hoa Binh Hotel and splurged on an $18 hotel room a) because we were exhausted and desperate to put our stuff down immediately and b) because it was a pretty nice place, compared to the places we had been staying at recently.

After a quick power nap, we wandered down the street and into the Ancient Town of Hoi An.  Dated back to the 15th century, Hoi An is known for its well-preserved history as a South-East Asian trading port.  We walked through the town admiring the architecture and the streets lined with food vendors and silk tailors where you can get custom clothing made.

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Tailor shop in Hoi An Ancient Town
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Women selling fruit on the street

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The well-known historical sites require a ticket to enter, costing around $6 each.  In comparison to most tourist attractions in Vietnam that is really steep, so we decided against it.  The Ancient Town is really beautiful on its own and we didn’t regret opting out of the attraction ticket.  We walked up and down the river and over the bridges, getting a feel for the city and its inhabitants.

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Walking along the river in Hoi An
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Vietnamese students advertising free hugs! 🙂

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We also stopped for lunch at Banh Mi Phuong, boasting the “best Banh Mi in Vietnam,” and featured on No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain a couple of years ago.  Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich on a baguette, usually with pork and liver pate.  It did not disappoint, and was especially favorable if you wanted options other than liver, as they offered 9 different sandwiches.

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Lunch at Banh Mi Phuong

Hoi An is full of tourists and doesn’t feel especially ‘authentic’ despite it being such a well-preserved historical city.  That being said, it’s a very pleasant little town and each night, hundreds of lanterns line every shop along the river which makes for a magical experience!

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Lanterns along the river in Hoi An at night

Because pretty much everything in Hoi An is within walking distance, it was really easy to not spend a lot of money here (and made up for spending more than usual on our hotel room.)  We spent the entire day just wandering around and enjoying the town.  We finished our night with a couple of mojitos by the river.

The next morning, we had to decide how to go about getting to My Son, the ruins of an ancient Hindu temple constructed between the 4th and 14th centuries.  The ruins are about an hour’s drive outside of Hoi An, but we didn’t want to take an organized tour; so, we decided on a more adventurous route: renting our own motorbike! (Sorry, Moms!)  We approached a stand on the street advertising moto rentals and were given helmets as well.  (You get a huge fine if you don’t wear a helmet in Vietnam, not to mention that foreign driver’s licenses are not valid which further complicates the issue.)  He pointed us down the street to fill up the tank, and after driving around for 20 minutes trying to find a gas pump, we filled up the tank and went on our way!

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These small petrol pumps can be hard to spot when you’re whizzing down the street on a moto!

The ride was was stunning!  We drove past farmers working on rice paddys and through a few small towns.

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On the road to My Son!

The directions from Hoi An to My Son are pretty straight forward, plus we had a PDF of the directions saved to Jojo’s tablet, just in case.  We got turned around a couple of times, and got caught in a couple of terrifying traffic jams, but after about an hour and a half, we had made it to My Son in one piece!

When you first get there and purchase your ticket (about $5 each), you have the option of riding your motorbike the rest of the way, or walk the 2 kilometers to the ruins.  We decided to walk it because it was nice outside and the scenery was beautiful.  We also stumbled upon a snake by the side of the road.  When we stopped to look at it, it started moving strangely and a second head started emerging out of its mouth!  After a second of watching in horror at this event, we realized the snake was regurgitating a large frog it had just attempted to eat!

We moved on from the snake and finally made it to the My Son temple ruins.  My Son was built by the Champa Kingdom during their rule in Vietnam from 200AD to the 18th century.  Although it has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since the 90s, the site is not very well kept.  That being said, we felt that the overgrowth actually added to the experience.

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The Champas built the My Son temple out of brick, without using any mortar!  Some of the ruins are down to piles of bricks, but some are still very much intact.  We were surprised that we were allowed to actually walk through what’s left of the temples.

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We explored My Son for a couple of hours, but decided we wanted to get back to Hoi An before the sun went down.

Once we got back, we returned to Banh Mi Phuong again for an early dinner and snacked on a fresh street donut.  After walking around the clothing shops, I decided to have a custom dress made for about $25.  We paid a deposit that night, then the rest the next morning when it was finished!

Despite being full of tourists, Hoi An is definitely worth a visit.  There are a lot of historical buildings and artifacts to see within the city, and walking along the river with all the lanterns lit up at night is really spectacular!

Hoi An Day 1

2-Banh Mi + 1-Beer: 55,000vnd ($2.58 USD)

2-Mojitos: 65,000vnd ($3.05 USD)

Water & M&Ms: 33,000vnd ($1.55 USD)

Accommodation: 441,000vnd ($20.67 USD)

Day 1 Total Spent: 594,000vnd ($27.84 USD)

Hoi An Day 2

Motorbike Rental: 100,000vnd ($4.69 USD)

Gas: 100,000vnd ($4.69 USD)

My Son Entry Tickets: 200,000vnd ($9.37 USD)

Chips/Beer: 50,000vnd ($2.34 USD)

3-Banh Mi + 1-Beer: 75,000vnd ($3.52 USD)

Donut: 10,000vnd ($0.47 USD)

Water: 8,000vnd ($0.37 USD)

Mail: 163,000vnd ($7.64 USD)

Dress: 550,000vnd ($25.78 USD)

Accommodation: 441,000vnd ($20.67 USD)

Day 2 Total Spent: 1,697,000vnd ($79.07 USD)