Places - April 22, 2023 | 09:00 pm PT

Holiday travel ideas for a Hoi An escape

With Hoi An forecast to be one of most crowded tourist destinations during the five-day holiday break later this month, here are seven ways to escape the crowds.

Dawn on Tam Tien fishing village

People ride coracles towards fishing boat at Tam Tien seafood market in Quang Nam Province, April 2023. Photo by Anh Minh

Tam Tien, 50 km south of Hoi An, has been a major seafood distribution point for Quang Nam Province and neighboring localities for the last 15 years.

Nguyen Van Thin, a local fisherman, said the village used to be only a docking station for boats. But as the number of fishing vessels increased, a seafood market opened on the beach and became a main source of livelihood in the area.

Thin said he heads out to sea at around 3-4 p.m. and returns about 12 hours later.

His wife wakes up early and waits for him on the beach to bring the freshest batches of seafood — fish, shrimp, squid, and crab — to shore to sell to other traders.

The market is at its busiest at 4-7 a.m,. but it is only open during the monsoon season between April and September.

The seafood market had been overlooked by foreign tourists for years due to its seclusion.

But that changed when the five-star TUI BLUE Nam Hoi An Resort opened in 2020, two kilometers from Tam Tien beach.

TUI BLUE Nam Hoi An Resort is seen from above. Photo courtesy of the resort

The resort currently offers daily tours for its guests to visit the market at dawn and explore the daily lives of local fishermen.

Lee, a South Korean tourist who visited Hoi An earlier this month, said he felt lucky to explore Tam Tien fishing village and its seafood market.

"Da Nang and Hoi An were always the most favorite tourist destinations of South Koreans before the pandemic, and officials should boost tourism campaigns to promote the fishing village."

The murals of Tam Thanh fishing village

Around 40 km south of Hoi An, Tam Thanh has risen from a poor fishing village to a popular tourist destination after being decorated with murals in 2016.

Some luxury resorts and travel agencies are offering bike tours to Tam Thanh Village, where the walls of many old houses, once covered in moss, have been transformed into colorful mural paintings.

The bike tour lasts around one hour, enabling visitors to ride along the coast of Tam Thanh beach and admire over 100 coracle boats that are now colorful paintings.

The road leading to the village is surrounded with hundreds of murals that depict the daily lives of local fishermen.

Since June 2016, the Korea Foundation for International Exchange has implemented a Korean-Vietnamese community art exchange project in Tam Thanh Village that has so far produced more than 100 paintings.

The project has helped the pristine fishing village become the first "mural village" in Vietnam, and the locale now welcomes thousands of visitors a year.

Because the weather in Tam Thanh mural village is quite hot, the best time to visit is early in the morning before 8 a.m., or after 3 p.m.

A diversity of beachside restaurants serves a variety of seafood dishes including grilled scallops with onion fat, herring salad and fried squid with fish sauce.

Retreat at Loc Yen Ancient Village

An aerial view of Loc Yen ancient village. Photo by Dac Thanh

Located more than 70 km south of Hoi An, Loc Yen Ancient Village was established between the 15th and 16th century.

The village is famous for its ancient houses surrounded by centuries-old mossy rock fences.

In September 2019, the village was recognized by the culture ministry as a national relic and "one of the four most beautiful ancient villages in Vietnam."

Cycling around the ancient village has recently become very popular.

From Hoi An you can book Grab or taxi services to reach Tam Ky Town and then rent bicycles to ride through paddy fields and ancient houses in the village.

There are eight old houses left in Loc Yen, each built 80 to 150 years ago. Their structures are typical of a traditional house style called "nha ruong", made of solid jackfruit wood pillars and beams.

Most of houses there were built with their backs against the mountain, and their fronts facing paddy fields.

Thanks to its low profile, the village has not yet to be overrun by travelers.

Quang Nam authorities also plan to develop the village into an eco-tourism site.

Off-roading on Tam Tien beach

Tourists experience off-road racing track at Tui Blue Nam Hoi An Resort. Photo by Anh Minh

For those seeking adventurous experiences, a one-km off-road UTV racetrack along Tam Tien beach is not to be missed.

Vehicle rental services have just been launched by Tui Blue Nam Hoi An Resort.

To be able to off-road drive on one of Vietnam’s most pristine beaches, visitors must pass a driving test first. Those wishing to drive on their own must present a driving license.

In addition, they will be further instructed on how to control off-road vehicles and learn about basic skills to overcome bumpy slopes and adventurous terrains.

Those with no off-road driving skills will be driven by the resort’s rained drivers.

Technical and medical staff are on duty 24/7 to assist visitors if necessary.

"Most foreign guests who have a long stay at the resort are interested in the off-road racing experience along Tam Tien beach," a representative of the resort said.

Rowing coracle boats in Bay Mau nipa palm forest

Tourists sit on round bamboo boats through Bay Mau nipa palm forest. Photo by Dac Thanh

Located 3 km from downtown Hoi An is the Bay Mau nipa palm forest, which spreads over an area of 10 hectares.

In recent years sitting on a round bamboo boat and rowing through the forest has become a must-try travel experience on a tour of Hoi An.

A coracle tour that takes about 45 minutes costs VND150,000 (US$6.44) per person including entry fees. Visitors can watch crab fishing and fishermen performing a unique dance on their coracles.

They can also learn about the daily life of local farmers while participating in traditional activities including fishing and enjoying dishes made with freshly caught seafood.

Travelers who wish to explore the forest but stay off the water can also rent a motorbike for about $5 a day or request a complimentary bicycle from their hotel.

Each basket boat can carry a maximum of two adults and two children.

Sidecar tour through Tra Que Vegetable Village

A South Korean tourist (L) experiences sidecar tour in Hoi An, April 2023. Photo by Duy Hieu

Tra Que village is more than 400 years old and has been recognized as a national intangible cultural heritage site.

Flanked by the Tra Que algae pond and De Vong River, the village boasts fertile soil and a mild climate, ideal for farming.

In recent years, Tra Que Village gained broad exposure across the country thanks to the tourism boom in Hoi An.

A woman rides past paddy fields in Tra Que Village in Hoi An. Photo by Do Anh Vu

Besides traditional bike rental services to Tra Que Village, a new travel experience, sidecar tour, has been launched by Victoria Hoi An Resort.

Sitting on three-wheel motorcycles, the resort’s drivers take you through paddy fields, small villages with a slow pace of life and Tra Que Vegetable Village to enjoy the peaceful countryside landscapes outside Hoi An.

The journey lasts one hour and costs VND1.2 million (US$51) for two guests on a motorcycle.

"This was the highlight of our holiday. Taking a sidecar tour around the countryside of Hoi An is a great experience. The tour guides have good English speaking skills and they introduced us to places of sightseeing along the way," said Anne, a tourist from the U.K.

Cycling tour in Hoi An

Foreign tourists ride their bikes on the outskirts of Hoi An, April 2023. Photo by Hoang Phong

Hoi An has pioneered pedestrian-friendly streets in 2004, with most hotels, restaurants and homestay facilities offering bike rental services.

Motorbikes and cars are banned from the town center for large parts of the day, making it convenient for tourists to ride through ancient houses with yellow-colored walls, a distinctive feature not found in other parts of the country.

Some bike rental shops charge tourists VND50,000 for eight hours and VND95,000 for a day.

As riding through the old town can be hindered by big crowds during weekends or national holidays, many tourists have opted for a longer journey through rice paddies and traditional craft villages on the outskirts of Hoi An.

Though streets in Hoi An are less crowded than major cities like Hanoi and HCMC, bikers should be careful with truck drivers.

For many foreign tourists, the most popular biking route starts from Ly Thai To Street, through the rice paddies to Cam Ha Village before looping back around and coming out on Hai Ba Trung, one of the main roads.

From there, you can follow the road left for another five minutes to get to An Bang beach. Relax on a lounger for a spell and then, you can continue right and follow the road for 20 minutes back into Hoi An.

Vietnam will celebrate the five-day Reunification Day and May Day holiday break starting from next Saturday (April 29).

Phan Xuan Thanh, chairman of Quang Nam Tourism Association, said most local accommodation establishments in Hoi An have recorded high occupancy rates during the holidays.

Story by Nguyen Quy