Hoi An is More Than an Ancient City
Posted on 5/01/2018 7:24:00
While Hoi An is famed for being one of the most ancient towns in Vietnam, where the modern life and modern world have barely scratched the surface of this beautiful forgotten place, it is also more than just an ancient place to see the way the Vietnamese have lived for centuries. What many people miss about Hoi An is the beautiful beaches that line the coast.
Apart from the charms of the ancient town, Hoi An is an enticing destination for beach holidays. While the water may not be as blue as Nha Trang, and the sand not as soft as Phu Quoc, the beaches at hoi An are calm quiet, and alluring in their own special ways. The hotels and resorts are like the people, gentle and relaxed, and the area gives a whole new meaning to the idea of a beach holiday.
About Hoi An
The graceful and historic Hoi An is Vietnam’s most atmospheric and delightful town. It was once a major port and still boasts the grand architecture and stunning riverside setting that befits its ancient heritage. What is more, in this tranquil and peaceful town, the curses of modern traffic and pollution are almost entirely absent.
The Old Town has been well preserved, and shows off its incredible legacy of Japanese merchant houses, Chinese temples, and huge tea warehouses. While the residents of the rice fields have been long replaced with tourist businesses such as lounge bars, boutique hotels, and travel agents, life for the locals has changed very little in the wake of Vietnamese tourism. In the area by the market, and on the beautiful Cam Nam Island, life goes on much as it has for centuries. And the beautiful beaches are all within easy reach of the town, making it easy to switch between the two as your mood takes you.
Cam Kim Islands
There is also more than just the one beach at Hoi An, and with much to choose from, you will never be short of something to do in this beautiful and tranquil part of Vietnam. One of the newest attractions of the town is the various islands and islets that lie in the middle of the Thu Bon River that runs through the town. Until recently, the only way to get to the islands was by ferry, but now a new bridge has made it easier to explore the small islands, and it is best done by bicycle. You can cycle down quiet roads lined with lush paddy fields, and alongside waterways fringed with water coconut palms.
There are many tours that will take you around the islands, but it is much more adventurous to hire your own two wheels and get out and explore these beautiful, peaceful islands. To get to Cam Kim, you first have to cross the bridge to An Hoi Islet. In the southwest corner is the new Cam Kim Bridge, and before long you get swept away by the sound of the rural calm and the sight of the fishermen on the river.
Once you cross the bridge to Cam Kim, you can take your pick on which direction to travel, though the nearest village is Thuy Ta Song Que, a little to the west of the bridge. The roads are a labyrinth of small lanes barely wide enough for a car, so it is probably a good thing there are none on the island. At Thuy Ta Song Que there is a small house that doubles as a dining hut, that overlooks the water and is a pleasant spot to relax with a drink.
Following the road from Thuy Ta Song Que to the south, you soon come to the bridge across the Thu Bon that leads to Duy Phuoc Island. Just below the bridge on Cam Kim, along the shore of the river, lies a secluded beach that few people visit. The golden sand is soft and the area is peaceful, with no buildings in sight. As a break from cycling, the beach makes a nice place to relax for a few hours and recharge ready for more cycling.
An Bang Beach
Just outside the town of Hoi An lies the beautiful, serene beach of An bang. The perfect complement to the sightseeing and tourist-filled bustle of the town, An Bang holds the crown as the go-to beach at Hoi An. The once popular Cu Dai beach has been hit by storm erosion over the last few years, meaning many tourists looking for a sandy beach have moved north to An Bang.
The white sand beaches are lined with a plethora of casual bars and eateries, which you can frequent as a break from lying out on the sand soaking up the sun. However, An Bang beach is one of the places that are covered with sun loungers belonging to the local hotels and resorts, although it only costs the price of one drink to rent one for the entire day, or for a little more hire the frond-covered shelters with several loungers for a group.
An Bang is also a popular beach with the locals, and from June to August, which are the summer months for local holidays, hundreds of Vietnamese holidaymakers crown onto the beach for sunrise swims and sunset family beach barbecues.
A little further up the coast of the beach lie a string of seafood and western restaurants that offer showers, toilets, and comfortable hang-out spots, complete with huts, tables, loungers, hammocks, and sun beds. Prices for the spots are included in your meal, and make a great place to relax with some great seafood dishes.
If the restaurant area of An Bang is too crowded for you, just head up or down the beach a little way, to where the restaurants and bars end, and there are normally less people. The stretch of sand dunes in between An Bang and Cua Dai is an undeveloped stretch of peaceful empty sand bordered with grass-covered dunes.
Cham Islands, also known locally as Cu Lao Cham, lie around 18 kilometers of the shores of Hoi An, and include a total of 8 separate islands, although some are little more than rocks in the sea. The main island is Hon Lao, while the other three decent-sized islands are called Hon Dai, Hon Tai, and Hon La. The area around the islands is the habitat for more than 135 species of coral, over 200 species of fish, and numerous species of mollusks and crabs. The islands are recognized as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, have only been opened to tourism recently, and are only open for seven months of the year.
The islands remain unspoilt and unexploited, and contain a natural beauty that is lacking in many tourist beach resorts making them an ideal destination for a getaway from the hectic tourism on the mainland. There are only a few villages on the island on Cu Lao Cham, and nothing on the others, which remain uninhabited. Mainly consisting of small fishing villages, the interior of the island is dense natural forest that has been largely unexplored and undisturbed. Cu Lao Cham also has an abundance of beautiful beaches, which are unspoiled and relaxing in their tranquility. Tourism is not a huge thing on the island, and few people venture out there due to the lack of modern amenities, so the place is often empty apart from a few hardy souls looking for some peace and quiet.
With its magnificent coral reefs and crystal clear waters, the islands are popular with scuba divers, which is the main reason many people come to the islands. There are many local seafood restaurants in the few villages that cater to locals and tourists alike, and you can even take an “eco tour” across the island through the dense forests, to other small fishing villages where you can have overnight stays in local homes and even in the midst of the forests.
Cua Dai Beach
Once the most popular beach in Hoi An, Cua Dai Beach lies a short taxi ride down from An Bang, and is only 4km from the center of town. It is listed as one of the top beaches in Vietnam, and the pristine white sand, crystal clear water, and gently sloping sea floor make it an ideal place for sunbathing and swimming.
Despite it being a famous beach for tourism, with thousands of tourists visiting the beach every year, the beach has remained unspoilt and undisturbed by the usual mass tourism in Vietnam today. Nearby you can find a few five-star resorts and hotels, as well as the unavoidable cluster of seafood restaurants that Hoi An is famous for.
The beach is kept spotlessly clean and natural, although it can get a little overcrowded at weekends, so the best time for getting a good, relaxing soak of the sun is during weekdays. And the scenic nature of the beach can even attract those who are not huge beach lovers. It is a great place to relax on a deckchair under the shade of the many green palm trees, and is enough to recharge your batteries after a hard trip seeing the sights and being the typical tourist. Moreover, if you have a little energy to spare, there are numerous water sport activities that you can take advantage of, or if you get tired of the beach the nearby amusement park can make a nice change to quiet beaches.