Photographer: Vu Trong Phan
what to pack?
ontrary to popular belief, Hoi An's high season doesn't kick-in until approximately the 20th December. Until then the streets are empty and the most popular conversation topic amoung hoteliers and business
owners involves the phrase 'where the hell is everyone'. It's like groundhog day everyday until - Bam! The whole world and their brother arrive on exactly the same day.
Christmas festivities evolve around Christmas eve (and because of this we have included a comprehensive guide for Christmas Day).
Things are both warming and drying up - think stark wintery sunlight and cardigan-clad nights. However, rain is known to make an appearance at any given time, but it's less monsoon than the previous months (October the wettest)
TIP: Keep in mind that things will have been rather damp for a good few months prior to your arrival and cheaper hotels and homestays can feel damp and smell musty.
accommodation: where to stay:
Most resorts will be hosting Christmas and New Year soirees for their guests, these are lovely but also included in the price of your stay. The best value (read as resorts that really push the boat out) are The Sunrise, the Almanity and the M Gallery Royal Riverside - others can be a bit of a washout.
TIP: The best way to judge for yourself is by visiting the hotel's review page on Tripadvisor and making use of its search function. Just type in either Christmas or new year to see what previous guests have to say.
The old town is rather charismatic when it's wearing it's festive crown and if looking out over romantic lanterns sets your heart-a-flutter, look no further. It'll be busy though, so if you're more of a quiet romantic walk with river and countryside vista's kind of traveller, consider Cam Chau, Cam Thanh and Tra Que.
Beach: This is a big one, Hoi An may have escaped the typhoons and flooding during 2017, but the main Cua Dai beach resort area suffered the setback of strong sea currents and waves. However, this is now an annual thing - 50 m2 of beach was swept away during October/November 2016 and by June - due to some heavy work by the government and independent resorts the beach had improved significantly. In 2017, the post flood/storm erosion are progressed north - the whole of the beach from Vinh Pearl Hoi An all the way up to the Boutique (including Hidden Beach) was hit badly. As were the beaches in Da Nang - My Khe beach (the Hyatt) suffering the worst of it.
Unlike previous years, the strong northerly onshore winds began replenishing Hoi An's beaches naturally, due to this things are looking more positive for 2020's beach season.
In all honesty, December is not lounging on the beach weather and sea currents and waves are too strong to make for a pleasant swim. On a sunny day in Cua Dai, you are more likely to enjoy the poolside, sheltered from the northerly winds.
The An Bang beach area escaped the worst of the erosion, but during the annual northwesterly winter tides the beach naturally regresses a little, currents can be strong and after a high tide, it can look a bit scruffy. Despite this, it's our favourite time of the year at An Bang (disclaimer: we are rather biased as this is where we live), there's something quite calming about opening your windows and hearing the waves breaking on the beach and it's a magical time of the year for lazy beach walks, collecting shells and splashing in the surf.
Another tick for An Bang are the many private family villas: An Bang Boutique Houses & Villas, Hoi An Beach Rentals and An Bang Beach Bungalows all offer beautiful beach homes with fully equipped kitchens, family dining areas and private gardens, ideal for guests who want to host their own Christmas in a homely -albeit one from straight out of the pages of a design magazine. Staff will take care of shopping lists, decorations and will even fix you up with a chef.
Tip: Inclusive Christmas buffets and balls at resorts are held on Christmas eve and the most expensive night of the year in Hoi An is New Years Eve. If you are staying throughout the festive season (and hope to spend the entire time in the same hotel), book directly through the hotel (or contact them) and the chances are that you will not incur the extra 'popular night' charge.
Photographer: Vu Trong Phan
For atmospheric family celebrations: cochin House, an bang beach
for all-inclusive five-star spoils: The sunrise premium resort & spa
festivals & Traditions
From the 23rd of November through to the 4th of December , Hoi An will be hosting a hive of activities including a photography exhibition and free entrance to all the ticketed sites on the 4th December. This is in celebration of Vietnam Cultural Heritage Day - the 17th anniversary of the recognition of Hoi An Ancient Town as a world cultural heritage site. For daily updates on this years calendar of events head to our Facebook page.
Due to its calendar placement being close to both the winter solstice and Vietnam's Cultural Heritage Day, December's Lantern Festival is one of the most culturally significant of the year, so expect a busy one with all the trimmings.
Christmas: locally this is a Catholic celebration, which means the biggest celebrations are held on Christmas Eve. Depending on the governments annual decision (and budget), there are usually fireworks over the Thu Bon river at midnight and also a nativity play and midnight mass at the Catholic Church on Nguyen Truong To, just outside the old town. Although in the past Christmas was largely ignored in Vietnam, nowadays it's embraced as one of the most romantic events of the year - lanterns, sparkly lights, tinsel; what's not to love? In fact, some locals love the decorations so much, they leave them up for most of the year.
the old town at christmas
a hoi an christmas itinerary:
Christmas mornings were made for late breakfasts and lazy beach walks, a good one is to take to the beach at An Bang's main entrance, then head right along the beach. After a kilometre, you will arrive at the Sound of Silence Tea Rooms, a beautiful beachside design cafe with cabana seating overlooking the beach. Here you can recharge with a coconut coffee, espresso or something bubbly (it is Christmas, after all) and if you are peckish, their breakfasts start at just 35,000d for eggs, bacon and a baguette. Healthier options include yoghurt with muesli and tropical fruits or for something local a banh mi op la (a baguette with an omelette and fresh herbs).
From here you can continue your walk along the beach, or grab a cab back to your digs for pre-lunch present opening.
Tip: If a walk seems unexciting for the more exuberant members of your party, you can buy kites, buckets and spades from the stall to the left of Ca Go (at the An Bang beach entrance) or if you need something stronger to start your day - set your sights on the glamourous Deck House (left at the beachfront intersection) and start the celebrations early with a Bloody Mary (the Christmas breakfast of champions) or a glass of something bubbly.