what to pack?
CAMERA, COSTUME & CARDIE
he seasons of Hoi An are not far removed from the UK (except a lot warmer). March heralds the beginning of spring, the light becomes softer and more ambient, rain clouds visit less often and the first rice harvest of the season decorates the surrounding landscapes in a patch work of vibrant greens.
By April, daytime temperatures really begin to warm-up, and so begins Hoi An's beach season. It's a great time to visit for those who really want to explore, especially those that struggle with humid conditions - as in March and April there is a real difference in the day to night time temperatures, leaving mornings fresh, yet warm and the evenings cool enough to warrant a good nights sleep.
The risk of losing an entire day to rain in March is rare; by the end of April, it's almost unheard of, and though sea conditions can still be choppy, on sunnier days it's plenty warm enough to enjoy time at the beach.
TIP: Don't be fooled by the temperature, or clouds and always wear sunscreen. Vietnam sits close to the Equator which means the sun is far stronger than you imagine. Cover the kids and slap on some factor fifty.
accommodation: where to stay:
Both beach and town are viable options, but better are the neighbourhoods in between: Tra Que, Cam Chau and Cam Thanh, are all home to some excellent hotels, home stays and villas that look out over the rice fields as they come into full bloom. With temperatures more manageable and some decent cycle paths connecting these areas to both town and beach, being located in the middle (with access to a bike) may well save you a fortune in taxis fares.
If the Easter holidays fall during your stay, last minute discounts on hotels are rare, in this case you are far better booking accommodation as far ahead as possible to get your hands on the best prices - we've got a guide on that should you need help.
In the old town: March is a great month to be located in the city - you are going to be spending most of your time there after all. The best spots (within easy walking distance) are mainly riverside: An Hoi, Phan Boi Chau St and the riverside areas south of the old town (stick the M Gallery Royal Hotel into google maps as an area guide).
The Beach: Come April, you'd be silly to discount the beach as opposing old town traditions (outside of the Easter hols), deals and discounts can easily be snapped up. One thing you may want to consider however, is if the weather is unseasonably unkind you'll likely be ploughing any savings into taxi fares into town (unless your hotel offers a free shuttle service - do ask).
Hotel Royal: M Gallery Hoi An
Rock Villa: Cam Thanh
festivals & Traditions
March is a busy month in Hoi An, though you wouldn't know it as many of the events and festivals are localised and kept low-key. It begins on the 8th, with Womens Day, the following week along the coast line; whale worshipping ceremonies and the death anniversary of Emperor Luc Thanh Vuong Gia, which is held in the Fujian Assembly hall in the old town.
March 28th heralds the anniversary of Hoi An's liberation and somewhere in between, there's Earth Hour - practically the only time you'll really get a glimpse of Hoi An by candle light for an hour.
In April, there's the Hung Kings Festival (the 10th day of the third lunar month), a nationwide celebration; and national holiday held in commemoration of the Hung Kings, the traditional founders and first emperors of the Vietnam nation. On the 21st, it's national book day - no idea, but a good excuse to curl up on a beach lounger with your chosen holiday read; then on the 30th, Liberation Day (for the south) and Reunification Day for the nation, as on this day in 1975, Saigon was liberated (fell) - the end of the war.
The perfect Spring day: An itinerary:
morning: Cycling in Hoi An can be more balmy than leisurely, but exertions are richly rewarded: hidden city byways are yours to explore, refueling stops at passing cafes are heartily encouraged, and it’s eco-friendly travel at its greenest.
Route: On your bike From the old town head east to Bach Dang St and the towpath along joining Huyen Tran Cong Chia– a pretty canal-side pedal that deftly avoids Hoi An's traffic chaos. Pass over the bridge, through the rural villages in Cam Thanh to the congested yet eye-catching Ba Le Market and finish with a spin down Le Than Ton (keeping watch for frolicking wild motorbikes as you cross the Cua Dai Rd intersection) to the riotously colourful rice fields.
Located immediately adjacent to the city center of Da Nang, the Son Tra Peninsula is an iconic landform defining the Da Nang coastline. Most daytrippers head for the Linh Ung Pagoda and the neighbouring lady buddha (nb. If you don't like crowds, avoid visiting on the weekends), but in honor of the year of the pig we're urging you to go the extra mile and explore the small idyllic bays beyond that offer lost paradise appeal and top potential for primate appearances.
Now the Great Cua Dai Bridge is open, and the manicured lawns of An Bang beach have been well and truly trampled there's a small chance a few will discover the delights of the south-side by themselves. So, if you dream of the greatest deserted beach-set love affair since Tom Hanks drew a face on a volleyball, grab your sarong, some swimmers and your sense of adventure and explore the never-ending beaches beyond the bridge.
Since boutique hotel the Anantara arrived in the ‘hood, our (vintage, upcycled) barometer has detected a cool wind blowing east of the historic epicenter: Hoi An's French Quarter is becoming cool! Those in the know will already be familiar with the delights of riverside Phan Boi Chau - however, it’s Tadioto, Thirtyseven Woodfired Grill & Bar and the cigar bar housed upstairs that has got our attention.
Meander towards the old town market and you’ll find the gorgeous sunset terrace of the Market Bar on the upper floor of the cloth market (a safe retreat from the street hawkers that prowl the area, and the perfect platform for sunset drinks and photo opportunities. From here dive down Phan Chau Trinh St where you will find Hoi An’s most famous banh mi - Phoung and some of the best one dish restaurants like Com Ga Ba Buoi and the famous Ba Le Well - an all you can eat local pad specialising in bahn xeo (crispy savoury pancakes, pork skewers, shrimp spring rolls).