what to pack
UMBRELLA & AN EXTRA SUITCASE (CHRISTMAS SHOPPING)
ovember travellers should be brave, spontaneous. Armed with a gung-ho spirit and a pac-a-mac.
It's also off-season, so if you are shopping for bargain basement luxe hotel offers you'll find them in spades. But, it's SE Asia and with every yin there's a yang - rain is likely and if Christmas shopping is on your list of 'must-do's', prepare to feel a little like a walking Dollar bill. Here, you'll find information on the weather and the best area to stay. For planners, we've also highlighted November's festival dates, shared a guide on the best way to get the most from a day in Hoi An (rain or shine) and a few November tours and activities to lure you out of your half price luxury pad.
The second wettest month of the year (after October). A basic translation is that you are likely to see more wet days than dry ones, so be prepared! The threat of storms has diminished (it's the tail end of the typhoon season), but it's not unheard of for one to happen and the risk of localised floods is still quite high, especially if you plan to visit around the full moon when tides are high; if this is the case, stay at the beach.
Expect rain and make the most of a dry day!
TIP: Everything is tightly monitored, flood warnings are issued in plenty of time and past frequency of these events means that for our temporary hosts, it's water off a duck's back. See our Hoi An flood map for areas affected.
For those staying at the beach, passing storms will have left minor traces. Combined with the monsoon season tidal influences, this will have left the beaches from Cua Dai to An Bang slightly smaller and scruffier than the images on the resort websites - don't worry, it's normal for this time of year.
Accommodation - Where to Stay
Though things are a little soggy, it's still worth considering staying at the beach if that's your thing. In fact, that old question 'Hoi An - town or beach'? really comes into its own during the October/November floods. The final rice harvest is over and things start to look a bit barren in the countryside. Also, if there is a sudden downpour it's better to be staying within walking distance of the action; taxis can be scarce and if your hotel is several kilometres from your planned destination it's too easy to hunker down for an average meal at your digs than to venture further afield when the heavens open.
Unlike most resort towns, Hoi An businesses rev up a gear during the colder months, so you'll not struggle to find restaurants, bars and laundry services begging you to 'come in please' where ever you may choose to stay. Another factor is that if Hoi An suffers a late season flood, beach really is best as it completely out of the flood zone and positioning yourself there will allow day trips a plenty.
In the countryside, the areas:- Tra Que, Cam Chau and Cam Thanh, are a hive of activity as the farmers begin toiling the land in preparation of planting the new year crops - it's a great time to stay here. The cooler evenings, misty mornings and beautiful winter sunrises make for an ambient stay whilst all around gear up for the Christmas rush.
In the old town, you'll find discounts aplenty at the more fancy hotels (the real high season doesn't kick in till the 21st December and the town is awash with soft-opening promotions as new hotels (like in 2016, the Emm Hotel Hoi An - the Victoria's little sister, Lasenta and the Little Hoi An Central) prepare their staff for the expected Christmas onslaught. If there is a risk of flooding, it's best to avoid the islands - An Hoi, Cam Nam, Cam Kim and hotels south of the old town as these areas see the very worst of the floods.
Countrywide, on Sunday 20th November, Teachers Day is celebrated by all locales. You'll see streets lined with pop-up plant, flower and cuddly toy stalls - gifts presented by students in appreciation for their teachers hard work throughout the year. From the 23rd of November through to the 4th of December, annually Hoi An hosts a hive of cultural activities (including free entrance to all the temples, assembly halls and museums in the old town) in celebration of Vietnam Cultural Heritage Day - the 17th anniversary of the recognition of Hoi An Ancient Town as a world cultural heritage site.
November is the busiest month for start-ups, movers and what we politely call 'pop-ups' - businesses that disappear almost as quickly as they open. It's also the biggest month for extensions, hotel openings and new menu announcements, as winter seasonal ingredients come into play. Combined with the low season desperation, this can work in the visitors favour - discounts, openings, tastings aplenty...
A Perfect Day in the Old Town
On a rainy day, ditch the hotel breakfast. Instead take an early morning amble down to Hoi An's central market, grab a mi quang from the food hall and enter the ‘food jungle’ that offers more than 80 types of fruits, vegetables, flowers, roots and herbs unique to the countries climate and biodiversity. Down by the river a banquet parade of seafood awaits - lobster and blue crab fresh from the nets, line-caught snapper and grouper, and fat juicy scallops. It’s a paradise for any chef and tips you off to what's in season.
Souvenirs: Quang Nam chilli jam, Phu Quoc fish sauce and black peppercorns.
Once you've had your fill, the best place to escape the gloom is in the old town - grab a ticket and visit the ancient houses, assembly halls and pagodas.
Going back to the 18th century, during the autumn monsoon Hoi An was at its busiest. Traders, merchants and sailors would abandon ship to settle in for several months at a time, awaiting the spring trade winds before beginning the final leg of their treacherous journey along the Marine Silk Road. On dark, gloomy days, they would gather in assembly halls and family temples, seeking comfort among fellow countrymen, telling tales of their travels, stories of pirates, folklore and of home. On a wintery day, there's a special ambience and charm about these places that captures your imagination and makes the stories of their history feel more significant.
Banh xeo is the Hoi An locals favourite winter warmer (that and rice wine, but we'd recommend going easy on that) and there is no better place to try it than Ba Le Well - all you can eat for 120,000d and free entertainment - you can't go wrong (well, actually you can - refuse a table in their new 'foreigne' garden and their mojitos. Dine with the locals and you'll have a grand time).
If your time is short in Hoi An, then how about an evening packed with great food, entertainment and fun? Vietnam Vespa Adventures offer a great evening street food tour with discounts for kids (under fives go free).
With a bar or seven on every street, you might struggle to make a decision. We're guessing your preference is a great ambience, decent city views and tipples that aren't likely to leave you clutching the toilet at dawn. Selflessly, we've tested out the city's offerings already and narrowed your search down to the top 10 bars in Hoi An and for the more budget conscious, Hoi An's best happy hours.
For rainy days we've already rounded up a good selection of craft workshops here. If you’re not great with arts and crafts, try cooking. Herbs & Spices offers full and half-day options and teaches you to cook typical Vietnamese dishes like mango salad, fish in banana leaf and sticky rice (an art). You can also do a short tour of the market to learn about the most common ingredients in local dishes and how they’re grown.
Further afield, the Marble Mountains offer a good half day of Indiana Jones-worthy cave explorations, My Son is at its greenest and should the rain come and the kids complain, Bana Hills is armed with some good underground theme park action. For a more specialist tour, Hoi An Photo Walks host excellent photography tours.