what to pack
Sunhats & Umbrellas
or a culture packed, festive city break, there's no better time to visit - although you might want to bring an umbrella, Têt Trung Thu also marks the beginning of central Vietnam's monsoon season.
Hoi An chills out (weather-wise) and dons its neon-hued party hat for the months of September and October, when the vivid mid-autumn festival (Têt Trung Thu) brings technicolour dreamscapes of light, a carnival atmosphere and a motley crew of lion dancers to the old town streets in celebration of the final rice harvest of the year.
The days swing between hot and humid, and stormy with increased chances of an afternoon monsoon shower. At the beginning of the month the wet weather tends to keep itself to late afternoon/evening, then towards the end, it's not unusual to lose a day or two to downpours. Floods in September are rare.
September is also the start of the western pacific typhoon season, though (touch wood) Hoi An rarely sits in their aim.
TIP: There is a very distinct rain boundary midway between the old town and beach. It can be raining cats and dogs in the old town and sunny and dry at An Bang (or vice-versa). Let the skies be your weather forecaster and don't cancel a pre-booked tour because it's raining where you are. It's likely to pass quickly and if not, your tour guide will have made wet weather arrangements.
Historically the wettest month of the year - down pours can be biblical, and last days. The risk of flooding increases with full moon tides, but tend only to happen during the years when the full moon falls towards the end of the month. The best advice we can give for an October stay is to aim for an early stay; it's still warm, the days are dryer and the cloying humidity felt throughout the summer months lifts, leaving the air fresh and touring more manageable.
Accommodation - Where to Stay
There really are more sunny days than wet, so 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 September, if there is a sudden downpour it's better to be staying within walking distance of the action as taxis can be scarce and if your hotel is several kilometres from your planned destination. It's too easy to hanker down for an average meal at your digs than to venture further afield when the heavens open.
In the week leading up to the harvest festival (Têt Trung Thu) steer clear of hotels and villas in the rice fields - crop burning and gusty winds can make for an unpleasant stay.
September to October are the best months for soft opening discounts (It's every hotelier's dream to be open and ready for the Christmas high season). Generally during this time you can expect savings of 50% and over on some really fancy, brand new hotels. Cons can sometimes include the general teething problems of a new build - perhaps an unfinished gym or a few ongoing tweaks to rooms and facilities. On the plus side, the hotel will be far from empty, room upgrades quite often the norm, and though staff will still be in training they will have far more time to spend on helping you.
Second only to Vietnam’s new year festival Tet, the The vivid mid-autumn festival (Têt Trung Thu) - is a colourful, exciting festival held in celebration of the end of the harvest, a joyful time when parents can relax and do something special for their children. Like all of Vietnam’s festivals, the date on which it falls varies with the lunar calendar - the 15th day of the 8th lunar month (often in late September or early October, after the harvest season).
Otherwise, October is a quiet month for festivities in Vietnam. The biggest is on Capital Liberation Day (10th October) when Ha Noi, celebrate their independence and remember kicking out the Japanese and French and welcoming back Ho Chi Minh's victorious army (including the sons and daughters of Hanoi), who jubilantly returned to the capital back in 1954 - ushering in a new (short-lived) era for Hanoi and the whole nation.
In Hoi An, celebrations are low-key with most residents acknowledging the day by hanging out their country's flag. National Women's Day (20th October) however, is very much celebrated. You'll see numerous pop-up roadside stalls festooned with flowers selling flamboyant bouquets to the husbands, lovers and sons and friends of all the women in Hoi An. This is the day the Vietnamese society show their respect for Vietnamese women, celebrating women’s economic, political and social achievements, as well as their love and beauty.
TIP: It's not just for the Vietnamese. If a local lady has helped or inspired you during your stay - present her with some flowers, especially if she is working. The small gesture will help make her day.
On a rainy day, 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.
For family fun consider taking to Hoi An's waterways with Hoi An Kayak Tours or make the most of the less humid climes on an action-packed detective adventure with Urban Tales. Eat Hoi An offer a great street food tour where kids under six go free (and under twelves for half-price). Rainy days are made for testing out your knife skills (maybe not so for the kids) with a cooking class - our favourite is with Herbs & Spices who have a beautiful cooking school a two-minute walk from the old town.
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. The tours are run by the ever patient Pieter who's talents include a natural affinity and understanding of local customs and culture, an uncanny talent at unravelling (and breaking down) the mysteries of manual settings, along with tips on composition, light, and how to see photographically.
The Perfect Day: Têt Trung Thu
While it can feel like every day is a festival in the build-up to Têt Trung Thu, the main event is held in the old town - but be warned, it's also a big draw for locals so things can get hectic. The party gets started at around 15:00 with a colourful kids procession that disperses at dusk to make way for the professional lion and dragon dancing crews, providing pop-up street entertainment with a traditional dance off between lion and fan wielding tamers (expect bamboo pole scaling acrobatics and fire-breathing to a rhythmic drum beat) bestowing luck upon local business venues. The best photo ops are with the mini lion dance performances provided by cute local kids on the streets and in some restaurants, Line their pro-offered fan with a few dong and you'll be rewarded with a good luck dance of your own. Read more