At night, the Hoai River, a tributary of the Thu Bon River, on whose banks Hoi An has flourished, is busier than ever. Many locals earn a decent living by offering river cruises on their boats for VND200,000-250,000.
During the boat ride, visitors can release colorful lanterns on the calm waters and make a wish. A lantern costs VND10,000 onwards. As soon as visitors approach the Hoai River, many hawkers offer boat rides and lantern floating services. The price can vary depending on the number of people in a group, so a bit of bargaining is in order to find the best deal.
A boat can carry up to five passengers, and each ride typically takes 15 to 20 minutes.
Minh Thien, a local boat driver, said his family has been carrying tourists along the Hoai River for more than 10 years, but they almost their main source of income for two years because of the pandemic.
If the boat tour doesn't catch the visitor's fancy, a one-hour show called "Hoi An Memories" is a really good alternative option.
With 500 actors and actresses, the show is performed on an outdoor stage covering an area of 25,000 square meters at the Hoi An Impression Theme Park on Hen Islet in Cam An Ward.
"Hoi An Memories" is staged every day of the week except Tuesday from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Ticket prices range from VND480,000-1.2 million ($20.58-51.45).
Day 2: Bike tour - Bay Mau nipa palm forest – traditional craft villages
A five-hour bike tour, which costs from $19.50 per person, enables visitors to see locals deploy their traditional craft skills like weaving straw and making boats while pedaling around Duy Vinh Island, five kilometers from downtown.
Visitors can book a tour at Heaven and Earth Bicycle Tours on Ngo Quyen Street.
From downtown Hoi An, guests can hire bicycles from their hotels and ride less than 5 kilometers to reach the Bay Mau nipa palm forest and go on coracle tours.
A 45-minute coracle tour costs VND150,000 ($6.44) per person including forest entry fees. Crab fishing and acrobatic fishermen performing a unique coracle dance are part of the tour treats.
During the tour, visitors can also try their hand at fishing and enjoy dishes made with freshly-caught seafood.
Travelers who wish to explore the forest but stay off the water can also rent a motorbike for about $5 a day or request a complimentary bicycle from their hotels.
"Overall well worth doing but I would advise to get an early start before the tour groups take over," American tourist Jason told VnExpress International.
Currently, travel agencies in Hoi An are offering one-day tours to the Bay Mau nipa palm forest and traditional craft villages which include a sampling of local cuisine for VND600,000 per person.
The Tra Que Village, two miles from downtown Hoi An, is famous for its fresh vegetables grown in fertile soil and a great place to visit.
Apart from learning about a range of vegetables and spices, visitors can directly participate in plowing the soil, planting and harvesting vegetables. Then they can enjoy Hoi An specialties cooked with fresh seafood like mussels and prawns alongside thick Quang noodles.
Not far from Tra Que stands the Thanh Ha pottery village, which dates back to the 15th century.
About two miles west of Hoi An along the Thu Bon River, the village is home to dozens of families that have been making pots, brick tiles, dishes and many unique souvenirs for generations. Visitors can not only observe the artisans’ techniques but also try their hand at making their own pottery products.
The Kim Bong carpentry village is known for the exquisite and unique woodwork it makes for houses and boats, modern decorations and souvenirs; while the Phuoc Kieu bronze casting village has been around for four centuries.
Day 3: Cham Island
Cham Island is a popular tourist draw, offering added attractions like scuba diving and walking underwater. Situated quite close to the mainland, the island is ideal for a one-day visit.
From Hoi An, the Cham Island can reached in 20 minutes on speedboats for cost VND150,000 - 200,000 ($6-8) per person. Those looking to save money can pay VND50,000 - 80,000 ($2-4) for a normal boat ride from at the Bach Dang Wharf, but the trip takes around two hours. Carrying a motorbike on board would cost an extra VND30,000 ($1.30).
A night’s stay on Cham Island would cost VND100,000-150,000 ($4-6) for a single room. A tent would also cost about VND 100,000 ($4.32) per night.
Snorkeling is a popular activity here since the coral reefs are located just two meters underwater.
Interested visitors will be taken to designated dive sites and given the needed equipment.
There is a small pagoda on Cham Island that is currently looked after by an elderly couple where visitors can enjoy a lovely sense of peace and quiet.
HOW TO GET THERE
From Hanoi and HCMC, there are direct flights to Da Nang with round-trip ticket prices starting at VND1.5 million per person.
After landing at the Da Nang airport, visitors can take a shuttle or catch a bus or Grabcar to Hoi An, which is around an hour's drive from downtown Da Nang.
There are daily buses running from Da Nang to Hoi An with tickets costing VND20,000 per person.
It is easy to rent bicycles or motorbikes to move around in Hoi An, with most hotels and homestays offering the service. Renting a bicycle or a motorbike costs around VND30,000 and VND120,000 a day, respectively.
Story by Hoang Phong, VnExpress.