People hear “Vietnam” and immediately they think about the war and its atrocities. This is especially true with Americans, who still equate this beautiful country to war and destruction 40 years after the Vietnam War. Amazingly, the city of Hoi An just south of Da Nang was completely untouched by the crippling war that lasted for 20 long years. Hoi An has maintained the beauty and mysticism it has always had since the 17th Century when it was just a sleepy riverside village. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a major tourist destination. Curious travelers come every month to take part of the city’s historic charm. Getting to Hoi An is easy, inexpensive and very inviting.
There are a number of flights to the nearest airport in Da Nang from Bangkok, Cambodia, Singapore and the Vietnamese cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. Bangkok and Singapore are two of the major and busiest airports in Asia that service all of Europe, North America and elsewhere in the world.
Perhaps the trickiest part when traveling by plane is getting a taxi from the Da Nang airport to one’s final destination. Cab fare involves such a lot of haggling that sometimes the meter won’t matter at all. The 45-minute taxi ride from the airport to the major hotel areas in the city costs about US$15. Another option is to take a mini-bus taxi that goes to designated areas in the city. The fare is shared by a number of passengers, each paying US$5 each. This is cheaper but not as convenient.
Getting to Hoi An by land
There are three options when traveling on land: by motorcycle or taxi, bus and train. From Da Nang, a traveler can get a motorcycle or taxi that goes to the train station through the picturesque Marble Mountains. Biking along this chain of five marble and limestone mountains is a breath-taking experience, although only leading to Da Nang, and not all the way to Hoi An.
The five majestic mountains are named after the five elements of nature, which are Thuy (water), Moc (wood), Hoa (fire) Tho (earth) and Kim (metal).
By bus, a public bus line runs from Da Nang to the Hoi An bus station. It is a short 1-hour ride that costs 20000 dong (about a dollar). From the bus station to anywhere else in Hoi An, the most common and popular ride is on a “xe om”, a cheap ride on a motorcycle-taxi. The motorcycle can only ride one passenger and not carrying many bags. Sometimes they try to cram two passengers. “Xe” is Vietnamese for motorcycle and “om” means to hug someone since the passenger has to hug the driver from behind. This ride is not for the faint of heart, since most xe om drivers typically zigzag through crowded streets hoping to end the trip quickly so that he could look for the next customer.
By train is most practical and convenient when coming in from far-away Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Hue, Nha Trang and other cities through Da Nang.
Getting to Hoi An by sea
Travelers may take a scenic boat ride through Hoi An’s river systems through which ancient seafarers and merchants traded with the Chinese. Getting to Hoi An on speedboats or the traditional Ghe Nang sailboat through the river system from Da Nang is quite an experience.