The beautiful city of Hoi An in Vietnam is amazingly untouched by the war and modernization. Its narrow streets have remained exactly the way they were centuries ago. This is why this city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most toured cities in Vietnam. Getting around Hoi An is like traveling back in time.
Since it is an old city, the streets in the town center were not meant to accommodate cars or motorized vehicles. An adoring tourist could leisurely walk along and be able to see the entire city in a day. It is small and very pedestrian-friendly. Motorbikes are prohibited from entering the Old Town on the 14th and 15th days of a lunar month, because on these days, people gather in the streets for the traditional games, bai choi, trong quan and dap nieu.
On other days, motorcycles are allowed to pass and when they do, they have no regard whatsoever of people passing along or of the narrow streets. It’s as though they are constantly in a race.
A cheap and safe way to get around the city is on a rented bicycle. For only 10,000 dong (about half a dollar), you can bike around the town center and to Hoi An’s famous beaches, which are not very far away. The most popular beach is An Bang Beach, only 2.5 km away from the town. To get there, take Hai Ba Trung Street and pedal away towards the sea. Since there isn’t any traffic in Hoi An, leisurely driving around on a bicycle is an amazing experience.
If you wish to go a little faster, try one of the motorbike-taxis called “xe om,” but be warned, you’re in for the ride of your life. Xe om are always in a hurry, hoping to get as many passengers that they can in a day. That is why it is called “xe om”, which means “xe” for motorcycle and “om”, roughly translated as “hang on.”
You really would rather rent your own motorcycle and take control of the handlebar and brakes. For only 60,000 ($3.00) to 100,000 dong ($5.00) you could hire a motorbike for a day and not worry about the thrill-seeking xe om drivers. There are motorbike drivers, though, who go easy on the gas as they offer tourists a day tour around Hoi An and to neighboring places or as far as the borders of Laos.
If you don’t know how to ride a motorbike on your own, the empty streets of Hoi An are the perfect place to learn. And when you’ve gotten used to driving on your own, it’s time to really enjoy this amazing city.
You can visit the nearby beaches or drive all the way to Da Nang passing through the amazing Marble Mountains. You won’t believe your eyes passing through this chain of five majestic mountains made of marble and limestone. They are only about 40 minutes away to the north. The best time of the day to check them out is early in the morning.
Finally, a picturesque alternative to getting around Hoi An is by boat. This was how the early Champa people used to do it. Everyone visiting Hoi An should try the sunset cruise, swan boat or the Ghe Nang sailboat. Either one is truly romantic and spectacular.