There's Much More to Hoi An Than Beautiful Lanterns

Tam Thanh Mural Village is one of the hidden highlights of Hoi An
Tam Thanh Mural Village is one of the hidden highlights of Hoi An | © Vu Pham Van / Culture Trip
Tara Tadlock

It doesn’t take much to fall for the allure of Hoi An. One photo of central Vietnam’s small, yellow city and its myriad lanterns has most tourists looking for a flight. Despite its popularity as a travel destination, however, some of the coolest sights to see and activities to do in Hoi An remain under the radar. Read on to find some of the lesser known highlights of this hotspot.

Take outdoor Muay Thai classes

If you’re looking to work off all the street food you’re bound to eat in Vietnam, look no further than Hoi An Muay Thai classes. The warm Vietnamese climate makes it possible to hold classes in an open-air gym located in the middle of the city. The high-intensity workout, along with the natural humidity of Hoi An, will have you dripping with sweat alongside local Muay Thai experts.

Hoi An is known as Vietnam’s yellow city, due to its sunshine-yellow buildings

Enjoy a day trip to Tam Thanh Mural Village

Though growing in popularity, Tam Thanh Mural Village still flies relatively under the radar. The small fishing village was transformed into Vietnam’s first street-art village as part of a collaboration with artists from South Korea. Tam Thanh is approximately 40 minutes south of Hoi An by car, making it a great half-day trip. Homes and shops are all painted with murals that reflect Vietnamese culture and depict elements of its history. Rent a motorbike, hire a Grab taxi, or take a tour with Hoi An Food Tour to witness the delights of this colourful town.

Tam Thanh Mural Village is a great half-day trip
The murals depict Vietnamese culture
The street art includes works by South Korean artists

Participate in community yoga classes at Nomad Yoga

Nomad Yoga has a reputation among the expat community in Hoi An for providing outstanding yoga classes and wellness workshops, but people passing through can also take advantage of the community classes the yoga studio offers. These are often donation-based and locals love to join the fun, even though the classes are taught in English. Early risers will relish sunrise yoga on the beach and the truly adventurous might want to try their hand at in-studio acroyoga. Those searching for a reason to elongate their stay in Hoi An might even be tempted to sign up for Nomad’s Yoga Teacher Training, which draws yogis from around the globe.

Pay a visit to Thanh Ha pottery village

Most people visiting Hoi An make time for a cooking class as a way to learn about the local cuisine, but how many of them can say they learned about traditional ceramics and pottery? Thanh Ha lies less than a mile from the Old Town and allows visitors the opportunity to watch as clay is worked by the hands of a local expert. The best part is that, despite the village producing beautiful, handmade pottery for over 400 years, it is much less crowded than, say, the Central Market of the city. Thanh Ha is also home to a small museum, the Museum of Trade Ceramics, housed in a traditional wooden building with further information regarding the history of Vietnamese pottery.

The village of Thanh Ha is famous for its pottery
Visitors can watch as the clay is moulded
There is also a small ceramics museum

Enjoy live music at Soul Kitchen

It’s hard to beat live music. Somehow though, Soul Kitchen has made the experience even better by having musicians perform along one of Hoi An’s beautiful, sandy beaches. Reggae bands and acoustic covers of classic hits all rotate the setlist thanks to Soul Kitchen hosting an array of artists. How can you find out what’s on? Check out their Facebook page. You might even time your visit to coincide with their annual Reggae Festival that brings together musicians and reggae fans from different parts of the world, all of whom gather to enjoy music and cheap Vietnamese beers within reach of the Ang Bang beach waves.

Experience Vietnamese fishing

Fresh fish is a marketplace staple in coastal Hoi An. Thanks to Backstreet Academy, visitors to this part of Vietnam can see how fish are caught and can even give it a go for themselves. Lead by a local fisherman, you’ll get to haul a fishing net along the Hoi An river while learning all about the traditional Vietnamese methods that keep Central Market filled with water dwellers. As a bonus, any fish you catch during your two-hour experience with Backstreet Academy will be cooked and prepared as part of your included lunch.

Fishing on Thu Bon River is an easy way to relax in Hoi An

Grab afternoon tea and give back

Reaching Out Tea House is one of those hidden-in-plain-sight spots that provide serenity in the centre of the Old Town. The tea house is run by an NGO that works to provide employment to local deaf individuals who might otherwise struggle to find work. The wooden beams and delicate porcelain cups and saucers give Reaching Out a very luxurious atmosphere compared to a lot of the other buzzing cafés in the city. The ambience isn’t the only thing unique to Reaching Out: to order, you fill out a slip of paper and to pay you turn over a block with the word ‘bill’ written on it. Reaching Out Tea House is a place that makes spending your money feel extra good and isn’t crowded with thirsty tourists…yet.

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