Tag Archives: unesco world heritage site

The Magical Town of Hoi An

The second leg of our trip to Vietnam took us to the central part of the country. We had heard and read a lot about this quaint little town and many called it the best part of their trip! Though we were filled with the anticipation, we were also dreading the weather – Hoi An has storms and even floods in November and the previous year was exceptionally bad (Check out our guide to the best time visit each part of Vietnam here). Our evening flight from Hanoi had to navigate through some really turbulent weather to land us in Da Nang – the largest city of the region. We took a taxi to Hoi An – a 45 min drive – and reached our home-stay.

It had stopped raining by now, but it was quite windy. After a quick check-in, we borrowed an umbrella and headed out to the night market! As we walked around looking at the stalls selling food, souvenirs and lanterns, the rain picked up, leaving the hawkers scrambling. Luckily, we had our big umbrella. The river was swelling and almost starting to overflow – we quickly crossed the bridge into the Old Town heritage area and started looking for a place to eat. The entire town was beautifully decorated with lanterns of all colours – it felt like a dream!

The memory of this place still brings a smile to our faces!

We found a small home whose hall had been opened up into a tiny restaurant where we had some amazing Mi Quang and Cau Lau (both belonging to this region). The rain continued to batter down and we sat there happily eating the hot bowls of noodles.

Things turned better for us the next day with regards to the weather. It was a pleasant day with no rain which made it ideal to walk around and explore the town!

Here are the things which, according to us, make Hoi An a magical town and an experience worth remembering.

History and Heritage

Hoi An was a trading port from the 15th to 19th century. It was a hub in South-East Asia for trade routes connecting China, Japan, India, Portugal and the Dutch. There is a strong Japanese connection and you can still spot the Japanese covered bridge with a temple inside it.

The entire Old Town of Hoi An is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can buy a ticket to visit the sites to learn more about life here in the 18th century. One ticket (costing only 120,000 VND – relax, that’s $5!) enables you to visit 5 heritage sites. You can choose from a number of historic buildings, private homes, museums, temples and assembly halls. We picked one of each to get a flavour of the traditions of this ancient port town.

You can skip the ticket if you do not want to enter these sites and just walk around the roads.

Culture

You can get a taste of the traditional music and dance of the region at the Hoi An Traditional Art Performance Theatre. You can use one of your five tickets to gain entry here and there are usually 3 shows every day.

We enjoyed the music and performances and also got to know about the traditional game of “Bai Choi”. It is very similar to bingo but is played along with some folk songs. We learnt that there would be a few rounds of it being played on the riverbank later in the evening. You can guess what we did that evening! After observing one round, we took our seats on one of the stilt house-seats and were handed one paddle each which had three words. The organizers would sing a folk song and randomly select one of the words while incorporating it into the song!

It was super fun and we ended up playing two rounds!

Shopping

Hoi An is known for tailoring and you will find dozens of shops selling tailor-made suits, shirts and dresses. It costs much less than what a similar branded piece would cost you back home and it is also of very good quality. We aren’t very big on shopping during our trips, so we decided to give it a skip. But if you are, we would definitely recommend heading to one of these as soon as you arrive in Hoi An – you can avoid the stress of whether the suit will be ready in time for your departure.

The Central Market on the banks of the river is also worth a visit. Go there in the morning to see all the fresh produce. If you are just window shopping, just smile and keep moving.

You can also check out the night market which is on a small island connected to the Old Town (map here). You can get your own lanterns and souvenirs here as well as some tasty street food.

Food

Any Vietnamese story is incomplete without the food! The specialities of Hoi An and the Quang Nam Province that you must not miss are

  • Mi Quang – a noodle dish with prawns, pork, quail eggs and rice crackers
  • Cau Lau – a noodle dish with pork, broth, crispy noodle squares and crackers
  • Com Ga – chicken rice
  • Banh Mi – this is what Hoi An is really famous for – the legendary Vietnamese baguette stuffed with a bunch of delicious stuff you can choose from

More details on where to get these are part of our extensive blog on Fantastic Vietnamese Food and Where You Can Find Them!

Other Ideas and Tips

Start the day as early as you can, to wander around the beautiful streets without having to deal with crowds. There are a lot of day-tours which come in from Da Nang and you’ll be stuck with the extra tourists if you start late.

If you have an extra day, you can rent a cycle and head to the nearest beach. If you have 3-4 extra days, spend them in Da Nang and go on excursions to nearby places like the Ba Na Hills (the Golden Bridge) and Hue.

Hoi An is indeed a magical place and one that we would definitely recommend! After spending a day and a half here, we headed to Ho Chi Minh City. Check out our guide on how to travel around Vietnam for the best options.

Have you visited Hoi An and central Vietnam? Do let us know in the comments below. Check out our latest travels on Instagram at @fridgemagnet.tales

A Day in PlitviCe

The place we were looking forward to the most in Croatia was Plitviče National Park. Why you ask? Take a look at these pictures we shot, and you’ll get an idea why.

The lakes in Plitviče have been formed at different heights as a series of cascades. You can also spot many waterfalls and rapids as the water flows down from the upper lakes to the lower lakes. But what is most stunning in this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the colour of the water! The distinctive colours of the lakes is due to moss, algae and minerals which are deposited on the limestone topography. There are wooden pathways and bridges criss-crossing the park which give you the chance to experience nature’s beauty at its best! Now that we’ve resolved the why, here’s how you can make the most of your day at Plitviče.

Reach the park early in the morning

This advice holds true for many tourist attractions as you get to see the place in all its glory without tourists. I cannot emphasize how true this is for Plitviče (we got a glimpse of the crowded version as we left). We started our day at 7:30 am from our beautiful cottage in Rastovača (check out our tips on places to stay here) and we were at the ticket counter in Entrance 1 at 7:45 am. We didn’t have to face a queue and were one of the first people to enter. If you go during the peak season (July-August), you might have to wait a while in the queue, and you may even get a later slot – so make sure you book in advance if you visit in these months (we visited in June). The entrance fees also goes up in the peak season. You can check out the latest fees on their website.

Select the best routes

There are around 8 different routes (4 from each entrance of the park) you can choose to take on your tour depending on how much you are willing to walk and how much time you’d like to spend at the park.

We selected Route C – a 4-6 hours long trail which would span 8 km across the upper and lower lakes. This is one of the best routes to get a complete experience of Plitviče – there is one stretch on the route which is via boat too. We also took a deviation towards the end of the trail and walked through a stretch of route H to get a view of the upper-most lakes of the park.

Once you reach the end of the trail, you can take a shuttle bus back to your entrance or walk along a shortcut trail.

Alternatively, if you are entering the park from Entrance 2, select Route H (which covers the same route in the opposite direction).

If you are crunched for time, go for Route A or B which will take you through the best parts of the lower lakes. If you want to spend the entire day, go for Route K – the longest trail available.

Best spots in the Park

Most of the wallpaper worthy spots can be found along the lower lakes. The closest one to Entrance 1 is the Veliki Slap or Big Waterfall (you can find signboards which will guide you).

You can find plenty of amazing spots along the boardwalks. Take your time and enjoy the views as you make your way along the trail.

Cascade viewpoint – you can get this view when you walk back to Entrance 1 from the bus stop.

Additional spot: on the way to Veliki Slap, you will find a path going upwards – walk up and continue along the path towards the right and you will reach the viewpoint in about 200 metres.

Best time to visit

You can visit Plitviče anytime between April to October to enjoy the colours of the lakes. July-August is the peak season which you can skip if you want to avoid crowds. We visited in June and really enjoyed it. There were many parts of the park where we had the place entirely to ourselves. The weather was warm and comfortable – perfect for the long walk!

Getting to Plitviče

Plitviče is located 130 km south of Zagreb and 250 km north of Split which makes it a great place for a day trip. You can find several buses on this route which makes it very accessible. For all your local travel in Croatia, check out our guide here. We arrived in Plitviče a day before our planned visit to the park. This gives you the freedom to rest well and start early to beat the crowds.

Where to Stay

We recommend staying close to Entrance 1 – this will enable you to enjoy the beauty of the lower lakes before the crowds start hitting. We picked an Airbnb in the village of Rastovača. Check out our blog on places to stay.

We spent about 6 hours in the park and loved every second of it. Afterwards, we went back to our stay, picked up our bags, walked back to Entrance 1 and boarded our bus to Split at 3:15 pm. The story of Split and the journey beyond is chronicled here.

For all the water lovers, entering the water is not allowed in Plitviče. However, if you want to swim in such waters, head to Krka National Park and enjoy!

Do leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Feel free to shoot your queries as well! To catch all our latest travel stories, follow us on Instagram @fridgemagnet.tales