Hoi An – hot, hustling, and utterly life changing


This article was created for The Travel Project by Elizah Caruana, a journalist and travel fanatic.

My partner and I booked a trip on a limb and had found ourselves nestled in the middle of Vietnam, a romantic little ancient town called Hoi An.

A town that would make me re-evalute the way I travelled.

Up until this trip, If a friend or family member hadn’t been there, I wasn’t interested. My thinking was that if no one I knew had been to this location it mustn’t be worth my while, because all of my friends travelled. I wanted to see it on my ‘gram first, read about it on trendy travel blogs and religiously follow website recommendations once I arrived. I wanted to eliminate that unknown fear. The fear that I’d get lost, or run out of things to do, because lets face it, travel isn’t cheap, and the last thing I wanted to do was waste my money and time.

Then, three weeks before christmas, my boyfriend said “lets go on a holiday!” As spontaneous and exciting as that sounded, I was a poor uni student on a budget. So there I was, frantically googling flights via web jet “Brisbane to anywhere that’s under $1,000 return please” (If only it were that simple).


I spent nearly 18 hours straight on that website- searching for odd locations, when a deal popped up at the bottom of my screen Brisbane to Da Nang return.

I learned all I could about this Vietnamese hotspot. Surprisingly it was the culture that most peaked my attention; the air of a new year must have encouraged me somewhat to experience something so foreign to my life in Australia, so I researched further into the ancient town of Hoi An. A promise of culture and food excited me once more, all the traditional architecture and secluded beachside hideaways, and before I knew it I was boarding a flight to see it all for myself.

Once we landed, I knew that we got exactly what we bargained for. The place was so parallel to home, yet, in the same breath we felt so safe. Met with hundreds of smiling faces and hello’s, we were off to a good start. We checked into a beautiful boutique hotel that overlooked the river, dropped our bags and hit the town.



The best mode of transport is bicycles, so we cruised through chaos and into the heart of Hoi An. An utter treat for the senses, Hoi An is peppered with traditional buildings covered in rich yellow and red hues, brightly dressed locals sitting in wooden boats along the river and smells of the most delicious authentic meals brewing from the terrace restaurants above.

We started every morning with a ginger and turmeric tea and made our way into the village. Each day falling into a different activity, we literally just roamed the town until something tickled our fancy.

We would regularly eat and drink the afternoons away, spending many of our nights strolling home through bustling street markets which were illuminated by rainbow lanterns.

For 16000 Dong (less than 1 AUD) we purchased 5 sight seeing tickets to grant access into any temple and historical building in Hoi An, with donations simply going to help preserve the ancient town. No high-rise in sight, this place is completely untouched by modern technology, which was such a refreshing escape from all of our trivial modern woes.

While bikes were our primary mode of transport, we squeezed in two day trips on our holiday. One to An Bang Beach and the second, Marble Mountain. Spiritual or not, Marble Mountain in particular is ‘out of this world’ breathtaking. Picture soaring mountain peaks with intricately hand painted temples perched in amongst the mountains caves. Here, I found comfort in the silence of 100’s of strangers, as we stood together and respected the history of the little town that will stick with me forever.


We spent 10 days exploring the in’s and out’s of this romantic little town, taking gondola rides, eating the best spring rolls, and getting lost amongst rainbow lanterns. I met people that lived to teach tourists about their home, tailors that made fashion better than anything I’d ever seen before, and some of the best cooks in the world, each day ending with us feeling a little more in tune with the town than the next.

Of all the travelling I’ve done thus far, this little place is the most rich in atmosphere and culture. Hoi An is so breathtaking, colourful and different from the day to day.

Hoi An changed my life. It pushed me to step out of my comfort zone, book and explore places I've never imagined before, step off the beaten track and simply give things a go.

This world is full of wonderful pockets of historically untouched land and towns just waiting to be discovered. With travel cheaper than ever and life as short as it is, I implore you, stop planning and simply go explore.

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