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A Laid-Back Family Weekend in Hoi An


Not all family thrills require adrenaline-pumping pursuits. As you stroll through this sleepy town in Vietnam at a laid-back pace, your weekend will fly by. By JACQUELINE DE SEGONZAC ARCE.

Published on Jan 19, 2017

 

STEP BACK INTO the 15th century and see the history of a major trading port and cultural melting pot come to life before your eyes. A trip to Hoi An, a dreamy little town on Vietnam's central coast, with its Japanese trading houses, winding canals, and Chinese temples and teahouses, really feels like a hop back through the ages, and the slow pace makes it a breeze to tackle with kids. My family and I could have easily spent a week there, but with a little strategy you can cram the atmospheric allure of Hoi An all into one weekend.

Lanterns line
Lanterns line a little lane. Courtesy of Jacqueline De Segonzac Arce.

 

SATURDAY
 MORNING 

Purchase an inclusive day pass (tickets can be purchased at booths scattered throughout Old Town; US$6 per person) to all the historical venues including the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge for Instagram-worthy photo opportunities. The pedestrian-only streets are stroller-friendly and the walking is easy on the kids, a much-welcome relief from the madcap traffic in Hanoi.

 AFTERNOON 
Take advantage of Hoi An's reputation for beautifully crafted suits, dresses and children's clothing, which local tailors can seamlessly conjure up within any limited timeline. Be Be Tailor (prices depend on fabric) has a nice selection of fabrics and a talented team of seamsters on staff.

 EVENING 
Embark on a short sundown cruise along the Thu Bon River; this was my toddler's favorite part of the trip as we had the whole boat to ourselves (US$5 per person). After docking, spend the evening hours strolling around Old Town, which winds out into many narrow, cobblestone streets and runs along both banks of the river. For US$0.25, light a candle in a small lotus-flower lantern to set adrift along the river at night, which is said to bring luck, love and happiness.

Thu Bon River
Lost in thought on a boat ride down the Thu Bon River. Courtesy of Jacqueline De Segonzac Arce.

 

SUNDAY
 MORNING 

Hire a driver or rent bicycles—some even have baby seats attached—and coast by rice paddies on the way to the sea. Cua Dai Beach is close by and, with its milky stretch of fine sand, seems tailored for a late-morning nap. If, alas, your kids aren't into napping, the midsized surf makes for thrilling but fairly safe boogie boarding and bodysurfing for the tikes, while older kids can challenge themselves to windsurfing, kayaking and Jet-Skiing.

 AFTERNOON 
Take the little one shopping in Old Town for gorgeous kids' threads and beautifully handcrafted toys. Don't miss Viet Made with funky toys and handbags decorated with hand-drawings, all designed by disadvantaged children, and Metiseko for its high-end organic cotton children's clothing. Take a break from browsing to fill up on gelato at Enjoy Ice Cream or any number of street side cafés. Or if you prefer a more back-to-nature outing, venture out for a Farming & Fishing Life tour with Jack Tran's EcoTours (VND1,575,000 per adult, VND 787,000 per child), wildly popular with all kids, even the grown-up kind.

 EVENING 
Dine in town at Vy's Market (dinner for two US$30), modeled after a street market, with stalls serving up foreigner-friendly street-food favorites such as fresh spring rolls, steaming bowls of pho, and savory fried dumplings.

Vy's Market
Biking trip in the countryside of Hoi An. Courtesy of Jack Tran's Eco Tours.

 

 

   THE DETAILS

 

 

CHECK IN
The Hotel Royal Hoi An borders the Old Quarter and embodies the historic allure of the neighborhood. The rooms blend Japanese and Indo-Chinese style to elegant effect and are set right on the Thu Bon River. doubles from VND2,875,859, a family of four will need to book two rooms.

GETTING THERE
Fly direct to Danang from Kuala Lumpur on AirAsia,Singapore on Silkair, and, Bangkok on Bangkok Airways. Visa-free entry is available for most ASEAN nationalities. Visas on arrival are available for other visitors who preapply online.

 

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Lost in thought on a boat ride down the Thu Bon River. Courtesy of Jacqueline De Segonzac Arce.
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