65 kms south west of Hoi An is the superb My Son Champa ruins.
It's nowhere near as impressive as Angkor, which so obviously influenced the style, added to which much of the site was destroyed or badly damaged by US mortar fire and B52 bombing in the American War.
But its location is magnificent, in the shadow of Cat's Tooth Mountain and its brooding intensity.
Best way to get here is to simply take the tourist bus from Hoi An. There are several to chose from - and most leave at approx 8am.
It takes approx 75 - 90 minutes, and usually give you just over 2 hours at the site (which is enough time to cover the ruins). Cost is less than US$2 (excluding entry fee).
We took the tour including the river trip back - not worth it. You still take the bus coming back and join the river approx half way between My Son and Hoi An, stopping off at the Thanh Ha pottery village on the way. There's nothing wrong with the trip - just not a particularly attractive stretch of river.
You can take a cheap half-day trip out to the My Son Temple ruins out in the jungle. It is worth the trip if you haven't seen many temples, however if you've seen Angkor Wat then these will pale in comparison. That said, it's a relaxing short trip if you want to get out of Hoi An. You can book these trips for cheap (under $5 USD) virtually everywhere - hotels, restaurants and tour booking agencies will all be able to help.
At high tide (about 8 or 9pm) the streets closest to the Thu Bon River flood. This is a great time to come out for a bit of people watching, as small children play in the puddles while their families catch up and chat. The river looks great in the moonlight. We had a wonderful experience coming downstairs from the Banana Leaf Restaurant and being met by a number of curious children. One little boy asked where we were from, and when we said Australian, we were greeted with a chorus of boisterous "G'day Mate!"s! It's a friendly time to have a walk around.
Vietnamese food is both delicious and healthy. I would recommend to anyone that finds it even slightly yummy to look into a cooking class. We went along to Miss Vy's School of Cooking, run through the Cargo Club Restaurant on 107 Nguyen Thai Hoc St. It went for about three hours in the evening and was enjoyed by everyone, even the 70 year old man dragged along by his wife!
The class starts with everyone being served a beer, and then Miss Vy gives brief lecture on the Vietnamese diet. It's interesting to learn how all the different herbs are used both for flavour and health. You get the opportunity to taste and smell the herbs and then it's down to business.
We learnt how to chop vegies properly and then the secret to making a spring roll that doesn't fall apart! We finished up with making a delicious prawn and mango salad. Of course, we got to eat everything and it was delicious!
Everyone got a little cookbook including the recipes we covered and a few more. I'd also recommend having dinner at the Cargo Club while you're there.
A friend recommended we wake up early (and I mean early!) and head to the fish market for an insight into daily life. It's pretty wow! The market is located on the river bank along Bach Dang St, behind the Hoi An Markets. Get there between 4am-6am or it will all be over! Through the semi-darkness and mist off the river all you can see is a sea of conical hate, baskets, and a huge selection of fish. Buying is fast and furious and this is perhaps the only time you will go to a Vietnamese market without being asked to purchase something. It's over very quickly but an interesting (albeit smelly) sight while it lasts.
Since we had four days in Hoi An and it's a pretty small town, we decided to just walk out one of the roads to see what we could find food-wise on the outskirts. We not only found banh dap, a tasty snack, but also we were surprised at how rural it got too. Rice paddies spread for as far as the eye could see and we enjoyed to watch the locals working their land. Walk out Huynh Thuc Khang and you'll see a very different part of Hoi An.
On 16 March 1968, three companies of American infantry landed in Son My subdistrict which was a known VC stronghold. 504 women, children, and old men were massacred that day without a shot being fired back. This site at Xom Lang subhamlet remembers the victims of this act.
The site consists of the memorial in the centre. There museum that documents the day with pictures and has a wall with the names and ages of all who died. Among the trees and rice paddies are the grave of some of the victims buried in family groups.
A car or moto ride will take roughly 5 hrs to make the full trip to and from Hoi An.
One of the favorite parts of my trip was the day that me and my girlfriend rented bikes for the day and went from Hoi An to the beach. Its only a 5 kilometer ride. It was much cooler than walking around and allowed us to get out of town for a few hours.
If you're travelling north from Hoi An to explore Hué and the DMZ, instead of flying from Danang up to Hué, make sure to take the bus or train through the Hai Van Pass. The scenery of jungle, mountains and ocean is absolutely stunning. Make sure your seat is "ocean side" - so if travelling north, get a seat on the right and if travelling south, get a seat on the left. You can book yourself on a tourist bus from your hotel.
If you're staying in Hoi An and want to relax on the beach, travel out to Cua Dai beach. It's not far, but definitely take transportation as opposed to walking in the hot sun. You can rent a bike for very cheap (don't pay more than $.50 USD for a day) or can hire a motobike to drive you out for a couple of dollars.
Looking for the popular japanese bridge, I found another one, wich was not obviously the one I was looking for, but this one crossed the river and brought you to the other, definitly not touristic side of Hoi An.
May be because it was low season, but I did not see many tourists in Hoi An anyway, but walking through the small streets where people used to live and do their daily activites was amazing!
There are many private patios in the old part. Most of them are turned now into shops, art galleries... so don't be shy, just walk into, have a look, take your time, explore. Many of the patios connect with alleys that communicate the narrow streets between them, so you can easily get lost, but as it is a rather small place, you will soon find yourself into a known street again...
If you visit the Hoy An market early in the morning, when the activity is at its best, you will see scenes that will make you think you are in another time, in another world, in one of those oriental flavour movies. The sunrise light is so special, with newborn beams, shadows, transparencies... and the scents add a magical fragant atmosphere too!
You can find some spectacular gates, entrances, facades and verandas as you walk by the streets. Some of them are still private houses, but most are turned now in to shops or tourism-oriented places. Some have plants outside and bird cages. Chinese love birds!
Hoi An is the city where I did it for the first time. Sure, it didn't go perfectly immediately, but I soon got the hang of it & could start to enjoy the ride. It didn't take long for me to realize it was great... to ride a motorbike in Vietnam!
This definitely is a great way to explore the city (as it is in all VN cities). But the city isn't too big, you'll have time left after having cruised it entirely. One nice trip you may wanna make, is the 30 km one to Danang, as I did. It's a lovely ride, and it will give you a small impression of Danang, which looks like a very beautiful city & is high on my agenda for my next VN trip. As VN's 3rd city, it's also a great learning school to get used to Vietnamese traffic. Probably the best part of the ride is the gorgeous bridge just before entering Da Nang. Highly recommended!