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Way back at the start of 2018, when we were planning where to spend five months backpacking in late 2018/ early 2019 we debated long and hard as to where we’d like to see the New Year’s Eve celebrations in December. We had previously seen London’s fireworks, plus Auckland and Sydney, so we wanted to try somewhere in Asia.
Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur made the shortlist but we opted for Hoi An in Vietnam, as we had visited before and thought the full lantern and old quarter experience would be magical over New Year.
We booked our week long stay in Hoi An about seven months in advance and that allowed us to stay in a hotel a few minutes walk to the main stage where the NYE countdown takes place (and also a prime position for the fireworks). We stayed at Green Heaven Hoi An Resort & Spa, which was affordable and in a fantastic location, however it was a pretty poor hotel experience and we wouldn’t stay there again.
What our (lack of) planning failed to uncover was that Hoi An (and the whole of central Vietnam) would be in the midst of rainy season, but we topped and tailed it with the sunnier climes of Cambodia and Malaysia so it wasn’t a major issue.
It is hard to prepare for New Year’s Eve in Hoi An as there is such a lack of information on the internet. Indeed, even on the day, we were not sure what was going to happen and all of our information about the fireworks was gleaned from just one sign we found next to the main entertainment stage (they run from midnight until 12.10am and are set off from an island in the middle of the river).
Due to the heavy rain that day, we didn’t head out until around 10:30pm. All of the bars along the river on Thoại Ngọc Hầu street had extended their drinking areas out onto the streets and had hastily propped up ad-hoc tarpaulins to act as temporary rain shelters. The rain created a gorgeous reflection effect of all the lanterns on the wet pavements so the whole of the Old Quarter radiated like an immense neon sign.
Hoi An on a rainy day
We explored the old lanes (whilst dodging poncho wearing mopeds) and also watched as people purchased small cardboard lanterns from local vendors to light and release on the Thu Bon river.
As you would expect, the local people were keen to make some extra income from the night’s proceedings so there were little old ladies selling beers out of polystyrene beer coolers, touts plying their boats for hire (a very popular but expensive way to see the fireworks from the river itself), plus what seemed like hundreds of light-up head dress sellers.
The New Year’s Eve countdown itself takes place on the main stage although we opted to dance and drink beforehand at ‘The King Bar’ (seemingly the most popular street party on the night, along with the Funky Monkey Bar and ‘Tiger Tiger) before making the short walk to the bridge as soon as the fireworks started.
The fireworks themselves were incredible (better than Auckland’s – sorry New Zealand) and lasted for about 15 minutes. The effect was enhanced if you could view them over the river as you’re treated to the mirror reflections in the water, plus all the lantern filled boats bobbing in silhouette on the river. The whole experience was really good natured and various travellers from around the world wished us a Happy New Year and ‘high fived’ us (we didn’t see anyone fall in the water).
Although we’d been warned about possible pickpocketing and bag slashing (something which happened to us the week before in nearby Marble Mountains – read our blog about it here), we didn’t see anything like this happen. The biggest ‘danger’ was getting run down by the moped drivers on the bridge – it is a shame they don’t close the Hoi An old quarter / river area to traffic on New Year’s Eve, like they do in other major cities.
After the fireworks, we resumed our festivities along the pub street and bought beers from the various street vendors (prices for cans of beer seemed to vary from 20k VND to 40K VND). There was also a roaring trade for laughing gas balloons – several stores with lines of backpackers wanting to try it. We spent another 3 hours dancing, drinking and watching the Hoi An hoi polloi revel in the fantastic festivities.
We are so glad we chose to see in New Year’s Eve in Hoi An and it was a lot easier to get a clear, unobstructed view of the fireworks (if you plan in advance and base yourself along the pub street). Even the rain couldn’t dampen our spirits. The next big question is – where to see in New Year’s Eve 2020. Suggestions are welcomed please…
Note: an entrance pass (VND 120,000) is required for foreign tourists to enter the ancient town. Each ticket is valid for 10 days and covers admission to the town, five historical sites of your choice and street entertainment (supposedly).
Fun activites in Hoi An in December
Take a short ride on a rowing boat to access this cooking class located in the Bay Mau forest. Learn about herbs and vegetables and prepare four local dishes. Click here to book a cooking class >
Night Food Tasting Small Group Tour
Experience the street food of Hoi An on a 2.5-hour tour. Join the locals at the central market, discover hidden food stalls and local cafés and enjoy a coffee or beer at a riverside bar near the Japanese Covered Bridge. Click here to book a food tour >
Morning Food and Coffee Tasting Tour
This food tour will take you off the beaten path where you will taste many delicious types of street food and learn about Vietnamese coffee culture. Click here to book a tour >
Fishing & Rice Paddy Fields Tour
Guided tour which includes a visit to Phuoc Hai fishing Village, a fish market and Cam Tanh rice farmlands, Click here to book a tour >
A range of authentic experiences run by locals including wood crafting, cooking, cycling and farming. Click here to check out their tours.
Sunset Dinner Cruise
Enjoy cocktails and dinner as you cruise along Hoi An’s Thu Bon River at sunset. Click here to book a cruise.
3-hour sunrise or sunset photography tour in the villages outside of Hoi An, suitable for both amateur and professional photographers. Click here to book a photography tour >
Free bike tour
Free bicycle tours run by local university students so they can practice their english speaking skills. The tours venture to unexplored countryside areas such as Kim Bong Village, Tra Que Vegetable Village and Cam Thanh Water Coconut Palm Village. Click here to find out more about the free bike tours >
Ba Na Hills
Mountaintop resort complex in Da Nang, only accessible by cable car. Stroll through the French Village, ride the roller coasters and visit the famous Golden Bridge. Click here to book a Ba Na Hills tour.
Take a day trip 2 and half hours drive north of Hoi An and visit the UNESCO-listed Imperial City of Hue. Tour the Forbidden City, Emperor’s Private Residence and take a boat ride on the Perfume River. Click here to book a Hue tour >
Top things to do in Hoi An!
Search for the cheapest transportation options in Vietnam
Where to stay in Hoi An
Most first time visitors to the city stay in or near the old town, as it is home to most of the attractions. Alternatively there are some luxury beachside resorts just a short drive away out of the city.
Here are some accommodation recommendations if you are planning a trip to Hoi An.
On a budget?
These backpacker hostels are highly rated online and in super locations:
Leo Leo hostel / 3 minutes walk to old town with dorms/private rooms and free breakfast. Check out prices and availability for Leo Leo hostel.
Hoa Binh hostel / Good location in the centre of town with dorms/private rooms and free unlimited buffet breakfast. Check out prices and availability for Hoa Binh hostel.
Tribee Kinh hostel / Hostel with a party atmosphere and 5 minutes walk to the ancient town. Check out prices and availability for Tribee Kinh hostel.
Hoi An Silk Marina Resort & Spa/ Air-conditioned villas just a 7-minute walk from Hoi An Ancient Town with a beautiful outdoor pool. Check out prices and availability for Hoi An Silk Marina Resort & Spa.
Little Hoi An Boutique Hotel & Spa/ Riverside hotel just minutes from the Japanese bridge and an outdoor swimming pool and hair and beauty salon. Check out prices and availability for Little Hoi An Boutique Hotel & Spa.
La Siesta Hoi An Resort & Spa / All air-conditioned rooms feature a private balcony that opens up to views of the huge swimming pool. Check out prices and availability for La Siesta Hoi An Resort & Spa.
Here are some super nice places if you really want to treat yourself on your Hoi An trip!
Hotel Royal Hoi An – MGallery by Sofitel / Luxury riverside hotel with rooftop swimming pool and bar. Check out prices and availability for Hotel Royal Hoi An – MGallery by Sofitel.
Anantara Hoi An Resort / Elegant resort featuring French colonial architecture and outdoor swimming pool. Each room has a seating area and private porch with beautiful views of the garden or river. Check out prices and availability for Anantara Hoi An Resort.
By the beach
Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort & Spa / Located along the shores of Cua Dai beach with Vietnamese, French and Japanese decor, and 2 swimming pools overlooking the ocean. Check out prices and availability for Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort & Spa.
Sunrise Premium Resort Hoi An / Located directly on Cua Dai Beach, this luxurious resort offers stylish garden or ocean-view rooms and 2 swimming pools. Check out prices and availability for Sunrise Premium Resort Hoi An.
Other Vietnam blog posts
- Top things to do in Hoi An on a rainy day
- Highlights of Hanoi, Vietnam (plus a few lowlights)
- Visiting Vietnam’s Lady Buddha in Da Nang
- A morning cooking class in Hoi An, Vietnam
- Be aware in Marble Mountains – how I was robbed in Da Nang, Vietnam
Download the Grab taxi app
Grab taxis are widely used by both tourists and locals, and the fares are really cheap! Download the Grab app here and use the code GRABCKTRAVELS to earn a free ride when you sign up.
Heading to Thailand or Cambodia?
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