The small town of Hoi An is the perfect place to break your journey midway through Vietnam. Located on the country’s magnificent central coast, this one-time trading port retains an old world ambience and a rich historical quality that resulted in its recent listing as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Once known as Faifo, Hoi An was one of the orient's major trading ports in the 16th and 17th centuries.
After the Thu Bon River linking Hoi An to the sea silted up ocean going ships were no longer able to sail into town and trade moved 30km up the coast to Tourane, known nowadays as Danang. Despite the passing of 200 years and the ravages of the weather and war, the centre of Hoi An remains much the same as it was in its heyday.
Let Travel Vietnam escort you through the narrow lanes and streets of the old town, lined with centuries old shop houses combining the influences of the many trading communities who visited Hoi An: French, Japanese, Chinese. Their merchant vessels came to this trading center and brought their culture to enrich the diversity of Hoi An's character as well as architecture. See the Japanese Covered Bridge, the gaudy interior of the Guangdong or Fukien Chinese Assembly Halls; take tea in an 18th Century home; jostle for space with the fish mongers in the lively riverside seafood market; cycle out to Cua Dai Beach or take a sunset river cruise - these are all part of the unique Hoi An experience. Five kilometers from the centre of town is Cua Dai Beach, popular with both locals and visitors alike for its sandy beach, warm sea and seafood stalls. Hoi An is known throughout Vietnam for its excellent seafood and it also boasts its own unique dishes such as Cao Lau, a delicious combination of noodles, pork, bean sprouts, mint and croutons. Inland and a half-day trip from Hoi An is My Son, where the capital of the once great Champa Kingdom stood. The Cham, originally from India and Hindus, were the rulers of large areas of central Vietnam between the 2nd and 15th centuries. The Cham Museum, housed in a classical French colonial building in Danang, has the finest collection of Cham sculpture in the world, much of it originating from the My Son site.
In Hoi An, there is a wide range of quaint shops. Hoi An lanterns and tailor-made clothing are renowned throughout Vietnam. It is simply incredible what the tailors can make for the prices they charge. Most shops have the latest fashion catalogues, and you simply choose what you want, have a fitting and they set to work making it for you - often very quickly. You will also find plenty of other souvenir shops, especially shops selling paintings, wood carvings and the colorful lanterns, which are beautiful when lit up at night. Please contact a travel consultant of Travel Vietnam reputable vendors.
Sightseeing in Hoi An
Japanese Covered Bridge – Built in 1593 by the Japanese to link their quarter of town to the Chinese quarter. At one end of the structure are statues of two dogs and at the other, statues of two monkeys – perhaps indicating the years when the bridge’s construction was begun and completed. There is a small temple on the northern side of the bridge which is dedicated to Tran Vo Bac De – God controls wind and rain.
Chua Ong Pagoda – Founded in 1653 by the Chinese community, this temple is dedicated to Quan Cong, a revered general of the Chinese Han dynasty. Come here to contemplate life the bright-red interior of the temple or while watching the small of fish that happily dart around in the pond out front. The carp, symbolic of patience in Chinese mythology, is displayed throughout.
Tan Ky ancestral house – One of the oldest private houses in Hoi An, this structure has remained largely unchanged in the 200 years since it was built. Seven generations of the Tan Ky family have lived here. The house incorporates both Chinese and Japanese styles. Japanese elements include the crab shell-shaped ceiling supported by three beams in the living room. Chinese poems written in mother-of-pearl are hanging from a number of the columns that hold up the roof.
Chinese Assembly Hall – Built as a meeting place for Chinese residents of Hoi An, this hall later became a temple dedicated to the Fujian goddess of the sea and protector of fishermen, Thien Hau. It’s a reminder of how important fishing and trading were to the Chinese community in Hoi An. This temple is architecturally unique with its artistic ornaments and beautiful statues. The Chinese architectural style combined with Vietnamese workmanship has enriched it with Hoi An's cultural character.
My Son Sanctuary – Former temples and towers dedicated to kings and divinities, particularly Shiva, who was considered the founder of the Kingdom of Champa. Construction first began in the 4th century under the order of the Cham king Bhadresvara and continued until the 13th century. With more than 70 brick structures, of which some 20 remain in recognizable form today, the vestiges are valuable treasures of information for studying the development of Cham culture despite the damage of time and war. During its seven centuries of development, Cham arts produced many works equal to masterpieces of the world. Though less imposing than the Angkor in Cambodia and less diversified than the Pagan site in Myanmar, My Son is unique of its kind in Southeast Asia. With its great value, in December 1999, the My Son Sanctuary has been recognized as a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO.