Hoi An travel guide
The maritime importance of Hoi An stretches as far back as the second century BC.. Hoi An has been occupied by Japanese and Chinese, as well as Europeans, leaving an interesting legacy and culture. As far back as the 16th century the river and seaport of Hoi An bustled with activity, as evidenced by the large numbers of Chinese shophouses and 18th- and 19th-century homes of Chinese merchants still present in the town today. The harbor began to silt up in the late 18th century, and that spelled the demise of Hoi An as an international trading center.
Today you can still see the homes, shophouses, temples and Cham monuments in and around Hoi An and My Son.
Hoi An was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. It could easily be one of the highlights of your trip, especially if you add the attraction of made-to-order clothes.
Getting There & Away
The nearest airport is 30 km/18 miles away in Danang. The easiest way into Hoi An is by taxi, at a cost of about $10-$15. If you arrive or leave by train, you will also arrive in Danang, and take a taxi or Honda Om to town. The open tour buses will drop you at their respective offices in town.
Bicycle rentals are very inexpensive – a few dollars a day – and easy to arrange at almost any hotel. Motorbike rentals are also cheap – less than $5 a day through your hotel.
To see the central part of Hoi An plan on walking. Traffic is restricted, and that includes bicycles.
Where to Eat & Nightlife
Restaurants are plentiful and good. Faifoo, 104 Tran Phu (beach). Try the five-course sampler of Hoi An dishes. Hoi An Hai Sen, 64 Bach Dang. The main specialty is seafood, but the sources – Vietnamese, Turkish, and Scandinavia – are curious. Still, the food is good but a bit pricey. Quan An, 18 Hoang Van Thu. Simple, cheap, local food.
Not much goes on here at night.
The area is becoming a clothesmaking and crafts center for the entire region.
Silk custom-tailored clothes can be made in 24 hours (but more time is better) and prices are much lower than in the rest of the country. For the best deals check out the market with its tailors’ stalls.
If you head out of town there are numerous villages, each with a crafts specialty. This is where the bicycle comes in handy.
What to See & Do
Your hotel is a good source of information, especially if you want to go to My Son or the nearby craft villages.
Too many travelers come to Hoi An for one reason - to get custom silk, wool, and cotton clothes made in a hurry. They miss the charms of this truly lovely, interesting city and nearby My Son. Hoi An was, and still is, an important part of Vietnamese culture, and has the buildings, temples, and monuments to prove it.
The Old City
Start by wandering the narrow streets of the old town. As soon as you leave the main street, with its art galleries, tailor shops, and souvenir vendors, you enter a different world. Take note of the tiled roofs, pastel-colored two-story residences and shophouses, and then go into the bustling market. There are only three short streets that comprise old Hoi An so it’s a brief, pleasant stroll.
Tip: You can buy a single ticket that allows entry to many of the monuments and museums in Hoi An. Ask at your hotel.
Japanese Covered Bridge at the western end of Tran Phu. It’s a red-painted arched wooden bridge first built in the 16th century and reconstructed several times since then. This is the bridge used as the symbol of Hoi An.
You’ll come to the
See a large picture of the Japanese Covered Bridge.
The entire old city is filled with Chinese assembly halls –meeting places for Chinese of different regional origins. If you came from Fujian, or Guangzhou, and so forth, you had a dedicated assembly or meeting place. The assembly halls are:
Phouc Kien (46 Tran Phu). This is the Fujian assembly hall, built in the late 17th century and added to several times. It has an ornate, gaudy entrance and a number of interesting statues and carvings.
Trieu Chau (157 Nguyen Duy Hien). This assembly hall belongs to the Chaozhou group, and is on the eastern edge of town. It is heavily carved and ornate, and dates from the late 18th century.
Hai Nam (10 Tran Phu) was founded by the Hainanese group in the late 18th century. It has an ornately carved, gilded altar.
Cantonese (just east of the Japanese bridge). This assembly hall was built in the 18th century by immigrants from Guangzhou (Canton). It is impressively ornate and gaudy with a pleasant courtyard.
Chinese Assembly Hall (center of town). Built in 1740 as a facility for all the Chinese groups in Hoi An – a general meeting place.
Merchants’ Houses (Shophouses)
Walking along Tran Phu and towards the river you will see a number of two-story merchants’ houses. The best known is the Tan Ky House at 101 Nguyen Thai Hoc, a carved, wooden, two-story building in excellent condition. Note the amalgamation of styles: Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese. Take particular note of the rich woods and beautiful inlaid areas inside.
Other merchants’ houses worth a look include the Diep Dong Nguyen House at 80 Nguyen Thai Hoc (across from the Tan Ky House), which was converted to a pharmacy and still has the old cases, and the Phung Hung House at 4 Nguyen Thai Hoc, still lived in eight generations later by the descendants of the original builders.
There are several museums that are worth a peek. Probably the most interesting is the Museum of Trade Ceramics at 80 Tran Phu. The building itself is intriguing since it typifies the building style of warehouse and residence combined. The ceramics trade in Hoi An was in its heyday in the 15th and 16th centuries and there are a number of ceramic samples from those days.
The Museum of Sa Huynh Culture features artifacts from the culture that occupied Hoi An from the second century BC to about the second century AD.
You can buy almost any goods or services in the market. This is the place to order those custom clothes,
get a pedicure, or even a haircut. Just avoid the areas that sell chickens or other birds.
Day-Trips from Hoi An
The other big destination in the vicinity of Hoi An centers on the Cham culture (the culture that spread to Cambodia and points beyond in the sixth-eighth centuries).
This is the biggest concentration of Cham towers and buildings in the area. The site is 40 km/24 miles from Hoi An. The road has been improved so now it can be a day trip from Hoi An. Get your hotel to arrange a guided tour. It only costs $2-$3 plus entrance fees. Some tours arrange part of the return trip by boat. If you are feeling really ambitious you might be able to get your hotel to help arrange a bicycle or motorbike trip to My Son.
My Son was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site recently. It is nothing close to the marvels of Angkor
Wat or Bagan, but still impressive.
Until recently, My Son was almost totally surrounded by dense jungle. The immediate area has been cleared, but you still will get the feeling of the original forests that covered much of this part of Vietnam.
The majority of the excavated buildings and towers date from the seventh-13th centuries, although there is evidence the site was used as early as the fourth century. This was the burial place of Cham kings.
Caution. Be careful – this area was heavily mined in the 1970s and ’80s, and there may also be unexploded ordnance in the vicinity. STAY ON THE PATHS! It is really best to go with a guide.
See here a large picture from My Son.
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