Hoi An is undoubtedly my favourite spot in Vietnam as of yet. Being a UNESCO world heritage site, it has been incredibly well preserved as a 15th to 19th century South-East Asian fishing port. Surrounded by old, traditional buildings and a simple way of life, you feel as if you’ve taken a step back in time.
Above, you can see the Japanese covered bridge, an example of the imprint left by the countries that used the town as a trading port in the 16th and 17th centuries. The most evident influence is from China and Japan but there are still undercurrents of the period of French administration such as the bakeries and baguettes/paté etc.
The atmosphere during the day time is incredibly relaxed and mellow – with large areas of the old town being only accessible by foot or bike. It seems apt, therefore, that the original translation of ‘Hoi An’ is “peaceful meeting place”. The town is also filled to the brim with tailors of all sorts of descriptions making this a fantastic place to be fitted out with a very reasonably priced new wardrobe (if you have the luxury of packing space and excess money!) Another local speciality is silk production; you can even stop in to one of the silk ‘houses’ to see the traditional process – worm to scarves:
If you’ve had enough of pottering about the magical streets, or bartering with tailors, then Cua Dai beach is also just a few km away and in my opinion is far preferable to the likes of Nha Trang: Fewer tourists, not built up, cleaner and bigger.
At night time, the town takes on a whole new lease of life. Colourful lanterns light up the streets – dotted along the bridges, buildings, shops and trees. The entire population seem to suddenly emerge from no where and new markets spring up selling locally crafted produce (notably, large collections of the lanterns). Women and children along the riverside sell candles in little paper boats for you to send down stream for good luck, traditionally on the full moon. It’s definitely a site not to be missed.