Hoi An Ancient Town
Hoi An is a small town on the bank of Thu Bon river in the central of Quang Nam province. Hoi An is one of the most famous destination in the middle part of Viet Nam , 30km far from Da Nang, Hoi An ancient town was recognized as the World heritage by UNESCO. The town was the very important trading port of South – East Asia from the 15th to the 19th century, where Chinese from various provinces as well as Japanese, Dutch and Indians settled. These caused a lot of effect with the architecture of Hoi An and makes the town become the unique heritage site.
Hoi an is a charming little riverside town famed for its beautiful old buildings, its narrow, quiet streets and its history as a merchant trading post. As the citizens of the town grew richer from trading with China, Japan and the rest of Southeast Asia, they spent their money on building attractive houses and pagodas.
The architecture in the town is beautiful, the atmosphere relaxed and the food fantastic. There is a long beach not far from the town and plenty of shops and tailors within the town that encourage travelers to stay for a while.
Despite the high numbers of tourists Hoi An manages to retain its charm – perhaps many of them stay hidden away inside the many hotels and resorts that fill the town. The main evidence is the number of shops and tailors lining the central streets, but even this doesn’t detract too much from the atmosphere.
In fact, many people come to Hoi An specifically for the tailors – reknowned throughout Viet Nam for their skill and value for money, they can produce just about any garment to order, be it a suit from $50, a copy of your favorite piece of clothing or a reproduction of a dress from a photo in a magazine.
The tailors are great value but it does pay to look around – examine the quality of the samples in their shop, and try visiting stores a little further away from the main tourist streets.
BEST TIME TO GO
The best time to visit Hoi An is between February and April, when rainfall is low and temperatures are comfortable. During summer, the temperatures can get hot; during the rainy season, particularly during October and November, it can rain constantly and there is a high probability of flood and typhoons. It is lucky if you can travel to Hoi An on the 14th day of the lunar year each month when Hoi An celebrate the Full Moon Festivals and becomes the stage for traditional songs, dancing, games and food, with lanterns lining all of the streets.
The major port of air entry for Hoi An is Da Nang International Airport (DAD). There are daily flights from Hanoi and Hochiminh City and without delay, it is one-hour flight.
From the airport, it takes about 45 minutes by car to Hoi An center. Taxi are plentiful as you walk out of the luggage area. It should cost around 15-18 dollars by meter taxi.
Tip: when booking your hotel in Hoi An, check if they have a pick-up service. The service usually costs about 10 dollars. Another way of saving your bucks is to bargain with the taxi driver for a fixed price instead of having your trip metered. The fixed fee should be 13 dollars at most.
Open tour bus run from most major destinations to Hoi An. If you catch a bus from Hanoi, it will most likely be overnight bus. From Hue it takes about 2.5 hours to arrive. You can purchase your tickets from most tour companies in the tourist area.
From Da Nang, city bus runs every hour from the Bus station at 33 Dien Bien Phu, Thanh Khe district. It costs about 1 dollar for one way ticket.
Buses run daily from Southern destinations such as Nha Trang, Da Lat and Hochiminh City. The same open tour rule applies and it’s advisable you book your ticket in advance to guarantee good seating.
ATTRACTIONS IN HOI AN
MY SON SANCTUARY
My Son Sanctuary is set in a small valley belonging to Duy Phu Commune, Duy Xuyen District, Quang Nam Province, about 70km southwest of Danang City and 40km from Hoi An City. Of the 225 Cham vestiges that are founded in Vietnam, My Son possesses 71 monuments and 32 epitaphs, the content of which is still being studied.
The Cham Kingdom had two sanctuaries belonging to two main opposing clans. My Son of the Dua Clan, ruled over the north of the kingdom and was the place for the worship of God Srisana Bhadresvara. The Cau Clan, who reigned over the south had Po Nagar Sanctuary, dedicated to Goddess Po Nagar. Nevertheless, My Son was considered as the sanctuary of the Cham Kingdom. Read More…
JAPANESE BRIDGE PAGODA
The thing that brought the fame to Hoi An was the Bridge Pagoda built by the Japanese. The Japanese built it themselves or they hired the Chinese to build it? It is the question of history. We only know that this pagoda is located on the water stream with strong currents especially in the flooded seasons. The bridge includes two parts : bridge and pagoda. The bridge was built with jointed planks, leaving the passage for traveling in between and the two aisles on both sides for pedestrians.
The small-trade vendors took the advantages of these walking ways to sell books or any trivial stuffs, together with the serious story – tellers who could tell the life story of the passers – by reading their palm-lines. At the either end of the bridge are the two statues of monkey and dog, which may mean that the construction started in the year of monkey and ended in the year of dog. But other people considered it a custom that needed considering. The pagoda located close to the bridge was also made of wood.
OLD HOUSE OF TAN KY
Located at 101 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, in the Old Quarter of Hoi An Ancient Town, Tan Ky Old house is an almost perfect example of a 18th merchant’s residence in this major commercial port town. The name Tan Ky, meaning “Progress Shop”, was given to the house by the second generation to express the owner’s wish for a prosperous business.
Being the combination of Vietnamese, Japanese as well as Chinese elements, from a time when the three communities lived together in Hoi An during the 16th and 17th centuries, the house strongly represents features of Oriental philosophy, such as the the triple-beam structure (stands for heaven, earth and humans), the five round blocks (represent metal, wood, water, fire and earth – the five basic natural elements in Eastern philosophy) and several decorative carvings on the edge of the roof and furniture
CHAM ISLAND (Cu Lao Cham)
Cham Island is a group of 8 small islands, which has been recognized by UNESCO as the World Biosphere Reserve (Cu Lao Cham Marine Park).This ideal destination is endowed with marvelous topography of mountain slopes and biological diversity. From Cua Dai Beach, Quang Nam province, it takes about 30 minutes to arrive at Cham Island by express boat, though tourists may choose 45-minute-boat instead, to enjoy the feeling of travelling by fishermen’s boats.
What appeals to tourists in Cham Island is its wide variety of leisure activities in a picturesque and pristine setting. Traditional forms of recreation range from swimming on crystal-clear beaches, sunbathing on long-stretching white-sandy coast to exploring the forest. For those who are interested in marine life exploration activities, there are available facilities for water sports like: swimming, water skiing, paragliding, kayaking, kite flying, boat racing and scuba diving.
THE TRAN FAMILY CHAPEL
Tran Family Chapel is one of the oldest and most historical houses in this city, dated back to the beginning of 19th century. This was built by Tran Tu Nhac – a highly-respected mandarin under Gia Long Reign, before he was sent to China as the King’s envoys. Originally, it serves as a worshipping place for the family’s ancestors, as well as a reminder about the family’s tradition to the following generations.
Today, tourists can find this famous must-see attraction in the old town Hoi An, at 21 Le Loi Street. The house and the garden were built in harmony following strictly the rules of Feng Shui. The drawing room of the chapel has separate entries for men and women: the left is for men and the right is only for women, according to old belief.
THE CHINESE ASSEMBLY HALLS
As the Chinese immigrants reached the central part of Vietnam known as Hoi An today, they decided to create the opportunities for themselves and the next generations to socialize and protect the Chinese traditions by building many Assembly Halls. Nowadays, even though not all of the halls stay the same, the five remaining ones (Fujian, Chaozhou, Hainan, Cantonese, and Chinese) become famous attractions of Hoi An.
Among the five assembly halls in Hoi An, Fujian Assembly Hall is greatest and most famous. It was erected around 1690 to function as a place for the Chinese ethnic group from Fujian, China to socialize and worship. The main part of the hall is a temple dedicated to Thien Hau, the goddess of the sea who protects sailors from danger. As told by the preceding generations, the Chinese in Hoi An decided to build that temple to worship the statue of the goddess which was found on Hoi An beach in 1697. With several paintings, murals and huge altars, the entire decoration of the temple concentrate not only on Thien Hau but also on the majestic beauty and the power of other influential gods and goddesses in the Chinese’s belief.
CUA DAI BEACH
Cua Dai literally means the ‘big sea mouth’. Cua Dai beach is located in the area of Cam An Ward, about 4km to the north-east of Hoi An Town, Quang Nam Province. Cua Dai Beach is over 3km in length and up to 300m in width. The beach boasts fine white sand, clear and blue water, moderate slopes and small waves, which make it ideal for recreational activities like swimming and other sea sports.
This beach is closest to Hoi An, is very beautiful and is well worth a visit to cool off when the heats starts to get to you. The only eyesore are the bizarre changing huts and bungalows. It is an incredibly long beach with loads of room to wander off for a bit of personal space, which is so difficult to find in Vietnam. If you spend a day at the beach and elect to take a deckchair, you will be asked to buy either a baguette, some lovely pineapple or a drink, otherwise you will have to pay for the seat. All these prices are inflated, but the pineapple in particular is delicious.
PHUNG HUNG ANCIENT HOUSE
The Old House of Phung Hung is one of the most famous architectural buildings in Hoi An, considered cultural heritage of the town. Visit this ancient home in Hoi An and enjoy the old-world charm. The house is located at 4 Nguyen Thi Minh Khan Street. It was built in 1780, when Hoi An was prospering, and it is a typical commercial house representative of Vietnam’s urban areas in the 19th century.
Conferred the title of “National Historical and Cultural Site” in 1993, the house has kept many documents about the architecture, culture, art and lifestyle of the Hoi An’s business circle from the old days. Phung Hung House bears the popular style of the 19th century – tubular shape, with a wide façade. It is not as long as some other old-style houses, and it is mainly made of wood, with two stories and four roofs. Here you can see a unique blending of two different architectural styles.
BAI CHONG BEACH
Bai Chong is ideal eco-tour for tourists. More than 10 years ago, this pristine beach has been aroused by reasonable investment of local government. With an area of 34.800 m2, Bai Chong beach has the finest sand in Hon Lao island (1 of 8 islands in Cham islands.).
There are the various types of plants between natural waterfalls coming from high mountains and rocks in unusual shapes.Dotting in the white-sand beach are big stones which are grinded by time. This place is a paradise for people who want to try adventurous feeling. You can enjoy the atmosphere of nature here. Camping, climbing in strange rocks as well as wallow in the beach will be unforgettable memories for anyone coming to Bai Chong.
THU BON RIVER
Thu Bon River is one of the nicest waterways in Vietnam. The river begins at an altitude of 2,598m, in the Ngoc Linh Mountain. Thu Bon River in Hoi An plays an important role in the geography, culture and history of Hoi An. Moreover, the Thu Bon River is not just the chief culminating point for most festivals and events that are held in Hoi An, but also the chief source of livelihood for many residents of the town. Nowadays, the remains of the ancient port and the picturesque waterfronts can be seen along the river.
The river is responsible in a big way for the traditional and historical heritage of the town of Hoi An. The now fishing town of Hoi An was a popular international trade destination and also a convenient stopover for many merchant ships bound to and from China and other countries.
HOI AN TRADITIONAL THEATER
The Hoi An Traditional Theater is a small, cozy venue located on Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, offering live performances of Vietnamese folk dances and songs. The limited space actually works for visiting tourists since they can see the facial expressions of the performers, every twitching of the wrists, and the intricate designs on the costumes and musical instruments.
The show takes place from 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM every day for free, after having paid entrance into the Old Town. Ticket to the town is only US$4.50 (about 93,000 dong), which allows a tourist to see five attractions, sites or shows inside the town. The traditional theater is a favorite among foreigners since the performers give life to the many artifacts and relics that could be seen all over this uniquely historical city. English-speaking guests may not understand the English introductions for each song, but it doesn’t really matter since the traditional sounds, music and movements speak a thousand words.
CHUC THANH PAGODA
This is the oldest Buddhist temple in Hoi An, originally built in 1454. The original ancient gateway is still standing but a large modern gate has been built in front of it and on the left you’ll see three newer pagodas. There’s also an extensive cemetery plot to the right that you can wander through. The Chuc Thanh Pagoda in Hoi An currently houses 5 monks, headed by a Buddhist priest called Thich Tri Nhan, who are the chief guardians of the Thien Tam Te religion and also the precious relics of the pagoda.
The relics include a the bells within the pagoda, a two century old stone gong and another wooden gong in the shape of a carp that is even older that the stone gong. The Chuc Thanh Pagoda in Hoi An houses the deities Tam The Phat, Di Lac, and La Han within the walls, while there is another deity – the ‘Goddess of Mercy’ Quan The Am Bo Tat – just outside the pagoda. Outside the Chuc Thanh Pagoda in Hoi An are also the tombs of the renowned priests Minh Hai, Thiet Tho, An Bich, and Thien Qua.
ACTIVITIES IN HOI AN
Scuba Diving & Snorkeling in Hoi An
Scuba diving and snorkelling are superb off the cost of Hoi An with hundreds of different varieties of coral and tropical fish thriving in the warm tropical waters.
Additionally, the Cu Lao Cham Marine Park is just 21km from Hoi An old town and comprises eight islands in the South China Sea that are just teeming with marine life, the most exciting of which is Cham Island.
Biking & Cycling Biking & Cycling
Biking is a must in Hoi An regardless of your level of fitness. Leave the city behind to explore 12th century pagodas, remote country villages, war memorials and rice fields.
Excursions will give you the chance to really get up close and personal with some of the more rural villagers and to see how they live from the land. There are two main companies offering a variety of tours and include all equipment hire.
Shopping in Hoi An
When most visitors think of shopping in Hoi An, silk springs to mind. This town has Vietnam’s finest selection and quality of silk and hand-tailored clothes. Virtually every visitor goes home with something since the prices are too good to resist. There are dozens of tailor shops, and overall the craftsmanship is very good. It pays to shop around to find the best shop for quality and service.
Wall Street Tailors in Hoi An has a reputation of being Hoi An’s best tailors by offering high quality fabrics, well trained tailors and cutting edge designs. Established by Anna from fashion capital London, England and the other local to Hoi An, they offer a unique blend of East and West.
Tran Phu Street is the place to hunt for Vietnamese art, pottery and woodcarvings. This is also where skilled local cobblers still make custom shoes at excellent prices. Central Market can fulfil all your souvenir needs, but wherever you shop be prepared to haggle over the price. Being a foreigner you will inevitable be overcharged so bargain hard.
HOI AN NIGHTLIFE
Hoi An, an old town in Vietnam, is indeed so small in size that we can explored the whole town on foot. Although Hoi An has a reputation as a town turning light off early, the Night Life in Hoi An is quite energizing. With many beautiful and interesting spots at night, Hoi An greets its visitors in its own unique way.
Hoi An with many historic houses and temples is very beautiful at night because of the colorful lantern. You can wander along these glistening streets and enjoy the nice and fresh atmosphere here.
Especially, during the full moon of every month, local shop owners turn off the electricity and hang lanterns bearing their shops’ names, and a candlelight lantern procession, complete with a few small floats, make its way through the Old Town and along the riverfront. It’s well worth timing a visit to enjoy the spectacle and the post-processional festivities.
Moreover, Hoi An has many bars and night spots. You can enjoin music at the bars having the tradition of playing live bands, a famous one that you can find is The Tam- Tam Café on Nguyen Thai Hoc Street. Tam – Tam offers a wide range of drinks and food. Your night will be more wonderful if you can grab a table near the balcony. There are some other famous spots such as Hai Scout Café at 98 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Treat’s Same Same Not Different Bar at 93 Tran Hung Dao str., which can present you romantic night by the candle light dinner with delicious food and vintage wine.
Many interesting things at Hoi An is waiting for your discovery. If you can arrange time, arriving Hoi An at the 14th night of each month seems to be the most wonderful time for tourists to enjoy Hoi An night life.
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