Hoi An

Perhaps more than any other place in Vietnam, Hoi An retains a sense of charm and history that have largely escaped the destruction of successive wars. The town, once a riverside village, is now a tourist town packed with hotels, restaurants, bars, tailors and souvenir shops. There is nothing like wandering about the town on a full moon night of every month when motorbikes are banned from the Old Town, which is transformed into a magical land of silk lanterns, traditional food, song and dance, and games in the streets.

Although the temperatures are warm in Hoi An throughout the year, the hottest months on average are June and July and the coldest months of the year are December and January. 

Generally more important to visitors than temperatures is the rain.  The rainy (or monsoon) season in Hoi An is from September until January.  During this time, rain clouds will constantly move through the area.  There are days during which sunshine is abundant, but they are not the majority.  A noticeable decrease in tourism can be seen during the wet season. The dry season is from February until May. These months provide plenty of sunshine, with warm temperatures. 

That said, the best time to visit Hoi An is between May and June.

Things to do in Hoi An:

  • Strolling around Hoi An's rambling market streets-lined with centuries old houses, quite boutique and famous tailors. 
  • Having clothes tailored. This is the place for silk, ao dai and whatever you want of clothing. Present your favorite samples, come up for (several) fitting(s) you’re your clothes will be delivered to your hotel.
  • Visiting art galleries and lunch in one food outlets, watching the timeless scenery unfolded before your eyes. 
  • Purchasing a couple of lanterns as souvenirs for your beloved at home.
  • Booking a cooking class where you are instructed how to cook Vietnam’s traditional food by most respected artisans.   
  • Take a paddle boat trip on the Thu Bon River – the largest in Quang Nam province.
  • A half or full day trip to My Son Holy Land will easily be worth your effort. The monuments are set in a verdant valley surrounded by hills and overlooked by the massive Hon Quap Mountain. Most travelers prefer departing in the early in the morning to see the sunrise which is divine.

Where to go in Hoi An and nearbys:

Japanese Covered Bridge The name of this bridge in Vietnamese, Lai Vien Kieu, means "Pagoda in Japan." No one is exactly sure who first built it in the early 1600s, but it is usually attributed to Hoi An's Japanese community. The dog flanking one end and the monkey at the other are considered to be sacred animals to the ancient Japanese.

Quan Cong Temple was built in the early 1600s to honor a famous Chinese dynasty General. Highlights inside are two gargantuan 3m-high wooden statues flanking the main altar, one of Quan Cong's protector and one of his adopted son. They are fearsome and impressive. The temple was reported to be a stop for merchants who came in from the nearby river to pay their respects and pray for the general's attributes of loyalty, bravery, and virtue.

Cantonese Assembly Hall Built in 1885, this hall is quite ornate and colorful. All of the building materials were completed in China, brought here, and then reassembled. The center garden sports a fountain with a dragon made of chipped pottery, the centerpiece. Inside, look for the statues depicting scenes from famous Cantonese operas and, in the rooms to each side, the ancestral tablets of generations past.

The Old House of Phung Hung Constructed in 1780, the two floor house is of combined architectural influences. The first floor's central roof is four-sided, showing Japanese influence, and the upstairs balcony has a Chinese rounded "turtle shell" roof with carved beam supports.

House of Hoi An Traditional Handicraft is basically a silk shop with an interesting gimmick: On the first floor you can see both a 17th-century silk loom and a working, machine-powered cotton one. On the second, you can see where silk comes from: There are trays of silkworms feeding, then a rack of worms incubating, and then a tub of hot water where the pupae's downy covering is rinsed off and then pulled, strand by strand, onto a large skein. They have the best selection of silks, both fine and raw, in many colors and weights good for clothing and for home interiors.

Phuc Kien Assembly Hall is the grandest of the assembly halls, built in 1697 by Chinese merchants from Phuc KienProvince. It is a showpiece of classical Chinese architecture, at least after you pass the first gate, which was added in 1975. It's loaded with animal themes: The fish in the mosaic fountain symbolizes scholarly achievement, the unicorn flanking the ascending stairs symbolizes wisdom, the dragon symbolizes power, the turtle symbolizes longevity, and the phoenix symbolizes nobility. The main temple is dedicated to Thien Hau, goddess of the sea, on the main altar. To the left of her is Thuan Phong Nhi, a goddess who can hear ships in a range of thousands of miles, and on the right is Thien Ly Nhan, who can see them.

Old House of Tan Ky Built over 200 years ago, the four small rooms are crammed with dark-wood antiques. The room closest to the street is for greeting visiting merchants. Farther in is the living room, then the courtyard, and, to the back, the bedroom. The first three are open to the public. A guide who will greet you at the door will hasten to explain how the house is a perfect melding of three architectural styles: ornate Chinese detailing on some curved roof beams, a Japanese peaked roof, and a simple Vietnamese cross-hatch roof support. The mosaic decorations on the wall and furniture are aged, intricate, and amazing.

Hoi An Cathedral Originally built in 1903, the structure was rebuilt in 1964 with the influx of greater numbers of Catholics seeking refuge from persecution in the North. There's a small orphanage out back, and this stalwart working cathedral ministers to more than an estimated 1,000 patricians in the area.

Museum of History and Culture This building erected in 1653 houses works that cross 2,000 years of Hoi An history from Cham relics to ancient ceramics and photos of local architecture.

Museum of Trade Ceramics Located in a traditional house, this museum describes the origins of Hoi An as a trade port and displays its most prominent trade item. Objects are from the 13th through 17th centuries and include Chinese and Thai works as well. While many of the exhibits are in fragments, the real beauty of the place is that the very thorough descriptions are in English, giving you a real sense of the town's origins and history. Furthermore, the architecture and renovations of the old house are thoroughly explained, and you're free to wander through its two floors, courtyard, and anteroom.

Tran Family Home and Chapel In 1802 a civil service mandarin named Tran Tu Nhuc built a family home and chapel to worship his ancestors. Elegantly designed with original Chinese antiques and royal gifts such as swords, two parts of the home are open to the public: a drawing room and an ancestral chapel. One roof tile has been replaced with transparent glass, allowing a single shaft of light to slice through the chapel and onto the altar in the morning. The house does a splendid job of conveying all that is exotic and interesting about these people and their period. The drawing room has three sections of sliding doors: the left for men, the right for women, and the center, open only at Tet and other festivals, for dead ancestors to return home. The ancestral altar in the inner room has small boxes behind it containing relics and a biography of the deceased; their pictures hang, a little spookily, to the right of the altar. A 250-year-old book of the family history resides on a table to the right of the altar.

Sa Huynh Culture Museum includes some of the burial jars, beaded ornaments, pottery vessels, and iron tools and weapons that have been uncovered. The building itself is not as interesting as most of the others but much interests travelers for the collection of objects it houses, rather than its setting. 

Central Market If you see one Vietnamese market, make it this one, by the river on the southeast side of the city. There are endless stalls of exotic foodstuffs and services, and a special big shed for silk tailoring at the east end (these tailors charge much less than the ones along Le Loi Street).

Transfer in and to Hoi An:

Buses The main Hoi An Bus Station is 1km west of the centre of town. Buses from here go to Da Nang , Quang Ngai and other points. More frequent services to Da Nang leave from the northern bus station from 5am until the late afternoon.

A regular stop on the open-bus route, it’s easy to pick up a service to or from Hue or Nha Trang.

Cars To get to Da Nang (30km) you can either head north out of town and join up with Highway 1A, or east to Cua DaiBeach and follow the excellent new road along China Beach. The going rate for a taxi between Danang and Hoi An is around US$10.

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