Located on the banks of the poetic Thu Bon River, in central Quang Nam province, 30 kilometers south of Da Nang, Hoi An ancient town is an Eastern oriental classic captivation. With the strategic location on the banks of the great river, with one seaside border (East), it used to be one of the major trading centers in Southeast Asia during the 16th century due to the early western trader occupying period.
Due to its favorable geographical characteristics, this land had existed and developed the belated Sa Huynh culture for over 2000 years,. The result of archaeological research in four burial relics (An Bang, Hau Xa I, Hau Xa II, Xuan Lam) and 5 living places (Hau Xa I, boiling, Dong Na, Thanh Chiam, Bau Da ), were various types of typical burial jars with production tools, life tools, excellent stone/ ceramic/glass/ metal jewelries . In particular, the discovery of two Chinese coins (Pentateuch, Wang Mang), the Western Han Dynasty-style iron artifacts, the shadow of Dong Son, Oc Eo culture, or jewelries with refined processing technique in the excavated hole proved an interesting thing that in early AD, foreign trade was initiated in Hoi An.
According to historical documents, the number of vessels entering the harbor so much crowded, the goods were diversified. During this period, Hoi An was an international commercial port flourished in most of countries and Southeast Asia, a major economic base of the Nguyen dynasty also.
From the late 19th century, influenced by many adverse factors, "Hoi An sailboat port” gradually declined and then disappeared, leaving its historic role for “young mechanic port" in Da Nang. But due to that, Hoi An could avoid a variation from the impact of modern urbanization to keep preserving an urban architectural ensemble unique and great till now. During 117 years of resistance against foreign invasion (1858-1975), thousands of Hoi An people who fell down for the independence and unification of Viet Nam.
Landmarks of Hoi An
Hoi An’s symbol, the most popular remnant is the Japanese Covered Bridge (Chua Cau or Lai Vien Kieu), on the west end of Tran Phu Street. The bridge was constructed in the early 1600's by the Japanese community. Tourists should spend time on visiting Quan Cong Temple, Musium of Culture... Many ancient style - oriented architects come here to have a direct look into the ancient houses of the town, among which are Phung Hung House, just west of the Japanese Bridge, Quan Thang House, or Tan Ky House. The design of the houses show how local architecture incorporated Japanese and Chinese influences. Cantonese Assembly Hall (Quang Dong) has a calm courtyard with ornate statuary. You could take a peek at the half-hidden back yard and its kitschy pastel dragon statues. Hokien (Fujian) Meeting Hall (Phuc Kien) and Chinese All-Community Meeting Hall (Trieu Chau), are also spanning the block. If you are Buddhist, there are a lot of pagodas to visit. Ong Pagoda, Quan Am Phat Tu Minh Huong Pagoda, etc. are premium places to get in.
This city is also known for its unique cuisine and many specialties. One of the most popular one - Cao lau, a dish of rice noodles somehow closer in texture to pasta. The water used to make it is the secret ingredient, being collected from a special well in the city. The noodles are topped with slices of roast pork, dough fritters, and lots of fresh herbs and veggies.
Today, the town is a tourist attraction because of its history, traditional architecture and crafts such as textiles and ceramics. In 1999, the old town was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO as a well-preserved example of a south-east Asian trading port of the 15th to 19th centuries, with buildings that display a unique blend of local and foreign influences.
Hoi An has no airport, and no train station either. The only way to get there is by road. One can hire a taxi from the neighboring city of Da Nang, which does have an airport with daily flights from Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and other large Vietnamese cities. There’s also a train station in Da Nang, and bus services are plentiful.
Hoi An Today
As a result of its isolation, Hoi An remained a small city with its history intact. In 1999, UNESCO named Hoi An a World Heritage Site, because it was such a well-preserved example of a 15th - 19th century Asian trading port. With UNESCO's recognition came tourist recognition, and the last decade has seen a different kind of commercial resurgence for Hoi An, as western tourists gradually rediscover the charm of this old Vietnamese city. Today, Hoi An is a common stop along the trail for backpacking adventurers, and meanwhile, a number of bars, restaurants, and internet cafes have opened to cater to tourists. Many craft shops can be found in Hoi An, including traditional Vietnamese ceramics and fabric production. In particular, Hoi An has become known for its tailors, who can produce custom-made clothes for a fraction of what it would cost in the west.
In short, for those planning to visit central Vietnam, Hoi An should definitely be at the top of their lists. Rich in history and culture, and only a stone's throw from China Beach, the Marble Mountains, and the Champa Islands, Hoi An remains one of the only gems of Southeast Asia not yet overrun with tourists.