Hoi An

Few visitors fail to be charmed by the tiny, teeming streets and crooked houses of Hoi An, 30 kilometres south of Danang. Indeed, almost everyone rates the town among their favourite stops in Vietnam. Originally a harbour for the Cham city at My Son, the town became a trading port for Chinese, Japanese and European traders, reaching its peak during the 17th century. The different influences on this riverside town over the centuries have resulted in an eclectic mix of architectural styles, ranging from Chinese assembly halls to grand merchants' houses to French colonial villas. Though many of the houses have been restored, they maintain their original beauty. Most are characterized by polished wooden floors, intricately carved doors and shutters and antique furniture. Read more...

In recent years, Hoi An's traders have dedicated themselves to the arts, and the town is home to dozens of art galleries, textile houses and museums. Transportation around Hoi An is by cyclo, on foot or by hired bicycle. A half-hour pedal at a leisurely pace brings visitors to Hoi An's popular Cua Dai beach. Alternatively, one can rent a local sampan and enjoy a peaceful boat ride down the river to the beach.

Places of interest

The Japanese covered bridge was built over a small canal in 1593 to link the Japanese quarter to the Chinese quarter. Designed and built by the Japanese community, the wooden structure has remained intact. On one side of the bridge are carvings of two dogs and on the other two statues of monkeys. There are two possible reasons for this: firstly construction began during a year of the dog and ended during a year of the monkey and secondly both the dog and monkey were revered by the Japanese as many of their Emperors were born in either a dog or monkey year. On the northern side of the bridge there is a Japanese pagoda dedicated to protecting sailors.

This assembly hall dates back to 697 and is the largest, oldest and most colorful in the town. The pagoda inside contains intricate statues and artwork, in part dedicated to Thien Hau Thanh Mau, the Goddess of the Sea and protector of fishermen. Just inside the building a mural depicts the goddess preparing to rescue a ship in trouble at sea.

This well preserved 18th century house blends Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese architectural styles. Chinese poems written in mother-of-pearl are inscribed on the columns, the roof is shaped in a distinctive Japanese, crab-shell shape and the outer structure is Vietnamese in design.

Situated just outside Hoi An and surrounded by fields of vegetables and crops Tra Que village is dedicated to the growing of traditional vegetables and supplies Hoi An and its neighbors with most of the fresh produce which goes in to making distinctive central Vietnamese dishes such as Cao Lau and Quang noodle. The origin of the village date back more than a hundred years to when a band of fishermen decided to settle on the land and farm.

This large stretch of beach is only 5km from Hoi An and can be reached either by car or a 20 minute bicycle ride along a picturesque country road. The beach is very popular with the Vietnamese, particularly on summer mornings and evenings.

According to archaeologists, Cu Lao was first settled by the Cham 3,000 years ago and they established business contacts with overseas countries some 1,000 years ago. Up to now, Cu Lao Cham has preserved many architectural constructions which date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. They include the shrine dedicated to Than Yen Sao, built in 1843 at Bai Huong and Hai Tang Pagoda, built in 1753 on the western hillside of Hon Lao. Still, Cu Lao Cham has more to offer. After a 3-hour canoe trip, one may hop over to the famed Well of the Cham people.

My Son is a remarkable archaeological site dating back over a thousand years. Located in a remote forested valley some 70 km west of Da Nang, this former capital and religious center of the Cham Kingdom once contained in excess of 70 style temples and stupas. Although badly damaged by bombing raids in the 1960s the site still has over 20 structures and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. Visitors are advised to arrive to beat the rush of tourists and also avoid the heat as there is little shade.