Pale yellow houses draped in bougainvillea, shopfronts lit with the glow of silk lanterns, women in conical hats lifting baskets of slippery fish from their boats -- life in old town Hoi An looks like a picture postcard of a Vietnamese country town.
Of course, that didn't happen by accident. In 1999, the riverside town was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in an effort to preserve its core of historic architecture, a unique mix of Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and European styles. The listing gave Hoi An the resources and impetus to better protect and maintain its wonderful architecture, and to market itself as a tourist destination. It worked, and the town now attracts visitors by the droves.
The tourist trade is now Hoi An's bread and butter, and justabout every business in town is geared to it. Restaurants offer menus oflocal specialties and American breakfasts, tailors offer suits made inless than 24 hours. It can easily feel like one giant showcase withlittle in the way of an independent life of its own. Yes, it's a big tourist trap, but even so -- it's an excellent tourist trap that shouldn't be missed. Most people who visit are charmed, and even cynics will likely seek an excuse to justify liking it.
Historians believe that Hoi An was founded more than 2,000 years ago as a primitiveportfor the Sa Huynh people, thanks to evidence from archaeologicalexcavations which have also pointed towards early trade with the Handynasty in China. Through to the 15th century, the port was absorbedinto the Kingdom of Champa and was known first as Lam Ap and later asFaifo. During this period, it developed into a prosperous trading portvisited by trading fleets from as far afield as the Arabian peninsula.As a hub of regional trade, Hoi An brought considerable affluence to theChampa Kingdom, evidence of which can be seen at nearby My Son.
The number of traders visiting Hoi An escalated as the centuries marchedon, with the Portuguese, Dutch, British and French all making anappearance, along with the ever-present Chinese, Japanese and Indians.The majority of Hoi An's most beautiful buildings were constructed from the 15th to 19th centuries.
Hoi An's star began to fade as trade slowly moved north to the larger and more industrial port of Da Nang.Today, little trade occurs aside from tourist boats, and onlysmall-scale fishing boats use the port commercially. The foreignvisitors are no longer traders, but tourists. Many visitors pass throughquickly, catching a glimpse of the colourful atmosphere, and perhapshaving a rush order put through on a suit or a dress. However, thosewilling to stick around a little longer will be rewarded. The townconceals a dozen or so engaging historical attractions, and the areaoffers beaches and ruins worth some daytrips. And most importantly,those who linger in town will get to see the real life lurking behind Hoi An's faded facade.
Places to visit
My Son Holy Land
Located 60 kilometers from Hoi An this UNESCO declared World Heritage Site houses 17 temples and towers of 13th and 14th centuries belonging to the Champa people.
Beaches, Islands and Lagoons
These are the most popular Hoi An tourist attractions. Among the beaches the Cua Dai Beach famous for sunbath and fresh seafood is widely visited. Cham islands , a cluster of 7 island and Hai Van Pass with hills, valleys and lagoons are no less popular.
Temples and Shrines
These are the most visited places for sightseeing in Hoi An. The prominent among them are the Tran Family Worship House built in 1802 by the Tran family, the ethnic Chinese shrine called Truong Family Chapel, Japanese Tombs, Quang Trieu Assembly Hall and Phuc Kien Assembly Hall.
Phung Hung Old House believed to be built in 1798 is the most visited among all others. This three storied house has a mix of Chinese and Japanese structural designs and used to be a shop house of merchants. The other similar Old Houses in Hoi An are the 200 year old Tan Ky Old House, the well preserved Quan Thang Old House and the Diep Dong Nguyen Old House.