The historic coastal riverside town of Hoi An has been known to travellers for over 300 years, when it was a major port of call for merchants from Japan, China and even Arabia. These traders made use of the port’s facilities and built a formidable town, until its importance waned as the Hoi An river silted up and international focus shifted to the coastal port of Da Nang .
Hoi An is now enjoying something of a renaissance as tourists flock to the once peaceful town. The ancient streets and temples have withstood this modern onslaught remarkably well, and Hoi An remains a “must see” on any tour of Viet Nam . The streets themselves – narrow and faced with formidable frontages of ancient “shop-houses” – together with the town’s remarkable and eclectic architectural styles, evoke a feeling of times gone by, and it isn’t difficult to imagine the town of three- or four hundred years ago, bustling with trade and enjoying its economic and cultural heyday.
These days, the trade is almost entirely tourism-related, although the town retains its traditional market, and other glimpses of Vietnamese life are visible at almost every turn. The influx of tourists has translated into a good range of decent accommodation to suit most tastes and budgets, from simple guesthouses to fully-fledged five-star resorts on the banks of the river or on the beach itself (located a short distance from town). Likewise, dining in this coastal town is a pleasure, with some of the best seafood in Vietnam offered at very reasonable prices. The last few years has seen the arrival of some excellent new restaurants and bars, situated along the riverfront, and 1 street back on Nguyen Thai Hoc.
As the tourist numbers increased so did the number of shops selling art, jewellery, lacquer, ceramics, etc – and of course Hoi An’s famous tailor shops.
Half-day trips can be taken from Hoi An to nearby My Son with its Cham ruins, and to Danang’s China Beach and Marble Mountains. Learn to cook Vietnamese food at Red Bridge Cooking School or try a diving trip to Cham Island.
If timing permits, visit Hoi An on the night of the full moon – the town is lit up with thousands of lanterns, locals dress up in traditional costume, and music and dance shows are performed throughout the old town.