I’ll let you into a secret; when I visited Vietnam a few years ago, I absolutely fell in love with Hoi An! This quaint town nestled on the east coast, just a few km south of Danang, was one of Southeast Asia’s most important trade ports, dating back to the 1500’s. Today Hoi An is resplendent with charm and history in abundance. The town has shaken off its sleepy village feel and now offers travellers a good choice of amenities in addition to carefully preserved local history and culture. In fact, Hoi An is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to 15th century merchants houses, family cult houses, pagodas and the romantic Japanese bridge. And another thing you’ll love – mopeds are banned from the town center!
Walk over the Japanese Covered Bridge, Cau Nhat Ban
This is a particularly fine example of a wooden bridge and was erected in the late 1500’s and is typical of Japanese examples (hence the name!) It is approximately 60 feet long and is decorated in a long-faded red with a pagoda sited within the actual bridge. Visitors can traverse the bridge and go into the Cau Chua Pagoda to view an assortment of stone or slabs monuments with inscriptions called Steles. The bridge itself has been reconstructed many times over the years and is surrounded by ancient tombs in Chinese and Japanese, as well as Vietnamese. There are also four main statues of two dogs and two monkeys flanking the bridge. The reason for this is that bridge constructed started in the year of monkey in 1593 and was completed in 1595, the year of the dog.
Explore the Hokien (Fujian) Meeting Hall, Phuc Kien
The Phuc Kien assembly hall was originally a temple used by those who were dedicated to the goddess of Thien Hau Thanh Mau. Built in 1690, the temple was in a state of deterioration when it purchased from China in 1759 by Phuc Kien traders who wanted to renovate it. The temple received its current name after the renovations were complete. It’s a popular stop-off on Hoi An's culture and history tourist trail. The Phuc Kien Assembly Hall is an excellent specimen of unique Hoi An architecture. It has a stunning tree lined entrance that consists of an edifice that has seven-roof layers overlaid with tub-tiles in azure blue enamel.
Stroll the length of Hoi An Old Town
Walk along the ancient streets of Hoi An’s Old Town which is lined with traditional merchants houses and old shop houses. And walk in peace, knowing that mopeds and motorbikes that are so omnipresent in the rest of Vietnam, are banned from the town center! Stroll the narrow streets and brick alleys and see ancient buildings that have been partially renovated. The main street is home to a good range of excellent restaurants, bars and cafes. There is also a great selection of shops selling everything from jewellery, silk clothing and local artwork (all of which I purchased!) and Hoi An was recently hailed as one of the cheapest world destinations. At night the only light on the street is from the colourful lanterns, which is particularly romantic. This provides a relaxing ambiance for those who want to enjoy a slow walk or romantic meal beside the Thu Bon River.
Learn about the local culture at the museums
Museum of Folk Culture; Visitors should not be intimidated by the plaster figures of peasants at the entrance. This museum is dedicated to preserving and displaying the culture and dress of rural people from the Vietnam.
Hoi An Museum of History and Culture; This museum displays old photographs of Hoi An from the early 1900s. It also has pots that are thousands of years old. It also has brick and tiles from the 9th century and much more.
Museum of Say Huynh Culture; Visitors here are able to see a fascinating collection of pottery and urns that date back to the first and second centuries. The Museum of the Revolution is located on the second floor. It has old picture of people in the military as well as a wide variety of weapons on display such as machine guns, grenade launchers and more.
Take a cooking lesson in Hoi An
Morning Glory Street Food Restaurant and Cooking School; People who take a cooking class here will learn about Vietnamese food and culture as well has how to cook an excellent Vietnamese dish.
Redbridge Cooking School and Restaurant; The lesson begins with a trip to the local market to purchase ingredients. Class participants then board a boat and sail to the cooking school for their lesson.
Cafe 96 Cooking Class; People who take a class here will be taught three authentic Vietnamese dishes in just an hour.
Discover the Old House of Phun Hung
Traditional merchants houses line the streets of Hoi An and if you get the opportunity to go inside of one – take it! The house of Phun Hung in particular is a private residence that was built in 1780. The first floor displays its Japanese influence with a central roof with four sides. The balcony on the second floor shows the Chinese inspiration with a roof in a turtle shell shape that has sculpted beam supports. The third floor of the home was utilized as a place for refugees. The structure has been designed with trapdoors that enable the movement of people, furniture and other belongings to safety. Sometime tours are given by an eighth generation family member.
Go diving on Cham Island
There are eight different islands in the Cu Lao Cham but people only live on the biggest of the islands. Cham Island is blessed with genuine fishing villages surrounded by untamed jungles and beautiful beaches. Divers who come here will be able to experience everthing from the coral gardens to reefs as well as wild rock formations and more. Diving companies there are able to accommodate every level of diving ability.