Situated in the Quang Nam province in central Vietnam is the Ancient City of Hoi An. Only less than an hour away from neighbouring coastal city, Danang, Old Town Hoi An holds a rustic charm that you cannot find anywhere else in Vietnam.
I spent the weekend in Danang with my family and while asking friends for suggestions, as I planned our itinerary, everyone told me the same thing: “you must visit Hoi An”. Eager to understand their zeal for this place, we headed over to Hoi An – and it all made it sense.
From the preserved architecture to rickshaws cruising the streets, remnants of Hoi An’s historic past are still prominent in the city till today. In fact, the town was named a UNESCO World Heritage Centre in 1999 for its “outstanding material manifestation of the fusion of cultures over time”. Commonly known as the ‘Old Town’ or ‘Ancient Town’ of Vietnam, Hoi An was one of Southeast Asia’s major ports from the 15th to 19th century.
In the 1990s, tourism boosted the local economy tremendously and it was then that they decided to preserve the historic town. Until today, stringent rules are still in place to “safeguard the Old Town’s unique heritage”.
Hoi An’s Charm
We all know Vietnam’s major cities, Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi to be busy and bustling with something happening at every corner. But here in Hoi An, the town takes on a much slower pace. Compared to its neighbouring city, Danang, the streets are far more narrow. This probably explains the abundance of motorcycles than cars in the city.
The buildings in the Old Town have both local and foreign influences, creating a vibrant fusion of cultures in Hoi An. Splashes of different colours fill the town on the walls of quaint shophouses on every street. But the city truly comes alive in the night with lanterns and flashy street signs lighting up the streets. Whether its night or day, the beauty and historical charm of Hoi An still remain.
What to do in Hoi An
Usually, half-day tours are recommended when visiting Hoi An and you’d think that there wouldn’t be much to do given the time. But that’s where you are wrong – there is a wide range of activities and places to enjoy in Hoi An!
Not everyone would think this, but Hoi An is actually a shopping haven! There are endless stores selling authentic leather goods ranging from shoes to bags, as well as shops selling custom-made dresses and suits.
Eat as the Locals Do
In Old Town Hoi An, there are several pubs and elegant restaurants with a chic interior and comfortable seating. But that’s not how it’s done in this town. Venture out into the streets and get a taste of their street food – from Vietnamese spring rolls to a bowl of authentic pho. It’s said that they also have one the best Bahn Mi (Vietnamese sandwich) in this town!
Visit the Lantern Market
As the sun bids farewell, Nguyen Hoang Street is illuminated with a sea of lanterns and vibrant colours. Stretching up to 300 metres long, the Lantern Market is filled with vendors selling quirky souvenirs, bags, shoes – you name it. Make sure to add this to your list when visiting Old Town Hoi An.
Immerse Yourself in Art and Learn More About Vietnam’s Ethnic Tribes
One of my favourite places in the town was definitely the Precious Heritage Art Gallery Museum. The cultural art space pays homage to renowned French photographer, Réhahn and his work – Réhahn himself also opened the museum in 2017. Réhahn is best known for his work of incredible portraits showcasing all 54 of Vietnam’s recognised ethnic groups. For a taste of culture and art, do visit the museum when in Hoi An!
Unwind by the River
What better way to end your trip to Hoi An by relaxing by the Thu Bon River? From this part of the town, this riverside district has some of the most beautiful buildings in all of Hoi An. You wouldn’t want to miss this picturesque sight.