Hoi An

Hoi An’s Old Town

Moon Vietnam, 2nd edition

HOI AN is easily the most photogenic town in the country”, says the 2nd edition of Moon Vietnam. “Its charming wooden houses and colorful lanterns remain a few centuries in the past, stuck in Hoi An’s heyday as a famous trading port.”

The city’s golden age lasted from the 16th to 19th centuries, ending when the Thu Bon River became too shallow for large trading ships. Like a southeast Asian Bruges, it then became a place preserved in amber. Now its Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Most sights are within a few blocks of the waterfront, and from 9 to 11 a.m. and 3 to 9:30 p.m. those streets are pedestrian-only, “making this one of the most walkable destinations in the country.”

To visit most Old Town sites you need to buy a UNESCO ticket, giving entry to any five of them. “To get the gist,” the guide book suggests the Japanese Covered Bridge (“Hoi An’s most famous landmark…dating back to the 17th century”); a Chinese congregation hall (perhaps the Fujian Assemby Hall, “completed in 1757…a swirl of vivid colors, mosaic animals, lavish altars, and grand facades”); a traditional house (Tan Ky House, “with over 90 percent of its orginal structure still intact…is a prime example of traditional Hoi An architecture”); and a museum (the Museum of Trade Ceramics “revisits Hoi An’s glory days…displaying the array of pottery that passed through the town during its busiest years”).

“In the old town area,” the guidebook warns, “respectful dress is a must, as Hoi An is big on tradition… No matter the temperature, stick to long pants and covered shoulders when exploring the town’s sights.”