Hoi An, Vietnam is a magically quaint little historical town on the coast of central Vietnam, with tight winding streets, colorful lanterns hanging over the streets, a quiet palm tree lined river with small wooden boats transporting locals and products for shops along the walk. From the 15th to 19th century this was an important trading port that now still has the colorful well maintained buildings with Vietnamese, French, Japanese, Indian, Dutch and Portuguese as well as Chinese and other influences in this once sleepy backwater. The early people here were of the Cham Kingdoms and even some early Arab influence.
Today, especially near the Old Town. One will find the hustle and bustle of this still slow but quiet star on the old backpacker trail. People from all around the world descend on this still little known place outside of Asia travelers. The UNESCO attention given to the place has of course drawn the negative money grabbers and tourist touts more than before but compared to the vast metropolis areas of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City it is still a relaxed place to sip a tea in a well preserved shop house or ride a bike down to the broad beach 10 minutes away.
Buy Art or Tailored Clothing
There are narrow shop lined streets where it seems you are in exotic Asia from old time.The locals in straw hats on bicycles doesn’t discourage this. The motorbikes whizzing by on bigger streets do. Or the sight of fanny packed tourists might. I suggest avoiding the main summer months of family tourism. It is super hot anyway.
If it is local arts and crafts that you desire, this is the place to be. They are quite experienced with shipping goods abroad though research the more reputable shops. Tailors are as ubiquitous as Hong Kong and Bangkok. The average visitor leaves with something made here, with hundreds of choices.
There is no shortage of places to stay and eat with many bars and snacks along the river and night in Hoi An is worth the Vietnam trip. A quiet boat ride or a drink on a terrace overlooking the casual yet enjoyable pace of life.
Those staying a shorter time here would benefit from a small tour of the night scene like one found here (Old Town Food Tour). Try it when you go to Hoi An! For those of the culinary making ilk, an old town tour and cooking class can be had! Whatever you decide, Hoi An is a must on your Vietnam trip. Like Pai in Thailand it is just one of those places than kind of draw you in.
Locals getting around in Hoi An.
As always, thanks for stopping in and do leave a comment below!
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Ricardo Arthur: Guest with an Idyllic Tale of Hoi An
Today we have my old pal Ricardo as seen in previous posts about Ha Long Bay and Thailand. He has a story of a wonderful day in our time in Hoi An. That is him in the opening photo taking a picture in front of the old Japanese Bridge originally built in the late 1500’s. Here is the start of his tale of What I will fondly remember as “the Beach Boys Of Summer”. It will finish with a click to his post on his site. I hope you read it..it is such a wonderful tale.
Like An Albatross
“I wear Vietnam around my neck; an amber-coloured hexagon with the image of an ox on one side, and Vietnamese writing on the other. A souvenir of a broken promise, made a long time ago.
From Hanoi to Hội An, my trip through Vietnam was a journey which left its mark. Daily life in the French Quarter, full of human moments so often captured in the pages of National Geographic happened within the snap of a camera lens while I, the observer, tried to keep up but couldn’t. No matter; I quickly realized no photo could ever do justice to what I observed, what I felt. Simply crossing the street proved an adventure. As motorbikes holding families of six sped by in one direction, delivery men careened in the other, balancing anything from tissue boxes piled sky high to a giant wood armoire, strapped to the front with thin rope.
Women, hunched and weathered yet strong and bold pushed us aside, hurrying as they shouldered baskets made from dried plant leaves that swayed at either end of a huge branch with each step. Others sat crouched in shop entrances shading themselves from the sun. Light skin, I was told, is preferable to dark so women will do anything to keep their skin out of the sun, including covering their face with a cloth or handkerchief. The benefits of their coverings are two-fold; they serve as a barrier from tourists. They stared at us at a distance, their eyes suspicious and ready to turn their heads, or shield their faces at the slightest sound of a camera click.
An old man swept his part of the dusty path in front of his shop with tree branches tied together into a makeshift broom. Meanwhile, the café in the nearby park was serving addictively good Vietnamese-style coffee and people on bicycles rode by selling baguettes from baskets, warm and crunchy.
Years pass and details fade but there are things I will always remember. Like the night we sat in the middle of the road and drank vodka with a group of Vietnamese twenty-somethings while one of them played acoustic guitar. Communication was a no go until suddenly Thomas recognized the melody as he played, so we sang the chorus, and for a moment all spoke the same language. Never underestimate the power of ‘Hello’ by Lionel Ritchie.” (Finish this tale by clicking here.)
I hope you finish the tale..some cool pics are with it. A wonderful memory of over a decade.