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Hoi An Ancient Town, located in central Vietnam, is one of Vietnam’s cultural gems. It has great historical significance as it used to be one of Asia’s main trading seaports. When it was still functioning as a port, it attracted many traders from Japan, China, and even Europe.
As a result of the historical influx of people from different cultures, you will find that the heritage buildings in Hoi An have various different architectural styles.
For example, there are Chinese-style assembly halls built by the Chinese community, a Japanese bridge built by the Japanese, and also some French-style architecture. These historic buildings give the town a distinctive rustic atmosphere.
In addition to its many heritage buildings, the town also has a wide array of intriguing roadside cafes and shops where you can buy local handicrafts, jewelry, and traditional apparel. You can even get an ao dai, which is the Vietnamese traditional dress for women, made to measure by one of Hoi An’s famous tailors.
Hoi An was formerly a trading port, from the 15th to the 19th centuries. Its strategic location by the banks of Thu Bon River made it an ideal place for sea trading. In fact, during its glory days, it was regarded as one of Asia’s leading ports, until silt made the river unnavigable.
When the port was still functioning, Japanese and Chinese merchants dominated the town, trading silk, porcelain, and other goods. Europeans also arrived to trade. First to arrive were the Portuguese. The Dutch, French, and English followed. They traded their textiles and weapons for goods such as silk, ceramics, ivory, and spices.
Hoi An’s architecture is unique, blending both indigenous and foreign influences. It is fortunate that Hoi An was largely spared during Vietnam’s wars of the 20th century.
Now we can enjoy the sight of many historic buildings well preserved or reconstructed as they were a few centuries ago. These popular heritage sites include the Japanese Bridge, the Fujian Assembly Hall, and the Old House of Tan Ky.
The Japanese Covered Bridge, now a major landmark of Hoi An, was originally built by the Japanese in the late 16th century, during which era the Japanese community played a key role in developing the town’s architecture and infrastructure.
The bridge was later rebuilt by the Chinese. It also functions as a temple, as it hosts a shrine to Tran Vo Bac De, the Taoist deity of storms and weather. Interestingly, in Vietnamese the bridge is also called Lai Vien Kieu, which means ‘welcoming friends from afar’.
The Fujian Assembly Hall (Phuc Kien Assembly Hall) was built in 1757 by Chinese merchants as a place for them to worship and meet. In the hall you can see Jinshang Temple, which is dedicated to the goddess of the sea.
There are two other Assembly Halls in the town: Trieu Chai and Quang Trieu Assembly Halls.
The Old House of Tan Ky, just a short walk from the Fujian Assembly Hall, is a 200-year-old ancestral house. While there are several heritage houses in Hoi An you can explore, the Old House of Tan Ky is the best-preserved, despite devastating floods in the past.
Architectural details of the house exhibit a distinctly Oriental philosophy.
There are numerous cafes in Hoi An; great places for you to spend your leisure and enjoy various appetizing dishes and drinks. The old but well-maintained buildings give the cafes a rustic feel and relaxed atmosphere.
The export of ceramics between the 16th and 18th centuries contributed significantly to Hoi An’s thriving economy at the time. Ceramics exported from Hoi An even made their way as far as Egypt.
While the Museum of Trading Ceramics is modest and small, it provides interesting information and insight into the economy a few centuries ago.
Since Hoi An is a relatively small town with many pedestrian streets, you can get around comfortably on foot while enjoying the rustic and relaxed atmosphere.
You can join a walking tour with us, on which you can listen to the town’s history, and see its architecture and attractions. You can alternatively join our food tour and try some street vendor snacks, or relax at a roadside café.
There are definitely some distinctive Hoi An dishes that you should try, one of them being Cao Lau: rice noodles with greens, croutons and barbequed-pork. What makes this dish special is that the water used to cook the noodles is taken from an ancient well, and is said to be very clean and good quality.
Should you decide to join the street food tour, many other special dishes await your palate!
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