Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Ancient Town of Hoi An

Hoi An is an ancient town built by Cham people. The establishment dated back to the 1st century, with the name of Lam Ap Pho or Champa City in English. It was a harbor town from the 1st - 17th centuries, with merchants from China, Japan, India, South East Asia, and Europe Countries. During the 16th - 17th centuries, a Japanese settlement was established, which the Japanese Bridge was built to connect the settlement with the town. The Japanese at that time believed that Hoi An was the heart of the dragon.

Hoi An or "会安" in Mandarin, means a place to meet peacefully. The peace was invaluable, especially for a place where so many people around the world gathered. The town however faded after the 18th century due to Tay Son Rebellion. To our best estimation, the yellow buildings that remain standing today are the last built before the rebellion, which are at least 200 years old.

Hoi An ancient town consists of 6 streets. The old buildings which most of them are shops, line up along the street, selling souvenirs, clothes, and food. There are others like museums, art galleries, temples, Chinese associations, and residences of the rich and famous scatter around the area. The ancient town area is not big. Walking along the street take us around 30 minutes to make a complete circle around the area. 

We reached Hoi An at around 2:15 pm. After spending an exhausting morning at My Son, we took our lunch in a restaurant, and that was the time when rain started falling. Roads were filled with water, while almost all the shelters were full of people. With umbrella and poncho, we were able to move around regardless the weather. We would like to bring you around with our photos.

The ancient town of Hoi An is highlighted in green. It was a typical harbor town design, with the streets built parallel with the river. The street that is nearest to the river was used to deliver goods unloaded from the ships, while the next street facing the land was used as trading area for merchants.

If you get into the town area from the east (tourist information center), you will see the market of Hoi An. The market consists of a wet area and a food court. Although looks old, the market is not a part of the ancient town.

The food court inside the market serves various types of local food.

The street of Hoi An is very much like the Jonker Street in Malacca. The yellow buildings around the area were built with wooden frames (upper row). The walls were made by woods or by bricks (lower left). Several Chinese associations were built with good craftsmanship.

Merchants selling souvenirs are everywhere (upper row). Trishaws with special design that allow tourists to keep dry under the rain are available too (lower left). Hoi An is beautifully decorated with trees and shrubs.

Heavy rain cannot stop people like us to move around. As you can see in this photo, sandals or flip-flops are more convenient  to walk on the street that filled with rain water.

Hoi An street is beautiful, even in the rain.

Talk about the tickets, there is a big debate whether the tickets should be paid to those who just want to go into the street to take a cup of coffee, or just to jog around the area. Anyway, the price was VND 120,000 per person during our visit. We can visit six special "sites of interest" within Hoi An per ticket.

At first, we thought that was crazy. Seriously, do we really need to pay by just walking down the street? The equally well preserved old streets in Malacca or Penang did not impose any fee to the visitors. Well, after we visited six of the sites of interest in Hoi An, we found that the price was not that expensive. There were really something that we could see and learn. So, our advice, if you just wish to go into Hoi An for a nice Vietnam coffee, you shall consider to enjoy your afternoon coffee elsewhere. If you wish to visit the sites, then buying the ticket won't be a loss for you.We would like to share the sites that we had visited. Disputes over the entrance fee are available at Travelfish.

Hoi An Art Craft Manufacturing Workshop was the first site we visited (upper left). We were lucky to catch up with the traditional music show (performance at 10:15 am & 3:15 pm)(upper right). The performance hall was small and we had to squeeze in it (lower right).  There was other art crafts such as the lantern making shown in this workshop.

The second one was the Museum of Folk Culture. Many antiques were displayed in this museum, including a very early long boat used by the people in Hoi An (upper left), looming machine (upper right), equipment to catch fish (lower right), sewing machine, and many more. It is a place that worth a visit.

Old house of Tan Ky was full house during our visit. Tea was served to all the visitors, with free tour guide explaining the history of the house. The house is not big, with a few antiques remained for the sack of tourism (upper row). There is an overpriced souvenir shop in the house (lower left). Part of the house was flooded due to the heavy rain. For us, there is nothing special about the house. You can skip this if you have other site in your mind.

The old Japanese Bridge is indisputable the biggest attraction to Hoi An. The bridge linked the old Japanese settlement to the other part of Hoi An Town. The construction of the bridge was started in the Year of Monkey and ended in the Year of Rooster (following Chinese Zodiac). That's why we can see a statue of monkey and a statue of rooster on a side of the bridge.

The bridge has a 15 feet wide walkway, which was full of people during our visit.

Scenery from the bridge.

Hoi An Traditional Art Gallery was empty (no artwork on display) during our visit.

This is the information center and ticket selling counter at Nguyen Hue Street. A car park was available 20 meters away from the center. We can get a map after we paid for the ticket. By the way, the person who attended us there was rude and couldn't communicate well in English.

Is Hoi An a worthy place for a visit? For us, it is like a "yellow" version of Bandar di Hilir in Malacca. The whole ancient city area is very much like a big tourist trap. We recommend that Hoi An should be visited together with My Son, and both of the places could be visited in a single day. Spend a night at Hoi An can be a good idea, but since we need to pay every time we entered the heritage area, we chose to stay in Danang, where we could find more places for shopping and food. 

Food and drinks are available in the ancient town area, so what we really need to bring is an umbrella, just in case of sudden rainfall.

We took our lunch at Hoa Don Ban Le at Bach Dang Street (upper row). The restaurant was nicely decorated, but to our surprise, nobody in the restaurant could speak in English. The food served was average, the price, VND276,000 or approximately USD12.30 for 4 dishes and 2 drinks.

Hoi An is a place for a leisure trip. The beauty of the ancient town can be unveiled through visiting the artifacts in the museums, as well as through the artworks in displayed. Or else, it is not more than just another little town by the river, with tranquil reflection of the swaying trees and nicely built town houses. So, if you are in a hurry and rushing down the streets to grab the scenery as much as you can, you have in fact missed the best part of the town.

If you ask, did raining really spoil our trip? Our answer is "no". When the rain water dripping down through the ancient roof, when the streets filled with water that reflected the yellowish walls, and when the bicycles splashed through ponds of water, that was the most beautiful moment of the ancient town. Most of the sites that we visited in Hoi An had the special places for poncho and umbrella, so moving in and out were convenient. We moved around My Son and Hoi An with sandals, and it proved to be a right choice in the middle of rainy season.

We went back to Danang, which was about 30 minutes away from Hoi An. We would recommend that we should visit My Son and Hoi An first, before we visit the Museum of Cham Sculpture in Danang. We will share more about Danang in our coming post.

More about our experiences at Danang, My Son, and Hoi An  are available at:


Our sharing about other places in Vietnam:

4 comments:

  1. I think you are right. Hoi An is surprisingly similar (but not the same) to Jonker Street Melaka. Thank you for pointing it out.

    Kim FL

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    1. When we walked down Hoi An's street, well, the first thing came to our mind was, "Wow, this is the yellow version of Melaka." Agree or not, it was just our personal impression. Cheers :)

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  2. Not really so . I just visited 3 weeks ago . The culture , the ambience , architecture style are totally difference . The only similarity is the fact that both are a UN World Heritage Site .

    Hoi an ancient town mostly make up of Vietnam and French influenced building . Seen a few shop houses with wooden exterior ,even the balcony is make of wood . Fishing boat plying along the river especially around An hoi island , unlike Malacca river which cater for tourist river cruise .

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    Replies
    1. You have the point that there are differences between these two places. Cheers.

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