Traditional lifestyle and Chinese architecture have remained virtually unspoiled since the 17th century – it is one of Vietnam’s four World Heritage sites. Indeed, it is the slow pace of life that makes this charming town worth a visit. It’s pleasurable enough just to pedal around on a bicycle and stop by restaurants on Trai Phu Street for a cup of tea and Chinese-style pastries.
Hoi An was inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage list in 1999 and is now firmly on the tourist agenda. For some it's already too much of a trap with its profusion of tailors' shops and art galleries and its rapidly proliferating hotels, and the majority of visitors pause only briefly, but it takes time to tune in to the town's subtle charms, which are as much about human encounters as ancient vestiges. At least a day is needed to cover the central sights and sample some of Hoi An's mouthwatering specialty dishes, and by then most people are hooked. It's easy to spend longer, taking day-trips to the atmospheric Cham ruins of My Son or some of the other sights closer to town, biking out into the surrounding country or opting for a leisurely sampan ride on the Thu Bon River. If possible, try to time your visit to coincide with the Full-Moon Festival, on the fourteenth day of the lunar calendar every month, when the town centre is closed to traffic and traditional arts performances take place in the lantern-lit streets.
House of Hoi An Traditional Handicraft
This is basically a silk shop with an interesting gimmick: On the first floor you can see both a 17th-century silk loom and a working, machine-powered cotton one. On the second, you can see where silk comes from: There are trays of silkworms feeding, then a rack of worms incubating, and then a tub of hot water where the pupae's downy covering is rinsed off and then pulled, strand by strand, onto a large skein. It's cool. They have the best selection of silks, both fine and raw, in many colors and weights good for clothing and for home interiors.
Japanese Covered Bridge
The name of this bridge in Vietnamese, Lai Vien Kieu, means "Pagoda in Japan." No one is exactly sure who first built it in the early 1600s (it has since been renovated several times), but it is usually attributed to Hoi An's Japanese community. The dog flanking one end and the monkey at the other are considered to be sacred animals to the ancient Japanese, and my guide claimed the reasoning is that most Japanese emperors were born in the year of either the monkey or the dog by the Asian zodiac. Later I read something else that claimed maybe it meant construction began in the year of the dog and was completed in the year of the monkey. I'm sure there are many other interesting dog and monkey stories going around. Pick your favorite. The small temple inside is dedicated to Tran Vo Bac De, god of the north, beloved (or cursed) by sailors because he controls the weather.
If you see one Vietnamese market, make it this one, by the river on the southeast side of the city. There are endless stalls of exotic foodstuffs and services, and a special big shed for silk tailoring at the east end (these tailors charge much less than the ones along Le Loi). Check out the ladies selling spices -- curries, chili powders, cinnamon, peppercorns, and especially saffron -- at prices that are a steal in the West. But don't buy from the first woman you see; the stuff gets cheaper and cheaper the deeper you go into the market. Walk out to the docks to see activity there (best early in the morning), but be careful of fish flying through the air, and stand back from the furious bargaining (best before 7am).
Cham Island is 15 km from the beach of Cua Dai. It has 7 islands altogether named according to their shapes or characteristics. They are the Lao (pear), Dai (long), La (leaf), Kho (dry), Tai (ear), Mo (tomb), and Nom (East wind) islands . The Cham island (the Lao, the main island) has a good climate, always cool all the year round The system of trees and animals here are plentiful, especially sea products. On the island there is a precious natural potential: the bird nests whereas under the water, the strip of coral is quite marvelous to look at.
The Tran Family Worship House
In 1802, the Tran family ancestor house of worship was built by a mandarin of civil service named Tran Tu Nhac. The architecture of the house is beautiful. It is located inside a big garden and bordered by high fences of Japanese and Chinese style architecture. The house is divided into two parts: the main part serves as a place for worship; the auxiliary one is for the family and guest residence. The worship room has three doors, the two side doors are reserved for male and female members (left side is for men and the right side is for women) and the centre is for the grandparents and opened on Tet or on festival days.
My Son Holyland
My Son, located 69 km southwest of Danang, was an imperial city during the Cham dynasty, between the 4th and 12th centuries. My Son Sanctuary is a large complex of religious relics that comprises more than 70 architectural works. They include temples and towers that connect to each other with complicated red brick designs...