What: Hoi An Ancient town a UNESCO world heritage site.
Where: Central coast of Vietnam, about half an hour drive from Da Nang International Airport.
When: 2000 years of history as a trading port starting with the Cham people, the Chinese and lastly the Vietnamese.
I love to see history. I love it even more when I see ancient and modern histories combine in this modern world. Sometimes its amazing to see a juxtaposition of other cultures when through your own eyes.
I was staying at Fusion Maia Resort in Da Nang, in central coastal Vietnam, right on the beach, in fact, ‘China Beach’ where it is believed the Americans first landed during ‘that’ war. Da Nang is the northern most city of the south of the country (yes, get your maps out) and is famed for its beaches, but it also has many magnificent land based sights close by that don’t evolve around the sea or bronzing the body such as Marble Mountain and the historic town of Hoi An.
Hoi An is over 2000 years old with first being settled by the Cham people who made it their trading port and controlled the region for many centuries. Many Chinese traders settled in the region for several years escaping the Ming Dynasty during its peak but later moved south. Finally the Vietnamese people moved in after the Cham people lost control of the region.
The Chinese influenced shop fronts are still largely intact in the old town centre and left unaffected by the war and by modern concrete constructions which gives Hoi An its ancient feel, although now most of the shops cater to the tourist trade with cheap yet surprisingly good clothes, shoes and souvenirs such as lanterns.
One of the shopping drawcards to Hoi An are the tailors and shoemakers who will make or replicate any item of clothing or shoe you desire. Bring along your favourite coat, dress or shoe, select the fabric and the tailor or shoemaker will have your item made generally within a few hours and deliver it to your hotel in Hoi An or Da Nang. The workmanship is surprisingly good and costs competitive with other parts of Vietnam or Asia. The best part being the same day delivery, unlike Ha Noi, Hong Kong or Bangkok where it may take a couple of days to be completed.
Other than shopping in the ancient streets, laneways and shop fronts there are several other historical sights to visit while in Hoi An such as the Chinese Meeting Hall and the well known Japanese covered Bridge. .
There is a calming effect entering the Chinese Meeting hall after the hustle and bustle of tourists and the haggling with traders. The Chinese Meeting Hall was built in 1887 and, as the name suggests was the meeting hall of the Chinese traders, namely the Cantonese who made this town their home. The interior is filled with ornate Chinese artefacts and paintings.
The Japanese covered bridge is probably the most well known site and the symbol of Hoi An. Built by the Japanese community in 1593, it links the Japanese and Chinese quarters over a small stream. Locally it is known as the ‘Chua Cau’ or ‘Pagoda Bridge’ as there is a small pagoda in the centre.
We departed Hoi An by riverboat upstream to where our bus was waiting to take us back to our resort in Da Nang. With the river breezes, sights and ocean going fishing boats unloading along the riverbanks, it was a truly lovely way to depart Hoi An.