High-lights in Hội An

Walk through Old Hội An on Vietnam’s central coast and you’ll pass seamlessly through colourful generations and cultures under a continuous canopy of vibrant oriental lanterns.

It’s hard to believe that Hội An was an important trading sea port dating from the 15th century – except that rail and air travel wouldn’t have been an option then, as it remains today. If you want to get to Hội An today, you travel by road.

We’ve stayed in La Residenzia, an hotel on the edge of the Old Town and made great and easy use of bicycles and simply walking to navigate the network of canals and narrow streets for which Hội An is well known.

This unique heritage site reflects a melange of several cultures, represented by the eras and styles of architecture they left behind that greets you today.

In contrast to Disneyland’s cavalier disregard in combining the world’s architecture in one place, in Hội An the wooden shop-houses and temples from China, ornate Vietnamese tube houses, colourful and stylish French colonial buildings and the iconic Japanese Pagodas and Covered Bridge display an historically authentic diversity within the one town.


You’ll need at least a full day just to experience all that the old town has to offer and your best start point is to walk along the quayside of the Thu Bồn River, which fronts the old town. From the ranks of pleasure and fishing craft that gently rub shoulders on the rippled waters, it’s then easy to move into the town at any point to explore the varied attractions of the town.

You’ll immediately get a feel for the evolution of styles brought about by successive international traders and colonialists, together with their influences on cuisine, colour and clothing.

Tourists themselves, for the most part, seem to embrace the eclectic and stylish nature of Hội An.

It’s easy to believe that we are immersed in and enjoying a living history experience, as we amble between the vegetable stalls, craft shops, private houses and restaurants of this busy area.

There’s none of the hectic, sometimes brash and frenetic activity of Southeast Asia here, as if there’s no need for Hội An to force itself upon you – there’s plenty of time for you to discover it for yourself.

We walk beneath cascades of Cassia Fistula – or Scorpion Flower/Golden Shower blooms interspersed with dormant but colourful oriental lanterns that decorate every street, stopping to sample Dim Sum dumplings or bowls of Sweet Soup – taking photographs constantly as new sights appear at every turn. Vibrantly coloured Mangosteen fruits cover wooden stalls whilst ladies, with heavily laden baskets suspended from  yokes across their shoulders, make  eyes at us to sample their wares of bananas and sweet corn.

Lunchtime is another feast of local delicacies with pork and chicken sticks, kimchee, spring rolls, rice pancakes with prawn and bean sprouts – all freshly prepared with chilli paste, peanut sauce, lettuce, cucumber and herbs.

Suitably replete, our wanderings in the afternoon are more subdued but there’s no shortage of interest and enjoyment on every street to keep us fascinated with this amazing town.

The old wooden houses and temples are open for visitors as part of the heritage trail – access to which are achieved with the purchase of a single ticket – and their ornate, intricate and accomplished carvings, decoration, wall panels and roof beams are testament to skills now long lost.

Unlike many places we visit elsewhere, the collection of heritage sites, temples, shrines and attractions in Hội An are sufficiently compact and distinct that we don’t become overwhelmed by history but simply enjoy the diversity, culture and colour of each – so that by the end of our visit we’ve a good appreciation of how Hội An developed over the centuries.

It’s as evening falls that the town takes on a fairy-tale atmosphere; as the previously inert lanterns introduce sparkling multi-coloured light to the gathering dusk and the craft along the water’s edge illuminate their deck lanterns to attract young and romantic couples as well as fun-loving tourists.

Local traders sell their origami flowers that now float with lit candles, to remember lost spirits, adding to the magical atmosphere of the silhouetted craft, bridges and people who seem to appear from nowhere.

Night markets, cafes, shops and restaurants take on a new lease of life that adds a vibrancy to the atmosphere as we stroll around.

We take dinner in a traditional wooden Vietnamese tube house – so called because of its limited footprint and numerous floors – with our table overlooking the busy street scene below that only quietens as midnight approaches. We contentedly amble back along the river to our hotel, looking forward to exploring more of the town tomorrow.

In Hội An the more you look, the more you’ll find to fascinate you.

Its sometimes hard to understand that we’re not walking through a contrived collection of attractions but through history itself – Hội An provides a memorable insight into Vietnam’s rich past in a way that isn’t overwhelmed by intrusions from the present.


Cherrie's Notes

If you’d like to combine Hội An with your own adventure in Vietnam and anywhere else in Southeast Asia, then why not ask us to arrange your own tailor-made travel – to immerse yourself in the wonders of this world?

enquire-1Let us plan your own  inspiring journey to exotic climes

Why not download the TLC World guide brochure or give us a call today on 01202 030443, or simply click ‘enquire’ to submit your own personal itinerary request




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