Guida alla città di Hoi An in Vietnam

Hoi An guide: what to see in the city of lanterns in Vietnam

Low pastel-painted houses draped in cheeky bougainvillea drapes, storefronts lit with a silk lanterns, small-bodied fishermen carrying baskets of fish from their boats on their shoulders. Life in the historic center of Hoi An, Vietnam, still today it looks like a still image of a colonial life postcard in times gone by. And the guide of Hoi An seems to describe the times of French Indochina. But it’s not. In 1999, the historic center was incorporated into the UNESCO World Heritage Sitein an effort to preserve its central core featuring legacies of historic architecture with a beautiful blend of influence Chinese, Japanese mixed with styles Europeans imported to Vietnam.

The listing has given Hoi An the resources and impetus to better protect and maintain its buildings, and to market it as a tourist destination beyond the larger and perhaps more famous Hanoi And Ho Chi Minh. It worked, and the city now attracts visitors in droves drawn by its beauty and the fact that this is now the perfect destination: capable of concentrating the experience of a large and beautiful country into a few hours.

Hoi An guide: tourists and history

Yes, an extraordinary compendium with a downside though: tourism is changing with speed the face of Hoi An and almost every aspect of daily life in the city is affected. The restaurants offer menus of local specialties but also incongruous American breakfasts, the tailors offer clothes made in less than 24 hours and in the end it seems to be in a large showcase, in a cheeky tourist trap. Where, however, it is worth falling on foot and with a smile. Because the usual guide of Hoi An will warn you but will tell you that this place deserves to be seen.

Historians believe that Hoi An was founded more than 2,000 years ago as a gateway for goods arriving from Han Dynasty merchants in China. From the 15th century the port was absorbed into the Champa kingdom and was known before as Lam Ap and then how Faifo. During this period it developed into a busy trading port which housed large commercial fleets coming from half the world – that of the time, obviously – with ships that even arrived from very distant places such as the Arabian peninsula. Money and trade always call for others and so Hoi An has developed and over the centuries Portuguese, Dutch, English and of course the French have arrived here, mingling with the crews and merchants landed from Chinese shipsJapanese and Indian.

A past of wealth. Which is still visible

Ships meant money: that’s why most of the most beautiful buildings in Hoi An date back to the period between the 15th and 19th centuries. Yes, because then the star of Hoi An began to fade like the trade that slowly moved north, towards the port of Da Nang. Today, the boats that plow through its calm waters no longer carry goods but tourists who quickly get caught up in its slow and apparently sleepy atmosphere. Actually one guide of Hoi An it will point out dozens of things to see, relics of the past as well as beaches and observation points.

Guide to the city of Hoi An in Vietnam

Hoi An guide: things to see

TO Hoi An is a pleasure to walk and look around. And this is perhaps the best way to appreciate it. But there are also museums and places not to be missed. And here, then, is a list, however partial, of what you can see.

The Hoi An Museum of History and Culture it does not collect masterpieces but there are things to see starting from cannonballs and pieces of centuries-old ships as well as everyday objects that date back to the most distant past. Not far away is the Sa Huynh Culture Museum where there are also rather naive testimonies of local history including many black and white photos taken in the early years of the 20th century: the best thing is to have fun comparing the streets of then with those of today. Often the difference is not noticeable. Right next door is the temple Cong Quan: to visit it you would need another ticket but know that you can often see both with just one ticket. Obvious: it shouldn’t be. However…..

The dusty and dimly lit Museum of Ceramics has an obvious purpose: to demonstrate that the Vietnamese pottery in its long history it has conquered the world, from Egypt to Japan, as demonstrated by archaeological excavations on various continents. This also reveals a detailed chronicle of the trade routes that developed in the region from the 1300s onwards. What is on display, however, is mostly fragments but those with a love of history and archeology will find it interesting.

Guide to the city of Hoi An in Vietnam

Stroll among the old houses of Hoi An

One of the most pleasant things about visiting this city is admiring the old houses built by rich merchants a few hundred years ago, and originally used as warehouses but also as shops. The descendants of the merchants still live there, but they have opened their doors to tourists (and of course the dollars). There are many to see but one of the most suggestive is the so-called Tan Ky House.

It was built no less than two centuries ago but is still perfectly preserved and suggestive tours are organized inside. The landlady who also acts as a guide – in French and English – explains with passion the architectural features of the building mixing explanations with the history of the family and enriching it all with extravagant anecdotes on how to manage the frequent floods that flood the first floor. The proof can be found in the kitchen where you can see the signs of the water which in some cases has almost reached the second floor. The house, however, is always in its place. And elegantly proud.


Hoi An, the moon and the lanterns

To intuit local life and culture, a good opportunity comes from one of the famous festivals dedicated to Full moon in Hoi An. Throughout the year, on the fourteenth day of the lunar cycle, the historic center of Hoi An is filled with light and color and emptied of the noise of daily traffic. The supply of electricity is also suspended and lighting is guaranteed only by colorful lanterns, made with strips of silk and bamboo rods. The lanterns they are hung on the streets, outside the shops, along the balconies. Many locals mixed with visitors flock to the area as they revive i golden age moments of the city while honoring the ancestors.

For those who can’t resist the fever of shopping the right place is iL central marketwhich is located on the banks of the river Thu Bon. Here is the best of local crafts, souvenirs of all kinds but also handmade clothes by tailors. Not only shopping, however: there is also a section dedicated to food where it is pleasant to stop for a snack or a quick meal. It can be a good opportunity to taste traditional dishes prepared before your eyes with old family recipes.

Guide to the city of Hoi An in Vietnam

Guide to the city of Hoi An in Vietnam: the temples


Famous for its ancient history and religious monuments, Hoi An it will not disappoint the traveler who loves to visit the places they express religiosity. About two kilometers from the center is the most ancient buddhist temple from Hoi An, Chuc Thanh. Founded in 1454 by Minh Haia Chinese monk, the ancient pagoda displays a combination of Chinese and Vietnamese architecture with an interesting collection of religious artifacts. To explore another slice of Hoi An history, you need to visit the temple Quan Conga series of intertwined buildings with statues and complex religious symbols of the Chinese tradition.

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