Viet Nam

Hoi An

Hoi An

The ancient town of Hoi An, located 30 km south of Danang, sits on the banks of the Thu Bon River. In the 16th century, Hoi An was one of the major trading centers of Southeast Asia, visited by early Western traders.

Hoi An exudes a distinct Chinese atmosphere with its low, tile-roofed houses and narrow streets; the original structure of some of these streets remains almost intact. All the houses were constructed from rare wood, adorned with lacquered boards and panels engraved with Chinese characters. The pillars were also intricately carved with ornamental designs.

Tourists can explore relics from the Sa Huynh and Cham cultures. They can also enjoy the beautiful scenery of the romantic Thu Bon River, Cua Dai Beach, and Cham Island.

Over the past few years, Hoi An has become a very popular tourist destination in Vietnam.

Dazzling lights – no fluorescent lights. No motorcycles. No television. On the full moon night (14th or 15th day of the lunar month) each month, the ancient town of Hoi An along the riverbank takes a break from modern life.

In wooden-fronted shops, a woman in traditional attire sits at a table, bathed in the light emanating from a lantern crafted from a simple bamboo fish trap. Outside, two elderly men are engrossed in a candlelit game of Chinese checkers. These scenes, reminiscent of the 19th century, still unfold in Hoi An, a tranquil riverside town in Quang Nam province in central Vietnam.

Hoi An has long been a cultural crossroads. More than five centuries ago, the Vietnamese nation of Dai Viet expanded its territory southward, encroaching upon the Indianized Kingdom of Champa, which once covered much of present-day central Vietnam. Hoi An, situated along the Thu Bon River, emerged when Japanese and Chinese traders established a commercial district there in the 16th century.

These diverse cultural influences are still visible today. Visitors will encounter Hoi An's Old Quarter lined with two-story Chinese shops, their elaborately carved wooden facades and moss-covered tile roofs having withstood the challenges of harsh weather and over 300 years of warfare. These proud old buildings, facing the river, evoke memories of a bygone era when Hoi An's market was filled with goods from as far as India and Europe. Colorful guildhalls, founded by ethnic Chinese from Guangdong and Fujian provinces, stand silently, a testament to the town's trading origins.

While Hoi An's ancient charm is always present, on the 15th day of each lunar month, modernity takes another step back. On these evenings, the streets of Hoi An turn off their street lamps and fluorescent lights, enveloping the Old Quarter in the warm glow of colorful lanterns made from silk, glass, and paper. In ancient times, Vietnamese people made lamps using shallow bowls filled with oil. Later, foreign traders introduced lanterns, ranging from round and hexagonal designs from China to diamond and star-shaped ones from Japan.

Let There Be Light - When developing plans to preserve their town's ancient character, Hoi An residents decided to revive the tradition of using colored lanterns. Starting from the fall of 1998, one night each month is declared a "lantern festival". On the 15th day of each lunar month, residents on Tran Phu, Nguyen Thai Hoc, Le Loi, and Bach Dang streets switch off their lights and hang cloth and paper lanterns on their porches and windows. Televisions, radios, street lights, and neon lights are all turned off.

Amidst the ensuing quiet, the streets of Hoi An become their most romantic, with darkness only broken by sparkling lanterns of various shapes and sizes.

Strolling through the lantern-lit streets feels like stepping into a fairy tale. This becomes even more picturesque since motor vehicles are prohibited in Hoi An's Old Quarter. On Tran Phu Street, stop at the beautifully preserved Faifo Restaurant to sample traditional Chinese-style pastries. Or continue to the Treated Cafe, where bamboo baskets, commonly used for washing rice, have been transformed into unique lanterns. These basket lamps are just one example of people's creativity as they experiment with new shapes and materials, including lights made from hollow bamboo tubes.

A Warm Glow - The 15th day of the lunar month is a Buddhist day of worship. Residents place offerings of food and incense on their ancestral altars and visit one of Hoi An's many pagodas. The scent of incense and the sounds of people singing add to the town's enchanting atmosphere. On these evenings, visitors get a glimpse into another era. These nights are a valuable reminder of life's unexpected beauty.

Top Places To Visit Hoi An

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