In Love with Hoi An

Love at first sight is possible, as you are magically transported to heaven. It happened to me when I first caught sight of the ancient city of Hoi An, Vietnam.

My eyes would not close and my heart pounded like a drum. I could not wait to explore the ancient city of Hoi An, which glows with the light of colourful lanterns every night. I’ve been to Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, but Hoi An is absolutely one of a kind. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are modern and suffer modern problems like traffic jams. Hoi An is different. Every element unites to create a most graceful and delightful city. It is little wonder that so many tourists declare Hoi An their favourite city in Vietnam, a sentiment with which I readily agree.

Need to Know
Hoi An is also known as Fai-Fo and is located in Quang Nam province, near the coast of south-central Vietnam. A long time ago, Hoi An was one of Southeast Asia’s leading trading ports, bringing with it a magical mix of peoples that combined with local traditions, creating a unique and multicultural city.

The Old Town in the centre of Hoi An is filled with historic houses, assembly halls, temples and buildings. You can explore the area by foot, on bicycle or in a pedicab. Walking is free but a bit tiring, and riding a bicycle is fun and inexpensive. The Pedicab is the most comfortable transportation option, and also the costliest.

What to Do?
Hoi An has been named by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. There is a list of locations in the city that must be seen and experienced. First and foremost is the Japanese Covered Bridge, an iconic symbol of Hoi An. This beautiful bridge was constructed around the 1590s by the Japanese community, to link them with the Chinese quarters across the stream. The Old House of Tan Ky is a perfectly preserved house from the 18th century. Located at 101 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, this wooden house remains pristine even after serving as home for seven generations of the family.

From the outside, the House of Tan Ky is elegant, with large wood door and wall. Built from traditional materials and influenced by Japanese and Chinese architectural styles, the house is small but comfortable. Inside, visitors are greeted by a friendly host who will serve them a cup of traditional tea and explain the history of the building in a five-minute tour. There are four rooms in the house, one that was used to welcome Chinese merchants, the living room, which is were guests enjoy their tea, the courtyard and the bedroom. Only the bedroom on the second floor is off-limits to visitors

You should also take the time to visit Cantonese Assembly. Built in 1885 by overseas Chinese from Guangdong, this enchanted assembly hall has an amazing fountain with a dragon in the centre. Every year, on the 15th day of the first lunar month, the Nguyen Lieu Festival is held at the Cantonese Assembly. Another stop on the tourist trail is Fujian Assembly Hall, which was built around 1690 as a gathering place for the Chinese community.

Culinary Exploration
There are plenty of restaurants and cafes in Old Town. Cao Lau serves local dishes with Japanese, Chinese and French influences. White Rose and My Quang Noodles are also tempting, and one of the favourite dishes is Pho (read fho), Vietnam’s famous noodle soup. Visitors can also visit Central Market to hunt down local dishes.

For the ideal ending to a long day of exploring Hoi An, relax at one of the riverside café. Order a glass of wine or bottle of beer and watch people buy wish candles, light them up, make a wish and let them go in the river. If you buy a candle and make your won wish, wish for another day to explore and fall in love with Hoi An.

Text & Photos by Priscilla Picauly

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