About Hoi An Ancient Town
Hoi An, being a UNESCO World Hertiage site, one has to purchase tickets at the gate which allows entry into three of the many sites which need tickets. The colourful lanterns lining the street added to the festive atmosphere for the town, which I can’t decide if it beautifies the place or makes it fake.Chinese, predominantly the Hokkiens (where my ancestors originated) from Guangdong province descended here in 1600s, bringing with them their religions, customs, and architecture. thus, I see familiar temples and buildings as we walked along the streets. Most of the houses have been turned into souvenirs shops, cafe, art galleries, restaurants and handicrafts showrooms. Those that are not in the above categories are designated heritage houses where you can visit with your ticket.I went into three owned by merchants, one of whom traded in Chinese medicines. The long interior reminded me of my grandma’s house at Cuppage Road (which has been turned into a restaurant as well). The indoor courtyard allowed light into the otherwise dark terrace house. Narrow stairway leads upstairs to the what were bedrooms before but now a lantern workshop.We were told about the annual floods and how the heavy Chinese furniture had to be moved upstairs via a pulley system from outside the house. Marking of the floods are proudly displayed on the pillar, with the month and year clearly stated, with the most recent dated Oct 2013, merely a few days before we arrived. The town is situated next to a river which facilitates trading in the olden days, and these were the inconvenience living next to the flooding river.To really walk the complete town, one needs a few hours. A better way is to cycle as the whole town is closed to traffic. Most hotels in the vicinity provide free bicycles for guests. Unfortunately, my husband thought it too dangerous to cycle from our hotel due to the traffic outside the old town.One of the more interesting location for me is the market at the opposite end of the entrance. There, one could try local food for cheap instead of eating at the restaurants or cafes. Much like our hawker centres, one could choose to eat a wide variety of local food there. We chose to try a local noodle stalls. It was delicious. The stall owner had a menu with photos and we just pointed to her.Much like the wet markets in Singapore, this market also houses a dry area selling dried food, coffee powders and yes, souvenirs for tourists. Further in is the meat section which has been cleaned as business hour was long over.s we walked along, we see vendors selling snacks along the streets and river banks. I was excited to see a soya custard (served hot) seller on wheels and even though it’s not my favourite snack on a hot day, I wanted to eat it for nostalgia sake. This was probably how it was sold in the old days in Singapore as well. (Nowadays in Singapore, it’s retailed in pre-packed plastic bowls in chillers.) It tasted the same as in Singapore.As dusk approached, the lanterns were turned on and the whole town transformed into a fairy land.
Best Time To Visit
Best time to visit Hoi An Ancient Town is from November to March
Hoi An Ancient Town
How To Reach
Book a Package Tour
An Bang Beach
After resting for some time at the hotel, we took a cab to An Bang Beach, about 5km from Hoi An. It seemed like everyone in Hoi An has descended there. Considering the low season and how small the town is had not expected to see such huge crowds. It is a mystery how the beach was still so clean. Unless you are really keen on beaches, would recommend tourists to avoid An Bang.
Sunflower Hotel Hoi An
The most I paid for accommodation in Vietnam ($10/bed), the Sunflower Hotel is as lavish as it can get for the budget-minded. The dorms are decent-sized and the beds are comfortable, but it's the complimentary breakfast where you get your money's worth. Plant yourself next to the Pancake station and gorge away before back-flipping into the pool and pissing every sunbathing soul off. Recipe for disaster? Obviously. Boring? Hell no!
Hoa Binh Hotel
Located just five minutes away from the Ancient Town but offering backpacker rates, Hoa Binh was one of our best decisions in all of Vietnam. The rooms are clean, the showers are lovely and the breakfast is to die for. If I were to nit-pick, I'd say the staff could be friendlier. In any case, you'll be better off booking tours with agents outside -- prices drop by at least a couple of dollars the moment you step out of the hotel.
Japanese Covered Bridge
Japanese Bridge is the most famous symbol of Hoi An. It was built in 16th century by Japanese community to create a link with the Chinese on the other side of the stream. It is a covered bridge and inside there is a temple dedicated to God of Weather. The bridge is quiet beautiful and should not be missed on a trip to Hoi An.We then visited a couple of cultural showrooms showcasing local embroidery work and silkworm breeding. Our last stop was central market - it is an authentic market visited by both locals and tourists. On sale is more of regular stuff like grocery, utensils, spices, fruits/vegetables , fish etc. There were a number of small stalls there , all pushing there wares on us quiet hard. We were glad of our guide's help - she helped us buy Vietnamese Coffee, coffee filter and rice paper (used for making Vietnamese spring rolls), all at a very reasonable price. Hoi An is known for its fine tailoring. There are a number of tailors who can make custom tailored suits, dresses, shirts etc.
Phung Hung Old House
Next we visited couple of ancient houses - Tan Ky Ancient House and Phung Hung Ancient House. Tan Ky was built around two hundred years ago as home of a Vietnamese merchant. It is a well preserved house with the original interiors and furniture kept almost intact. Phung Hung is a two-storied house built in 18th century. The house has kept many old documents and handicrafts reflecting the culture and tradition of Vietnam. The architecture of both the houses reflects influence of three cultures- Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese.
Cham Island Diving Center
Two flights two days later left me walking a little wobbly as I nervously handed over my passport at Bangkok passport control! As for the Diving… The prestigious, I use that term loosely, Cham Island Diving centre took me to, well, Cham Island. As beautiful as the sparse reef and clientele were, the guides and safety standards left a lot to be desired. Before I got on the boat that morning, no one had checked my dive creds, only our word. Which is fine, if you say you can dive and you can’t, it’ll become pretty obvious when you arse up a buddy check or breath from the wrong regulator. I can dive, I am also qualified to drift dive as an advanced open water diver, *salutes PADI. The thing about a strong drift dive is that if you don’t understand the basic idea of staying close to the bottom where the current is weaker, you may well lose your dive group. Which is pretty dangerous, in case that wasn’t obvious. Han, from Bulgaria, ended up thirty meters from the island. As the numbers of ours, and other groups, dwindled, we rose to the surface early. While Han was located my buddy and I were left to cling on to a large barnacle covered buoy and await the dive boat’s arrival. I will concede that they stuck to their duties in getting us all safely out of the sea, but they could have easily avoided losing clients and their fins by, A, ensuring we were all qualified to drift dive. B, actually checking that we were all genuinely certified to the right standard with experience in drift dives, C, taking us to a site with better conditions.
Mỹ Sơn comprises of a cluster of Hindu Temples built during the 4-16 AD by the Champa King. It is purely for religious use and unfortunately, many of the structures were demolished during the Vietnam. With aids from the Italians, a few were being reconstructed. Visiting the site, which consisted of an indoor museum, one marvels at the architectural brilliance of the people at that time.
Hoi An Ancient Town
Late evening, we cycled to the Hoi An Ancient town to check out the Night Market. The old town is simply enchanting with its timber frame yellow buildings. A river passes through the town and there are beautifully lit up houses/cafes on both sides of the river. The Night Market was mostly selling souvenirs, and jewelry. There was a row of shops selling silk lanterns that Hoi An is famous for. The whole atmosphere feels magical.We then had dinner in one of the restaurants along the river. We gave some complex instructions to the waiter about how to prepare our food. He thankfully followed them to the t and for a change we enjoyed spicy yummy veg food.Day 7: Hoi An