Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it was the most charming of the places we visited in Vietnam. Beautiful, historic, colourful, if you only visit one place in Vietnam, make it here.
This city was once a major port from the 15th to the 19th century. The famous Chua Cau Bridge was built by the Japanese in the late 1500s to join the Japanese section to the Chinese traders. It is in what is known as the Old Quarter and the various architecture and industry of old is well-preserved. The bridge is very popular and worth the fee to travel to the Old Quarter.
Boats line the central port, ready to take you on various short or long journeys and fishing nets sit, suspended over the river until used.
The city is known for its lanterns and its tailors. In both, you will be spoilt for choice.
And, while it is very pretty by day, it is enchanting by night. My camera at the time was determined to thwart my attempts, but I think you’ll get the picture.
We stayed in a hotel with a Spanish flavor, although I think they would say French. Five generations of the family had built 5 separate sections, or blocks and there was a bakery well-beneath us. It was a bit of a warren, but very attractive, nonetheless, and at 3 stars I’d be way out of my comfort in 5 stars.
There are markets a-plenty and more places to eat than you could possibly visit if you stayed a year. We spent one day visiting My Son.
We were picked up by private car and taken to My Son (miha sonne) via countryside abloom with lotuses. A shuttle took us 2 km up the hill in 38C so we didn’t complain. The ruins are beautiful – great colour and structure of what is left after the bombing of 1968. The blackened walls are a sombre reminder that more than lives were destroyed. The Cham people were from 11C and these were their temples and meeting places – what we had learned were the first buildings erected as they were central to a village.
The walk was great – picturesque and informative. The vegetation was dense and many gum trees were there. The driver said that they were very very old and that the people made eucalyptus oil ‘for the muscle and the baby’.
On our return, I noticed some extensive waterlily areas and the driver kindly stopped while I sloshed off in the mud to capture them.
In the afternoon, we held off lunch until the shuttle took is to the beach, where we found soul café, recommended by a previous guide (Thanh). Had a cheap lunch of spring rolls and cau lau. Then we headed for the beach and avoided paying for a simple mat or a more luxurious lounge, choosing the sand instead. I was the only one who headed for the water and it was warm and salty. There were 2 lifeguards and red flags set up between which to swim. Few people were in the water, as most lounged under the grass huts or on the lazy boys. It wasn’t sunny, but still hot.
We saw some fishermen take their round boats out, using just a rudder but getting very far. There were junks on the water, too, but we didn’t see anyone on them. This beach is not the main beach. On arrival in Hoi An, the driver took us to an esplanade which I believe is the main swimming area.
However, I loved the character of the beach we ended at. In fact, the whole character of Hoi An was delightful. We felt safe walking the streets by day or night and knew to tip drivers, restaurateurs and the like. This was the tail end of our trip and a great way to end it.
Travel safe. Buy your water in Vietnam, but have plenty of it and take a hat (although the conical rice hats are the best sunshades I have ever worn).