About Hoi An: the History
Hoi An’s Old Town is a living museum reflective of one of the most active Southeast Asian seaports of the 15th –19th centuries. Consider the bustling scene in the late-1500s: black market Japanese and Chinese traders haggling over silk and ceramics; a crowded harbour and estuary dotted with ships under full sail; the Dutch East India Company lording it over the rest of Europe for spices and materials and British, Portuguese and French spies and adventurers hustling in a melting pot perfect for their intrigues. Meanwhile, the Vietnamese Nguyen Lords welcomed and fostered this economic bonanza and Persian, Arab and Indian traders sniffed around the edges. The silk road started here and Hoi An was in its prime.
About Hoi An: the Present
Now a UNESCO heritage site, Hoi An is one of the most magical environments anywhere in the world where Japanese, Chinese, French and Vietnamese architecture all come together with unique homogeneity. For many hours a day motorized vehicles are banned from Hoi An’s Old Town streets affording an extraordinary walk back in time as one navigates narrow, curved lanes, the buildings of yesteryear now filled with stylish restaurants, cafes, bars, tailors and fashion houses.
Venture a kilometer or two out of the city center and you will find waterways, rice paddies, farming communities and two sun-kissed beaches just minutes from the Old Town, each with a fine array of restaurants and bars by the waterside. Further afield, the larger city of Da Nang and its attractions are just 25 minutes away.
Although its population is only 120,000 or so, Hoi An attracts many Western travelers and a large expat population has also developed. This has resulted in considerable Western amenities being readily available.
Many visitors, hamstrung by inflexible tour itineraries, just stay in Hoi An for two or three days and regret they hadn’t stayed longer. A couple of days is by no means long enough to sample its cuisine range which is second to none; its unique designer shops and its variety of outdoor trips and adventures – from piloting basket boats to scuba diving to motorcycle adventures exploring sections of the Ho Chi Minh trail.
In Hoi An there’s something for everyone. You can stay in a resort near the beach, or in a cheap as chips meet-the-locals homestay near the Old Town overlooking an expanse of rice fields, or anything you could possibly imagine in between.