Hoi An is an old city situated on the Thu Bon River near the South China Sea that served as an international trading port during the 15th through 19th centuries. The old town of Hoi An with its narrow streets, yellow buildings, and colorful lanterns was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999. It was a lovely and picturesque area for a Saturday morning walkabout after six consecutive days of cycling.
Son guided our group from the hotel to the old city, about a 20-minute walk. The architectural influence of the many culture groups, particularly Japanese and Chinese, that have shaped this city across the centuries was striking. We visited three historic sites during our morning walk that illustrate this unique old city.
Our first stop was the Japanese Covered Bridge, a wooden structure dating to the 1590s and built by the Japanese to connect them with the Chinese community across the canal. The bridge has a temple in the center and is flanked by two dog statues at one end and two monkey statues at the other. One explanation offered for this is that bridge construction was originally begun in the Year of the Monkey and finished in the Year of the Dog. The bridge has been rebuilt several times, including a major restoration in 1986.
We crossed the bridge and stopped for a short tour of the House of Phung Hung, a 19th Century two-story wooden structure that combines Viet, Japanese, and Chinese architectural styles. It originally served as a trading house for cinnamon, salt, and pepper, and our guide said it had been in the same family for eight generations.
And finally we visited the Quang Trieu (Cantonese) Assembly Hall, established in 1885 by Chinese Merchants. This was a place for Chinese fishermen and traders to meet or to rest. The hall now includes a temple and retains many of the original architectural details.
Much of our time in Hoi An focused on its spectacular food – from Banh Mi sandwiches from a local vendor to cooking classes at a small restaurant. The food in Vietnam has been so lovely and delicious that it warrants a separate post – so more on food culture later.
We’ll close this post with photos of the charming lanterns that decorate the historic part Hoi An at night as well as general images of the city.