It is almost impossible not to love Hoi An; a town of immense historical interest blessed with a idyllic location on the Thu Bon River, just a few short miles from the glorious beaches of the East Vietnam Sea. “Hoi An is perhaps my favourite place in all of Vietnam. I love the traditional Old Quarter with its traffic-free streets and colourful silk lanterns; combine that with a great beach just ten minutes of out town and this is a fantastic place. The setting is amazing and the food is seriously good! ” Rup haubard said
For centuries Hoi An was one of Asia’s greatest trading ports, attracting merchants from across the continent and beyond; drawing influence from all comers that is reflected still in the architecture and character of the town. As the Thu Bon River slowly silted up during the 19th century, influence faded and the town became a quiet backwater. The beautiful old town was mercifully largely undamaged during decades of war and political turbulence, and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999.
Located a short ten-minute drive from town is the excellent Cua Dai Beach, where visitors can choose to stay in one of the many handsome resorts. Whether you opt for the beach or to stay within walking distance of the Old Quarter, Hoi An is an ideal place to relax and take a few days to enjoy this quintessential Vietnamese town. Also known for its fine cuisine, you will have the chance in Hoi An to take a cookery class and learn first hand how to create some of Vietnam’s most iconic dishes.
Old House Tan Ky
Located at 101 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, in the Old Quarter of Hoi An Ancient Town, Tan Ky Old house is an almost perfect example of a 18th merchant’s residence in this major commercial port town. The name Tan Ky, meaning “Progress Shop”, was given to the house by the second generation to express the owner’s wish for a prosperous business.
In spite of the decline in business of the town and the huge devastation of annual floods, seven generations of the family have continuously strive to keep the house in good condition. Therefore though it’s not the oldest, Tan Ky is the most well-preserved in Hoi An
There are many of the house’s details, which have remained unchanged to this day, including the storage area, the outside structure made of bricks and tiles, floor covered with Bat Trang bricks. The use of jack-fruit trees, ironwood and peck-wood for inside furniture with thick roofs and wooden walls has kept the house cool in summer and warm in winter.
Being the combination of Vietnamese, Japanese as well as Chinese elements, from a time when the three communities lived together in Hoi An during the 16th and 17th centuries, the house strongly represents features of Oriental philosophy, such as the the triple-beam structure (stands for heaven, earth and humans), the five round blocks (represent metal, wood, water, fire and earth – the five basic natural elements in Eastern philosophy) and several decorative carvings on the edge of the roof and furniture. Amongst several pieces in the house, the most famous one is two vertical panels next to the Tan Ky House’s central courtyard, which are inscribed with parallel sentences. What surprising about this piece is that each stroke of writing is an illustration of a bird. One hundred birds in total represent perfection.
Kim Bong Carpentry Village
Since the 16th century, the village which originated in the north of Vietnam, has had its artisans work on furniture and houses across the country, from prominent buildings in Hanoi to Hue citadel and royal tombs or most of the architectural projects in Hoi An’s heyday. The style of Kim Bong Carpentry is said to be the excellent combination of Cham kingdom, China, Japanese… and of course the talented hands of Vietnamese craftmen.
For many years, Kim Bong village has developed vigorously and formed 3 groups of artisans: ancient architectural construction, civil wooden furniture and shipbuilding. Whichever the group they are in, Kim Bong’s craftsmen still keep their traditional manner of starting out as apprentices and earning the rank of master through years of hard work.
Today, the tour to Kim Bong Carpentry Village is often a half-day bicycle, which allows visitors to see the artisans working with their skillful hands on the crafts. Kim Bong’s common products such as furniture, religious statues and finely crafted wooden doors can be found and bought on souvenirs shops. They range from the few-dollar coasters or knick-knacks to large religious statues of thousands of dollars. Lots of artisans have shifted to the work of recovering historical monuments or relics, especially old houses in Hoi An.
Walking down the village, tourists will see two parallel streets with low open-fronted buildings. Some of them are the artisans’ working places. The most famous shop is that of Mr. Huynh Ri, where visitors may also have the chance to watch the shipbuilding area where wooden fishing vessels are built using traditional techniques.
Tra Que Herb Village
Tra Que is a small village located 3km north of Hoi An’s Old Town. Its location is between De Vong River and Tra Que alga pond. Thanks to the special condition of rich soil and water, the village has long been known for growing many kinds of vegetables: lettuce, salad, houttuynia, flagrant knoutwed, basil and coriander vegetables etc, with which the traditional specialities of Hoi An have gained part of their fame. The village is named after the sweet scented vegetables that spice up the everyday meals of the Hoi An people.
Tourists visitting Tra Que Village are often fascinated by watching the farming procedures of local farmers, including: raking the ground, sowing, watering, picking vegetables and many other activities which are rarely seen in modern daily life. Moreover, tourists can listen to people talking about organic farming techniques and try their hand at actual farming. The farmers don’t use chemical or fertilisers but a kind of algae found only in a lagoon in Tra Que. Thanks to this technique, Tra Que herbs and veggies are widely recognized for their quality, safety and especially outstanding taste and flavour.
The beautifully laid out gardens with mixed beds of vegetables and tiny flowers are also attractive enough for a bicycle tour around, prior to lunch at local friendly families with wonderful food of Hoi An such as: cao lau, Quang noddles, banh xeo, etc and some kinds of drinks extracted from local herbs.
Taking some cooking lessons provided by tourism companies isn’t a bad idea either. Just imagine that you can cook a Vietnamese food by yourselves and learn how food is grown in Vietnam: what an experience.
My Son Sanctuary
If Hoi An enchants you by colorful lanterns along downtown streets by night, charming red towers in My Son surely amazes you in the sunset. My Son Sanctuary is located in My Son village, Duy Tan commune, Duy Xuyen district, 30km west of Tra Kieu (the ancient capital of Cham people) and 69km south-west of Da Nang city.
Nestling in a narrow valley surrounded by mountains, this temple, tower complex is a masterpiece of ancient Cham architecture.
My Son consists of 70 architectural works ranging from small to great size. It used to be holly land of Cham people from the 4th to 13th century. In the 4th century, in the King Bhadravarman’s time, after the construction of Tra Kieu, the religious center of Cham kingdom was set in My Son to welcome royal members, aristocrats and host important religious rituals. Continually developing through nearly nine centuries, My Son witnessed the glorious, prosperous as well as declining time of Champa kingdom.
The first temple was built from wood in the 4th century to worship the Saint Siva Bhadravarman, whose name is the combination King Bhadravarman at that time and Saint Siva. However, the wooden temple was totally damaged because of a fire in the 6th century. In later years, the Cham Kings continued to build more new temples and towers to worship the God, Saints and show their great power. By late 13th century, Champa kingdom was attacked by neighbor countries like Vietnam, Chinese, and Khmer and had to move the capital to the south in Binh Thuan province. Since then, My Son was decommissioned and no tower was built onsite anymore.
Be forgotten for hundreds of years, in 1898, this holly land was explored by a French scholar, and resorted from 1937 to 1944 by Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient. Unfortunately, this complex was badly destroyed by American bombs in the war, and only 20 out of 32 remnants still keep their original appearance today.
According to many French, Poland and Vietnamese researchers, My Son sanctuary architecture was affected by Arabian, Malaysian, Indonesian, especially Indian culture, and it is the convergence of different styles such as ancient style in the 7th-8th centuries, Hoa Lai style in 8th-9th century, Dong Duong style in the mid of 9th century, My Son- Binh Dinh style. All of the towers were built from red bricks and sandstone. Today, the brick making and construction remain a secret among many archeologists and tourists also.
Though there are not many remnants left, My Son holly land still boasts the rich culture and arts of ancient Champa kingdom in glorious time. Because of those priceless values, it was honorably recognized as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1999, and attracts millions of tourists each year.