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An experience we will never forget
March 24, 2012

Hoi An

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Mirrored in the poetic Thu Bon River, the little postcard-setting Hoi An is perhaps the most beautiful old town in Vietnam. Not as majestic as Hue or flamboyant as Cho Lon in Saigon, Hoi An with its gentle grace is a big surprise to any jaded mind. Its quiet lanes lighted with lanterns, sleeping old houses and atmospheric riverfront restaurants, all echo with history and charm. Hoi An is the first place to record economic and cultural exchange of Vietnam with the outside world. Its architecture features a perfect blend of Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese styles. Even westerners will find something familiar while wandering around its historical streets that Marco polo once passed. Despite increasing number of visitors, Hoi An remains a “lost in the time” peaceful old town with magical beauty that has survived through all ravages of wars and time.

Apart from major attractions in the old town, Hoi An Central Market is also a must see. It makes a very good example of Asian markets with endless chains of stalls selling all kinds of fruits, vegetables, seafood, herbs and spices as well as clothes and souvenirs. Bargaining is common and generally, you may drive from half of the asked prices. There are also some good silk-tailoring shops on the east end. You may expect the same quality as major shops on Le Loi Street, but with lower cost. Even if you have no intention for shopping there, it is well worth a visit to learn about local life and to catch some nice photographs. Another fantastic market is morning fish market right on the river dock, but only for those who can afford to get up early around 6.am and 7.am.


The surrounding areas of Hoi An also have a lot to offer, including Cua Dai Beach, Cham Island, Tra Que Vegetable Village and My Son Holyland.

Hoi An Festivals
Hoi An old town is one of few places in Vietnam where traditional way of life has not been colored by the concepts of urbanization and industrialization. There are many interesting festivals in a year, but the most fantastic ones are Full Moon festival and Lantern festival, which are held in 14th and 15th lunar days every month. During these days, daily life in town comes back to what it was 300 years ago. At night, the lamps are replaced by lanterns and people flock to the banks of Thu Bon River or Hoai River.  The areas become stages for traditional songs, dances, games and food. The grandest Full Moon festival falls into August and thus gets its own name “Mid-Autumn Festival”.

Cooking class in Hoi An
Hoi An gets big reputation for its fantastic food, a fusion of Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese cuisine. It is always a delight to taste such scrumptious delicacies. It is even much more interesting to try your hand at making it. Many restaurants and cafes here offer Vietnamese cooking class for lower rates than Hanoi and Saigon (around US$15/person). This would also make a great hideaway from the mid-day heat and an ideal leisure while waiting for your custom-made clothes. Some best-known places are Red Bridge Cooking School of Hai’s Scout Café (98 Nguyen Thai Hoc St) and Morning Glory Cooking School of Cargo Club (106 Nguyen Thai Hoc St).


Shopping in Hoi An
For a great number of travelers, the shopping mecca of Vietnam is not Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) but Hoi An. Folks love shopping in this old town since people in Hoi An are not as highly business-minded as in other cities. You may spend a half day to dig through a myriad of shops and galleries along Tran Phu, Le Loi and Nguyen Thai Hoc streets to stock up perfect souvenirs. They may be lanterns, embroidery, potteries, lacquer ware, silk items, paintings or calligraphy posters. Some not-to-miss addresses are Hoi An Handicraft Workshop (9 Nguyen Thai Hoc), House of Traditional Handicrafts (41 Le Loi), Kim Bong Traditional Carpentry Studio (108 Nguyen Thai Hoc), Reaching Out (Hoa Nhap, 103 Nguyen Thai Hoc) and Traditional Lantern (49 Le Loi). Fashion lovers should check out some of 400 tailor shops dotted the town to get some ready-made clothes or have some tailored to your sizes. High-standard quality, discounted price and express service reward Hoi An but not Hanoi or Saigon the fame of a tailor city in Vietnam.  Some well preferred shops are A Dong Silk (40 Le Loi), Yaly Couture (47 Nguyen Thai Hoc), Tony the Tailor (243 Nguyen Duy Hieu), Thu Thuy (60 Le Loi), Bi Bi Silk (13 Phan Chu trinh) and Phuoc An Cloth Shop (6 Le Loi). You should also drop in Dong Shoe Shop (16 Tran Phu) or Nam Shoe Shop (11 Hoang Dieu/495 Cua Dai) to get you some made-to-match shoes. For handbags, Phuong Huy (25 Tran Phu) should be your first stop.

The surrounding areas of Hoi An also have a lot to offer, including Cua Dai Beach, Cham Island, Tra Que Vegetable Village and My Son Holyland.

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