Exploring Hoi An Vietnam’s Fusion City

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I have enlisted the help of a fellow freelance travel writer, David Elliott, with a post about Vietnam. Although I have never visited Hoi An, My Son (seen right), and the region’s beautiful beaches, I have Vietnam on my Future Must See List. This post certainly whet my palate for an adventure sooner rather than later to Vietnam. Likewise, I bet that his words with begin to get the adventure wheels turning for other travelers and fun seekers with his synopsis on Hoi An – Vietnam’s Fusion City. Enjoy David’s post! Perhaps we will all cross paths in Hoi An.

It’s safe to say that Vietnam has now left its troubled past behind and has blossomed into one of the most attractive and fascinating countries of Southeast Asia for hardy independent travellers and curious package tourists alike. Organised Vietnam holidays, as well as being packed with cultural, historic and natural interest, can also work out relatively cheap, although there are always plenty of ways to splash out if you’re in the mood for luxury trimmings.

The central provinces are relatively neglected on most tourist itineraries. This narrow strip is some distance from the more popular sandy beaches and has the Truong Son Mountains guarding its other side, forming the border between Laos and Vietnam. Hoi An is one of Vietnam’s most attractive riverside towns here and is starting to attract more visitors into the interior.

If you’re looking for the roots of Vietnamese culture and history you could do worse than begin your quest here, as Hoi An is famous for its Chinese merchants’ houses, arts and crafts shops and traditional temples. You can also easily reach the beaches from here if so inclined, and at neighbouring My Son there are the impressive remains of a Cham temple complex. Nearby Hue, the former Vietnamese capital is packed with temples, palaces and the grand mausoleums of old rulers. Vinh Moc, also easily accessed from Hoi An, has a famous complex of tunnels beneath the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) which acts as a salutary reminder of Vietnam’s more recent conflicts.

Hoi An itself is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, with a charming fusion of Vietnamese, European, Japanese and Chinese architectural influences that go right back to the 16th century. One of the most popular attractions here is the numerous wooden-fronted houses, over two centuries old, which line the river and harbour. They were built by prosperous Chinese merchants from the great trading nations of the world, who decided to make Hoi An their home.

The main commercial street in Hoi An is Tran Phu with its galleries and craft shops. Wooden townhouses are a feature of Nguyen Thai Hoc street which runs parallel with it, whilst Bach Dang is home to the main market and a number of small cafes. A short drive outside of town is a cluster of small islands, and these are good destinations for a day trip out of Hoi An for a spot of sunbathing on their beaches.

The Japanese Covered Bridge at the end of Tran Phu street is now the emblem of the town. It dates to the mid-16th century and has a collection of statues inside it. The two monkeys and two dogs indicate that the bridge’s construction was begun and completed in the years of these two animals.

The Museum of Trade Ceramics and the Museum of Sa Huynh Culture are worth a visit for an insight into the ceramics trade of the 16th century and the 2nd century civilisation that flourished here. There’s also a good History and Culture Museum for an insight into the town’s industrial past.

Hoi An is a great alternative if you can’t face the bustle of Ho Chi Minh City and are looking for a gentler and more traditional introduction to this fascinating country, its peoples and cultures.

**Featured post written by David Elliott, a freelance writer who loves to travel, especially in Europe and Turkey. He’s spent most of his adult life in a state of restless excitement but recently decided to settle in North London. David gets away whenever he can to immerse himself in foreign cultures and lap up the history of great cities.

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