VIETNAM TRAVEL

 

Central Vietnam

Demilitarised Zone - Dong Ha - Lao Bao - Quang Tri - Hue - Around Hue - Suoi Voi Bach Ma National Park - Lang Co Beach - Hai Van Pass Tunnel
Ba Na Hill Station - Suoi Mo - Danang - Around Danang - Hoi An - Around Hoi An My Son - Tra Kieu - Tam Ky

HOI AN

IDD Code:(+84) 510
A highlight of any trip to Vietnam, Hoi An is a town oozing charm and history, having largely escaped the destruction of successive wars. Once a sleepy riverside village, it s now quite definitely a tourist town - with hotels, restaurants, bars, tailors and souvenir shop dominating the old centre. Despite this air of irreality, Hoi An's charisma pervades. The local People's Committee periodicallv clamps down on touts, and while this doesn't mean a completely hassle-free visit, a stroll down the street is usually more relaxed here than in Hue or Nha Trang. Hoi An is pedestrian friendly: the Old Town is closed to cars and the distances from the hotels to the centre are walkable. It's a great place to hire a bike, Known as Faifo to Western traders, from the 17th to 19th centuries it was one of Southeast Asia's major international ports. Vietnamese ships and sailors based here sailed all around Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. Perhaps more than any other place in Vietnam, Hoi An retains a sense of history that envelops you as you explore it. This is especially true on 'Hoi An Legendary Night’. Every month on the full moon, motorbikes are banned from the Old Town, which is transformed into a magical land of silk lanterns, traditional food, song and dance, and games in the streets. Every year during the rainy season, particu-larly in October and November, Hoi An has problems with flooding, especially in areas close to the waterfront. The greatest flood ever recorded in Hoi An took place in 1964, when the water reached all the way up to the roof beams of the houses. In late 2006 the town bore the brunt of the worst typhoon in 50 years, although at the time of research repairs were well in hand. There's plenty So do in Hoi An. Emphati-cally the most enchanting place along the coast, this is one spot worth lingering in.
History
Recently excavated ceramic fragments from 2200 years ago constitute the earliest evidence of human habitation in the Hoi An area. They are thought to belong to the late Iron Age Sa Huynh civilisation, which is related to the Dong Son culture of northern Vietnam. From the 2nd to the 10th centuries, this was a busy seaport of the Champa kingdom. Persian and Arab documents from the latter part of the period mention Hoi An as a provisions stop. Archaeologists have un-covered the foundations of numerous Cham towers around Hoi An: the bricks and .stone were reused by Vietnamese settlers. In 1307 the Cham king married the daughter of a monarch of the Tran dynasty and presented Quang Nam province to the Vietnamese as a gift. After his death, his successor refused to recognise the deal and fighting broke out; for the next century chaos reigned. By the 15th century peace had been restored, allowing nor mal commerce to resume. During the next four centuries Chinese, Japanese, Dutch Portuguese, Spanish, Indian, Filipino, Indonesian, Thai, French, British and American ships came to Hoi An to purchase high-grade silk ( for which the area is famous), fabrics, paper, por-celain. tea, sugar, molasses, areca nuts, pepper, Chinese medicines, elephant tusks, beeswax, mother-of-pearl, lacquer, sulphur and lead. The Chinese and Japanese traders sailed south in the spring, driven by winds from the northeast. They would stay in Hoi An until the summer, when southerly winds would blow them home. During their four-month sojourn in Hoi An, the merchants rented waterfront houses for use as warehouses and living quarters. Some traders began leaving full-time agents in Hoi An to take care of off-season business affairs. This is how foreign colonies got started, although the japanese ceased coming to Hoi An after 1637, when the Japanese government forbade all contact with the outside world, Hoi An was the site of the first Chinese settlement in southern Vietnam. The town's Chinese hoi quan (congregational assembly halls) still play a special role among southern Vietnam's ethnic Chinese, some of whom come to Hoi An from all over the region to participate in congregation-wide celebrations Today 1300 of Hoi An's population of 75,800 are ethnic Chinese. Relations between ethnic Vietnamese and ethnic Chinese in Hoi An arc excellent, partly because the Chinese have be come assimilated to the point where they even speak Vietnamese among themselves. This was also *he first place in Vietnam to be exposed to Christianity. Among the 17th-century missionary visitors was the French priest Alexandre de Rhodes, who devised the Latin-based quoc ngu script for the Vietnam ese language. Hoi An was almost completely destroyed during the Tay Son Rebellion. It was rebuilt and continued to serve as an important port for foreign trade until the late 19th century, when the Thu Bon River (Cat River), which links Hoi An with the sea, silted up and became too shallow for navigation. During this period Danang (Tourane) began to eclipse Hoi An as a port and centre of commerce. In 1916 a rail line linking Danang with Hoi An was destroyed in a terrible storm; it was never rebuilt, Under French rule Hoi An served as an ad -ministrative centre. During the American War the city, with the cooperation of both sides, remained almost completely undamaged.
Orientation
The Thu Bon River forms the southern edge of the Old Town. Bridges link this to the An Hoi Peninsula and Cam Nam Island. The newer part of town stretches to the north. The road to Cua Dai Beach heads east. Many streets have changed names and/or been renumbered. In some cases the old and new numbers sit side by side on buildings.
Information
BOOKSHOPS
Khai Tri (52 Ð Ie Loi) Sells secondhand books and dodgy copies.
EMERGENCY: Hoi An Police Station (Tell: 861204; 84 Ð Hoang Dieu)
INTERNET ACCESS
Min's Computer (Tell: 914 323; 125 Ð Nguyen Duy Hieu, per hr 4000d) Access is slow throughout Hoi An, but this is as good as any.
MEDICAL SERVICES Dr Ho Huu Phuoc Practice (Tell: 867 419; 74 Ð Le loi;11am-12.30pm & 5-7.30pm Mon-Fri, 7am-12.30pm Sat & Sun) A local doctor who speaks English.
Hoi An Hospital (Tell: 861364; 4 Ð Tran Hung Dao) if its anything serious, make for Danang.
MONEY
Incombank (Tell: 861 261; 4 Ð Hoang Dieu) This branch and another at 9 Ð Le loi both change cash and travellers cheques, offer Visa advances and have ATMs.
POST: Main post office (Tell: 861 480; 6 Ð Tran Hung Dao)
TRAVEL AGENCIES
Competition is pretty fierce, so for expen-sive or complicated arrangements it's probably worth checking out a few options and negotiating. Hoi An Old Town Booth (Ð Hoang Dieu) A handy spot to pick up an Old Town ticket.
Nga (22 Ð Phan Boi Chau) Handles plane, train and open-tour bus bookings, tours to My Son and Chain Island, boat trips and car rentals
Sinh Cafe ( 18B Ð Phan Dinh Phung) Books reputable open-tour buses.
Tourist Service Office Also books good open-tour buses
Dangers & Annoyances
Generally speaking. Hoi An is one of the safer towns in Vietnam, but there have been stories of late-night bag-snatching in the poorly lit market area of town. We have also heard accounts of women being followed to their hotels and assaulted on very rare occasions. If you are a lone female, try and make sure you walk home with somebody. In the very unlikely event that something like this happens, shout and scream as Hoi An is a very quiet town bv night. A worrying trend here as in other parts of Vietnam is the use of children to sell trinkets, postcards and newspapers. Don't be fooled into thinking that the kids actually see the money themselves. One can only hope that is tourists stop buying from the children, their controllers will stop using them-perhaps freeing them to pursue an education.
Sights
Now a Unesco World Heritage site. Hoi An Old Town is governed by preservation laws that are well up to speed. Several buildings of historical and cultural significance are open to; public viewing, a number of streets in the centre of town are off-limits to cars, and building alterations and height restrictions are well enforced. It only Hanoi would follow suit in its historic Old Quarter. The admission fee goes towards funding this conservation work. This ticket gives you a complicated choice of heritage attractions to visit. You can attend a traditional music show at the handicraft workshop, and one each of the four following types of attractions: muse ums; assembly halls; old houses; and other'.If you want to visit additional a tractions, then it is necessary to buy another ticket; there are ticket offices dotted around the centre. But for those who only want to buy one ticket, what are the best options' The most in foresting museum is that of Trading Ceramics mainly for the building it's housed in. Among the assembly halls, the Fujian folk probably have the edge. When it comes to old houses the Tran Family Chapel offers an interesting and informative tour. Finally there is that obscure 'other’ category; the shrine in the Japa-nese Bridge or Quan Cong Temple. Choose the temple: the Japanese Bridge ticket just gets you into a small shrine that is second-best to the bridge itself, which you can enjoy free. The system doesn't seem to be too well monitored, but hopefully the fees do get collected and end up as part of the restoration and preservation fund. Not all of HOI An's old houses and assembly halls require a ticket, and there's certainly nothing to stop anybody from wandering the old streets to admire the houses. Despite the number of tourists who conic to Hoi An, it is still a conservative town, and visitors should dress modestly when visiting the sites.
JAPANESE COVERED BRIDGE
This famed bridge (Cau Nhat Ban) connects Ð Tran Phu with Ð Nguyen Thi Minh Khai. the first bridge on this site was constructed in the 1590s. It was built by the Japanese com-munity of Hoi An in order to link them with the Chinese quarters across the stream. The Japanese Covered Bridge is very solidly constructed; the original builders were con-cerned about the threat of earthquakes. Over the centuries the ornamentation has remained relatively faithful to the original Japanese design. Its understatement contrasts greatly with the Vietnamese and Chinese penchant for wild decoration. The French flattened out the road way to make it suitable for their motor vehicles, but the original arched shape was restored during major renovation work in 1986. Built into the northern side of the bridge is a small temple (Chua Cau; admission HOI An Old Town ticket). The writing over its door is the name given to the bridge in 1719 to replace the name meaning Japanese Covered Bridge. However the new name, Lai Vien Kieu (Bridge for Passers-by from Afar), never quite caught on. According to legend, there once lived an enormous monster called Cu, who had its head in India, its tail in Japan and its body in Vietnam. Whenever the monster moved, terrible disasters such as floods and earthquakes befell Vietnam. This bridge was built on the monster's weakest point and killed it, but the people of Hoi An took pity on the slain monster and built this temple to pray for its soul. The entrances of the bridge are guarded by a pair of monkeys on one side and a pair of dogs on the other. According to one story, these animals were popularly revered because many of Japan s emperors were born in years of the dog and monkey. Another tale says that construction of the bridge started in the year of the monkey and was finished in the year of the dog. The stelae, listing all the Vietnamese and Chinese contributors to a subsequent restoration of the bridge, are written in chu nho (Chinese characters) - the nom script had not yet become popular in these parts.
MUSEUMS
Showcasing a collection of blue and white ceramics of the Dai Viet period, the Museum of Trading Ceramics ( 80 Ð Tran Phu; admission Hoi An Old Town ticket) occupies a simply restored house made of dark wood. In particular. check out the great ceramic mosaic that's set above tlie pond in the inner courtyard. Housed in the Quan Am Pagoda the Hoi An Museum of History & Culture (7 Ð Nguyen Hue; admission Hoi An Old Town ticket; Time 8am-5pm) has a small collection of bronze temple bells, gongs and Cham artefacts. Artefacts from the early Dong Son civilisa tion of Sa Huynh are displayed downstairs at the Museum of Sa Huynh Culture & Museum of the Revolution (149 Ð Tran Phu; admission Hoi An Old Town ticket; Time 8am-5pm). Upstairs, the Revolution museum has the usual collection of local photos and mementos of the last two wars, including a boat used to transport cadres. It would be more accessible if full English captions were provided,
ASSEMBLY HALLS
Assembly Hall of the Fujian Chinese
Congregation
Founded as a place to hold community meetings, this assembly hall (Phuc Kien; opposite 35 Ð Tran Phu; admission Hoi An Old Town Ticket) was later trans-formed into a temple for the worship of Thien Hau, a deity from Fujian province.The triple gate to the complex was built in 1975. The mural on the right-hand wall near the entrance to the main hall depicts Thien Hau, her way lit by lantern light as she crosses a stormy sea to rescue a foundering ship. On the wall opposite is a mural of the heads of the six Fujian families who fled from China to Hoi An in the 17th century, following the overthrow of the Ming dynasty. The penultimate chamber contains a statue of Thien Hau. To either side of the entrance stand red-skinned Thuan Phong Nhi and green-skinned Thien Iy Nhan. When cither sees or hears sailors in distress, they inform Thien Hau, who sets off to effect a rescue The replica of a Chinese boat along the right hand wall is 1:20 scale. The central altar in the last chamber contains seated figures of the heads of the six Fujian families. The smaller figures below them represent their successors as clan leaders. Behind the altar on the left is the God of Prosperity. On the right are three fairies and smaller figures representing the 12 ba mu (midwives), each of whom teaches newborns a different skill necessary for the first year of life: smiling, sucking, lying on their stomachs and so forth. Childless couples often come here to pray for offspring. The three groups of figures in this chamber represent the ele- ments most central to Chinese life; ancestors, children and financial wellbeing. The middle altar of the room to the right of the courtyard commemorates deceased leaders of the Fujian congregation. On either side are lists of contributors - women on the left and men on the right. The wall panels represent the four seasons. The Fujian assembly hai1 is fairly well lit and can be visited after dark. Shoes shouId be removed upon mounting the platform just past the naves.
Assembly Hall of the Cantonese Chinese Congregation
Founded in 1786, this assembly hall (176 Ð Tran Phu: admission Hoi An Old Town ticket; Time 8am-5pm) has a main altar that is dedicated to Quan Cong, Note the long-handled brass fans to either side of the altar. The lintel and door posts of the main entrance and a number of the columns supporting the roof are made of single blocks of granite. The other columns were carved out of the durable wood of the jackfruit tree. There are intricate carvings on the wooden beams that support the roof in front of the main entrance.
Assembly Hall of the Chaozhou Chinese Congregation
The Chaozhou Chinese in Hoi An built their congregational hall (Trieu Chau; opposite 157 Ð Nguyen Duy Hieu; admission Hoi An Old Town ticket; Time 8am 5pm) in 1776. Some outstanding woodcarvings are on the beams, walls and altar. On the doors in front of the altar are carvings of two Chinese girls wearing their hair in a Japanese style,
Chinese All-Community Assembly Hall
Founded in 1773, the Chinese All-Community Assembly Hall (Chua Ba; Tell: 861935; 64 Tran Phu; admission free) was used by Fujian, Cantonese, Hainan. Chaozhou and Hakka congregations in Hoi An. The pavilions off the main courtyard in corporate elements of 19th-century French architecture.
Assembly Hall of the Hainan Chinese Congregation
Built in 1851, this assembly hall (10 Ð Tran Phu, admission free; Time 8am-5pm) is a memorial to 108 merchants from Hainan Island who were mistaken for pirates and killed in Quang Nan) province during the reign of Emperor Tu Duc. The elaborate dais contains plaques to the r memory. In front of the central altar is a fine gilded woodcarving of Chinese court life.
OLD HOUSES: Tan Ky House
Built two centuries ago as the home of a well-to-do ethnic-Vietnamese merchant. Tan Ky House (Tell: 861 474; 101Ð Nguyen Thai Hoc; admission Hoi An Old Town ticket; Time 8am-noon $ 2-43.0pm) has been lovingly preserved and today looks almost exactly as it did in the early 19th century. The design of Tan Ky House shows some evidence of the Japanese and Chinese influence on local architecture. Japanese elements include the ceiling (in the area immediately before the courtyard), which is supported by three progressively shorter beams, one on top of the other. There are similar beams in the salon. Under the crab-shell ceiling there are carvings of crossed sabres wrapped in silk ribbon. The sabres symbolise force, the silk represents flexibility. Chinese poems written in inlaid mother of pearl are hung from a number of the column that hold up the roof. The Chinese character on these 150-year-old panels are formed entirely of birds gracefully portrayed in various positions of flight. The courtyard here has several functions to let in light, provide ventilation, bring a glimpse of nature into the home, and collect rainwater and provide drainage. The stone tiles covering the patio floor were brought from Thanh Hoa province in north-central Vietnam. The carved wooden balcony supports around the courtyard are decorated with grape leaves, which are a European import and further evidence of the unique blending of cultures that took place in Hoi An The back of the house faces the river. In the past, this section of the building was rented out to foreign merchants. That the house was a place of commerce as well as a residence is indicated by the two pulleys attached to a beam in the storage loft just inside the front door. The exterior of the roof is made of tiles; inside, the ceiling consists of wood. This design keeps the house cool in summer and warm in winter. The floor tiles were brought from near Hanoi. Tan Ky House is a private home; the owner, whose family has lived here for seven generations, speaks fluent French and English.
Tran Family Chapel
The Tran family moved from China to Vietnam in around 1700. Built in 1802, the Tran Family Chapel (21Ð Le loi; admission Hoi An Old Town ticket) is a house for worshipping ancestors. It was built by one of the Tran clan who ascended to the rank of mandarin and once served as an Ambassador to China. His picture is to the right of the chapel. The architecture of the building reflects the influence of Chinese and Japanese styles the central door is reserved tor the dead -- it's opened at Tet and on the anniversary of the main ancestor. Traditionally, women entered from the left and men from the right, although these distinctions are no longer oh served in supposedly egalitarian communist Vietnam. The wooden boxes on the altar contain the Tran ancestors' stone tablets - featuring chiselled Chinese characters setting out the dates of birth and death - along with some small personal effects. On the anniversary of each family member's death, their box is opened, incense is burned and food is of fered. Nowadays photographs have replaced the stone tablets. There's a museum and souvenir shop at the hack of the chapel. The small garden behind is where the placentas of newborn family members are buried - the practice is meant to prevent fighting between the children.
Quan Thang House
This private house (77 Tran Phu; admission Hoi An Old Town ticket; Time 7am-5pm) is three centuries old and has been in the family for six generations. having been built by an ancestor who was a Chinese captain. Again, the architecture in¬cludes Japanese and Chinese elements. There is some especially fine carving on the teak walls of the rooms around the courtyard, on the roof beams and under the crab-shell roof (in the salon next to the courtyard). Look out for the green ceramic tiles built into the railing around the courtyard balcony.
Phung Hung Old House
In a lane full of beautiful buildings, this old house (4 Ð Nguyen Thi Minh Khai; admission Hoi An Old Town ticket; Time 8am-7pm) stands out. It's still a family home, having housed eight generations over 226 years. At present it showcases hand embroidery and souvenirs; wander through and enjoy the ambience.
Tran Duong House
There's a whole citv block ot colonnaded French-colonial buildings on Ð Phan Boi Chau, between Nos 22 and 73, among them the 19th-century Tran Duong House (25 Ð Phan Boi Chau; admission free, donations welcome: Time 9am-6pm) Mr Duong, a charming retired mathematics; teacher, speaks English and French, and is happv to explain the history of his 62m-long, house that has been in his family for six gen orations. The large wooden table in the front room is the family bed.
Diep Dong Nguyen House
Built for a wealthy Chinese merchant in the late 19th century is Diep Dong Nguyen House ( 58 Ð Nguyen Thai Hoc; admission free; Time 8am-noon & 2-4.30pm). The front room on the ground floor was once a dispensary for thuoc bac (Chi nese medicine), the medicines were stored in the glass-enclosed cases lining the walls The owner's private collection of antiques -which includes photographs, porcelain and furniture - is on display upstairs. Two of the chairs were once lent by the family to Emperor Bao Dai.
Old House at 103 Ð Tran Phu
The wooden frontage and shutters make a good photographic backdrop to this backdrop to this eclectic shop (103 Ð Tran Phu; admission free), where women make silk lanterns
TEMPLES & PAGODAS:Quan Cong Temple
Founded in 1653, Quan Cong Temple (Chua Ong; 24 Ð Tran Phu: admission Hoi An Old Town ticket) is dedicated to Quan Cong - a highly esteemed Chinese general who is worshipped as a symbol of loyalty, sincerity, integrity and justice His partiallv gilt statue, made of papier-rnâché on a wooden frame, is in the central altar at the back of the sanctuary. On the left is a statue of General Chau Xuong, one of Quan Cong's guardians, striking a tough-guy pose On the right is the rather camp and plump administralive mandarin Quan Binh. The life-size white horse recalls a mount ridden bv Quan Cong, until he was given a red horse of extraordinary endurance, representations of which are common in Chinese pagodas. Check out the carp-shaped rain spouts or, the roof surrounding the courtyard The carp is a symbol of patience in Chinese mythology and is popular in Hoi An. Shoes should be removed when mounting the platform in front of the statue of Quan Cong.
Chuc Thanh Pagoda
Founded in 1454 by Minh Hai, a Buddhist monk from China, Chuc Thanh Pagoda (Khu Vuc 7, Tan An; Time 8am-6pm) is the oldest pagoda in Hoi An. Among the antique ritual objects still in use are several bells, a stone gong that is two centuries old and a carp-shaped wooden gong said to be even older. In the main sanctuary the gilt Chinese characters inscribed on a red roof beam give details of the pagoda's construction An A Di Da Buddha flanked by two Thich Ca Buddhas sits under a wooden canopy on the central dais. In front of them is a statue of a boyhood Thich Ca flanked by his servants. To get to Chuc Thanh Pagoda, go north ail the way to the end of Ð Nguyen Truong To and turn left. Follow the sandy path for 500m.
Phuoc Lam Pagoda
Phuoc Lam Pagoda (Thon 2A, Cam Ha; Time 8am-5pm) was founded in the mid-17th century. The head monk at the end of that century was An Thiem, a Vietnamese prodigy who became a monk at the age of eight. When he was 18, the king drafted An Thiem's brothers into his army to put down a rebellion. An Thiem volunteered to take the places of the other men in his family and eventually rose to the rank of general. After the war he returned to monkhood, but felt guilty about the many people he had slain. To atone for his sins, he volunteered to clean the Hoi An Market for 20 years. When that time was up, he was asked to come to Phuoc Lam Pagoda as head monk. To reach the pagoda, continue past Chuc Thanh Pagoda for 400m. The path passes an obelisk that was erected over the tomb of 13 ethnic Chinese, who had been decapitated by the Japanese during WWII for resistance activities.
Other Temples & Pagodas
Serving the local community, the Cao Dai pagoda (88 Ð Hung Vuong), near the bus station, is surrounded by peaceful gardens.
The Phac Hat Pagoda (673 Hai Ba Trung) has a col-ourful facade of ceramics and murals and is an active place of worship.
The less ornate and newish Cam Pho Temple (52 Ð Nguyen Thi Minh Khai; Time 8am-5pm) is notable mainly for its ceramic dragon roof line.
HANDICRAFT WORKSHOP
Housed in the 200-year-old trading house of a Chinese merchant, the Handicraft Workshop (Tell: 910 216; 9 Ð Nguyen Thai Hoc; admission Hoi An Old Town ticket) delivers what it promises - in the back section you can watch artisans making silk lanterns and taking part in traditional crafts like embroidery. It's a good place to pick up souvenirs. Fascinating cultural performances are held in the front hall twice daily (10.15am and 3.15pm), featuring traditional singers dancers and musicians.
BA LE WELL
Said to date from Cham times, this well is square in shape. Its claim to fame is that it's the only place you're able to draw water from if you're to make authentic cao lau, a HOI An specialty. You're likely to sec elderly people making their daily pilgrimage to fill metal pails here. To find it, turn down the alley opposite 35 Ð Phan Chu Trinh and take the second laneway to the right.
Hoi An Walking Tour
This tasty little trail takes you past Hoi An’s main sights in a half-day amble. If you want to venture inside some of the buildings, call into the Tourist Service Office to pur chase your Hoi An Old Town ticket before you set off. Start at the Tran Family Chapel. Head south on Ð le Loi and turn left at the next junction onto Ð Tran Phu. On your right you'll find Quan Thang House and a little further on the left, the Museum of Trading Ceramics. Continuing along Ð Tran Phu, there is a cluster of interesting buildings on the left side of the road, including the Chinese All-Community Assembly Hall and the Assembly Hall of the Fujian Chinese Congregation. Keep heading east and at the next junction take a short detour north on Ð Nguyen Hue to the Hoi An Museum of History & Culture. Back on Tran Phu you'll see the Quan Cong Temple. Still walking east on Ð Tran Phu, the Assembly Hall of the Hainan Chinese Congregation is on the left. Cross the next junction and the road becomes Ð Nguyen Duy Hieu. On the left is the Assembly Hall of the Chaozhou Chinese Congregation. Take the second right and turn right again onto Ð Phan Boi Chau. There is a whole city block of colonnaded French buildings hen between Nos 22 and 73, among them the 19th century Tran Duong House . Wander; along Ð Phan Boi Chau, turning right just past the market and then left into Ð Nguyen Thai Hoc and soak up the ambience of tins street. On the left is the Handicraft Workshop - if you time it correctly you might be able to catch a cultural performance, just past the next street is the intriguingly named Hoi An Department of Managing & Gathering Swallow s Nests ( 53 Nguyen Thai Hoc). The nests are gathered from Cham Island twice a year; if you re luckv you 11 be able to watch worker's sorting their precious harvest here. Turn right onto Ð Le Loi, then left onto Ð Tran Phu. Almost immediately on the left is the Old House at 103 Tran Phu. Keep heading west and you’lI pass the Assembly Hall of the Cantonese Chinese Congregation. A little further along on the left is the Museum of Sa Huynh Culture & Museum of the Revolution . Beyond the museum is the famed Japanese Covered Bridge, which con nects Ð Tran Phu with Ð Nguyen Thi Minh Khai. continue westward and keep an eye out for Phung Hung Old House. Also check out Cam Pho Temple. From here either retrace your steps or con tinue on to the CaoDai Pagoda . Then, back across the Japanese bridge, turn right and follow the road onto Ð Nguyen Thai Hoc, where you'll see the Tan Ky House. On the left before the next junction is the Diep Dong Nguyen House. Now you can settle down for a long, cool drink at one of the nearby bars.
Activities
For eco-tours and swimming at Cua Dai Beach to the eas,
COOKING COURSES
For many visitors to Vietnam the food is, a highlight and eating it a serious activity in itself. Hoi An is Foodie Heaven, and budding gourmets who want to take a step further into Vietnamese cuisine will find ample op portunlty here. Many of the popular eateries offer cooking classes, and the best bit is that you then get to sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labour. One of the best classes is offered by Hai Scout Cafe at its Red Bridge Cooking School (Starting out with a trip to the market, you then cruise down the river to this relaxing retreat about 4km from Hoi An The lesson includes a tour of the herb garden, making rice paper, several local specialities and some decorative nourishes - although it's hard to imagine how your dinner party guests hack home will react to tomatoes morphed into roses and lotus flowers.The class costs 235,000d per person; it starts at 8.45am and finishes at 1 pm. You're given print-outs of the recipes to try at home. More informal classes can be found at Restaurant Cafe 96 (50,000d per person), Green Moss (choose off the menu and pay a US$2 supplement) and Cafe des Amis (US$20).
DIVING
Rainbow Divers have an office in the Old Town, where you can book dives at Cu lao Cham Marine Park.
Steeping
Hoi An has the best-value accommodation in Vietnam, and quite possibly the whole of Asia. Don't be surprised to find a stylish air-conditioned room in a brand-new hotel with free breakfast and a swimming pool for less than US$15. Some places even throw in complimentary bicycles for guests' use. A building boom has resulted in a glut of options, with 1000 beds added in a six-month period in 2003 alone. Still, if you have your heart set on a particular hotel, you should probably book ahead at busy times. Considering how small and walkable Hoi An is, there should be no great compulsion to find a place in the heart of the Old Town. In addition, the older hotels in the centre tend to charge the same as the quieter and more spacious ones on the edge, but lack the extras like swimming pools. There's a cluster of new hotels with rear views over rice paddies as ound Ð Ba Trieu to the north, and several more on the road to the beach (Ð Cua Dai) - although these latter are a good 10-minute walk from the action. Many of the new hotels are second or third incarnations of old favourites, with innovative names like II and III. The most upmarket options are on the riverbank or at nearby Cua Dai Beach. Prices listed here are standard rates. Many places advertise two rates for rooms: with or without air-con. It was common for rates to rise during the peak December and January period, but now with such oversupply it is generally no longer the case. Outside of these times you may be able to negotiate a consider able discount.
BUDGET
Hoi Pho Hotel ( 627 ÐHaiBaTrung;rUS$7-10) This modest, family-owned minihotel offers straightforward value for money, with clean rooms and attentive service.
Minh A Ancient Lodging House Brimming with character, this splendid 180-year-old traditional wooden home is a cross between a B&B and a museum - offering an intriguing insight into Old Town family life. There's an ornate ancestor altar in the front room, a well in the courtyard behind and three guest rooms upstairs.
Huy Hoang I Hotel (73 Ð Phan Boi Chau; r US$8-20;) While not the cleanest of the budget options, it cer-tainly has the best location - with its terrace restaurant right above the river, next to the Cam Nam Bridge.
Thien Nga Hotel (52 Ð Ba Trieu; r US$10-20;) An old favourite that keeps getting better, this little place is terrific value- offering clean, com-fortable rooms with views over the rice pad dies, an indoor-outdoor swimming pool and free breakfast.
An Phu Hotel ( 30Ð Nguyen DuyHieu;rUS$12-15;)Fans of Asian kitsch need look no further than the temple-like An Phu. Stars twinkle over the reception, dragons hover over the pool and grand staircases curve up to the rooms -where the cheaper ones have ridiculous balconies opening on to a brick wall. Owned by An Phu Tourist, the hotel's a much belter proposition than their bus services, which arc best avoided.
Thanh Xuan Hotel (22-23 Ð Ba Trieu;r US$12-20) A nifty new place with the best bathtubs you arc likely to find for this sort of money. Nice design, nice rooms, nice price.
Green Field Hotel (Dong Xanh Hotel; 423 Ð Cua Dai; dm US$5, r US$15-40;) Painted a lurid rice-paddy green, the rooms here are comfortable and perks include a free 'happy hour' cocktail, free wi-fi, a pool table and a swimming pool. You'll have to enquire specifically about the basic four-person dorm, as they keep it quiet.
Other budget options:
Hop Yen Hotel ( Ð Ba Trieu; r US$6-12;) A humble hostel that has helpful staff. The cheapest rate will get you a small room with no air-conditioning up four flights of stairs.
Phu Thinh I Hotel (144 Ð Tran Phu; r US$8-20;) Some of the rooms are dark and windowless, but the location's great the price is good and there's a pleasant garden forecourt
MIDRANGE
Phuong Nam Hotel ( 224Ð LyThaiTo;rUS$ 12-30;) This popular new place with clean, comfy rooms is tied in with the Sinh Café open-tour crowd The quiet location to the north of town is a blessing and a curse, as there's not much in easy walking distance. Hourly shuttles head to and from the centre and bicycles are provided free of charge.
Our pick Phuoc An Hotel ( 31/1 Ð Tran Cao Van; r US$12-35; The staff at this wonderful hotel are excep¬tionally welcoming, and the rooms attractive and very comfortable - although it can get a little noisy. Bicycles, breakfast and internet access are provided free.
Thien Thanh Hotel (16 ÐBaTrieu;rUS$15-35;) Most of the rooms have breezy balconies at the back with views over the rice paddies. The hotel is smart, laid-back and friendly. The swimming pool and wireless internet arc the icing on the cake.
Vinh Hung 1 Hotel (143Ð Tran Phu; r US$15-45;) Set in a classic Chinese trading house, this is an atmospheric hotel. Splash the cash for one of two rooms used as dressing rooms by Michael Caine while filming The Quiet American; each is decorated with antiques and a beautiful canopy bed.
Pho Hoi Riverside Resort ( T1, Cam Nam Village; r US$15-65, bun galow US$60-70;) This sprawling, flash place on the south bank of the river has the best views in town. The cheaper rooms are in the old block behind, but the majority have a picturesque and quiet garden setting.
An Huy Hotel (30 Ð Phan Boi Chau; r US$18-25;) In the French quarter of the Old Town, this new boutique hotel has small but stylish rooms, and offers free breakfafast and bicycles.
Vinh Hung 2 Hotel (cnr Ð Hai Ba Trung & Ð Ba Trieu;r US$20-40;) The chic, comfortable, Chinese-themed rooms all face on to the swimming pool in the central courtyard.
Phu Thinh 11 Hotel (488 Ð Cua Dai; r US$30-35;)The swim-ming pool and palm-shaded garden at the rear of this large complex face on to beautiful fields and a lotus lake. The quiet rooms are fitted with dark wooden furniture, and some have power showers.
Ha An Hotel ( 6-8 Ð Phan Boi Chau;rUS$30-50;) A French Quarter hotel, with a dose of decorative flair. This strip of buildings is built in Hoi An style (one French, one Chinese and so on), all set in a lush garden.
Other solid options, both with rooms facing on to central swimming pools, backing on to rice fields:
Thuy Duong 3 Hotel ( 92-94 Ð Ba Trieu; r US$35-45; The décor has a Chinese feel.
Glory Hotel Hoi An (538 Ð CuaDai;rUS$35-80;) A similar standard, further out, on the road to the beach.
TOP END
Vinh Hung Resort ( An Hoi Peninsula;
r US$70-100, ste US$110;) The latest member of the Vinh Hung family has a lovely quiet location and a lush garden. Rooms are enormous and set around a central swimming pool.
Life Resort Hoi An (1Ð Pham Hong Thai; r US$159, ste US$182-308;) The most luxurious option in Hoi An, Life Resort has a prime French Quarter riverside frontage, lush gardens and a stunning infinity pool framed by frangipani trees. The rooms are beautifully designed, and the spa treatments suitably enticing.
Eating
Hoi An's main contribution to Vietnamese cuisine is cao lau, doughy flat noodles corn-bined with croutons, bean sprouts and greens and topped off with pork slices. It is mixed with crumbled, crispy rice paper immediately before eating. Other Hoi An specialities are fried won ton, bank xeo (crispy savoury pancakes rolled with herbs in fresh rice papar) and the delicate 'white rose’ (shrimp encased in rice paper and steamed). The beauty of Hoi An is that you can find a spectacular cheap meal at the Central Market and in local restaurants in secluded residential laneways - or you can chose an upmarket eatery, lavish even by Western standards, serving excellent fusion cuisine. There are heaps of such restaurants on Ð Nguyen Thai Hoc, Ð Tran Phu and on the waterfront. A newer stretch of eateries and bars is worth exploring, facing the Old Town on the An Hoi riverbank. While a pricy town for Vietnam, it remains a bargain for most visitors.
VIETNAMESE – TRADITIONAL
Green Moss (Tell: 863 728; 155 Ð Nguyen Duy Hieu; dishes 10,000-30,000d) Housed in a lovely French-colonial house. Green Moss serves a tasty mix of Vietnamese and Thai dishes with plenty of vegetarian options. Try for the two-person tables under the shade of the trees on the col-onnaded balcony.
Our pick Restaurant Café 96 (Tell: 910 441; 96 Ð Bach Dang; dishes 10,000-35,000d) With paint peeling to expose the brick beneath and a woven flax ceiling, this riverside restaurant has the perfectly decrepit look Western interior designers would spend a fortune creating. The food is sublime - traditional Vietnamese with all of the Hoi An specialties- Try the set menu (40,000d), or at the very least the grilled fish wrapped in banana Ieaf.
Cafe 43 (43 Ð Tran Cao Van, dishes 15,000-40,000d) Stuck away in a quiet laneway, this humble restaurant occupies the doorstep of a delight ful family's home. At night it's lit with red silk lanterns. The food's excellent (try the banh xeo) and incredibly cheap, and the ice-cold beer's even cheaper.
Dac San Hoi An (Tell: 861535; 89 Ð Tran Phu; disties 7000-60,000d; Time lunch & dinner) True to its name (translating as Hoi An specialities), this place does great banh xeo, cao lau and 'white rose The upstairs balcony affords a great view of one of Hoi An's nicest streets.
Mermaid Restaurant (Tell: 861527; 2 Ð Tran Phu; dishes 18,000-68,000d; Time lunch & dinner) One of the original Hoi An eateries, this is still a favourite for its fried spring rolls with noodles and herbs, and its excellent 'white rose'.
Also worth checking out;
Hoai River Restaurant (Tell: 910 809; 44 Ð Nguyen Thai Hoc; dishes 10,000-20,000d) A cheap and friendly trad-itional family restaurant. Food is bought to order from the nearby market - so expect super-fresh but slow.
Quan Loan (98 Ð Le loi; dishes 10,000 20,000d) This humble noodle nook serves exceilent pho and cao lau.
Miss Ly Cafeteria 22 (Tell: 861 603; 22 Ð Nguyen Hue; dishes 15,000-45,000d) A local institution for local specialities

VIETNAMESE - UPMARKET
Café des Amis (Tell: 861 616; 52 Ð Bach Dang; 5-course set menu 90,000d; Time dinner) This little riverside eatery has earned a loyal following over the past decade. There's no menu; the set dinner is whatever the chef, Mr Kim, feels like cooking that day. it's always delicious and there's always a vegetarian option.
Mango Rooms (Tell: 910 839; 111Ð Nguyen Thai Hoc; mains 85,000-145,000d) This restaurant's well justified reputation for interesting modern Vietnamese cuisine has spread far and wide-with even Mick Jagger seeking culinary satisfaction here. Tropical fruits and fresh herbs feature prominently in the food, as well as in the inventive cocktails. Stylishly decorated in bright primary colours, you can choose between the formal dining room at the front or low tables with cushions on the river side, The kitchen in the centre proudly demonstrates that it's got nothing to hide from fussy hygiene-sensitive tourists.
Brothers Cafe (Tell: 914 150; 27-29 Ð Phan Boi Chau; dishes US$6-12; Time lunch&dinner) Looking like a film .set, in one of the finest French-colonial buildings in town, the attention to designer detail is perfect. It is properly pricey by Hoi An standards, so many just drop by tor a drink in the gorgeous riverside garden.
INTERNATIONAL
Hai Scout Café (Tell: 86:210; 98 Ð Nguyen Thai Hoc; dishes 12,000-55,000d;Time breakfast, lunch&dinner) Another in teresting Old Town building, it stretches into a large garden courtyard which breaks into a bar by night. It serves sandwiches. Western-style breakfasts, Vietnamese and European mains, and real espresso. There's a display on WWF projects in central Vietnam out back, and some traditional minority tribal crafts for sale.
Cafe Can (Tell: 861 525; 74 Ð Bach Dang, dishes 15,000-70,000d) Housed in a grand old French building, this cafe has a wide sundeck out front for a breezy bite to eat. Choose from Vietnamese and international dishes or just dabble with the drinks.
The Cargo Club (Tell: 910 489; 107 Ð Nguyen Thai Hoc; dishes 18,000-70,000d; Time breakfast, lunch & dinner) If you're chasing an omelette for breakfast or a baguette for lunch, this is your place. It has mouth-watering pastries downstairs and distinguished dining upstairs, plus a balcony terrace overlooking the river. The menu's an eclectic mix of French, Italian, Vietnamese and Thai. After dark it morphs into a groovy bar.
Omar Khayyam's Indian Restaurant (Tell: 864 538; 24Ð Tran Hung Dao; dishes 30,000-80,000d) The place for curry connoisseurs, with plenty of vegetarian options.
Hoi An Hai San (Tell: 861 652; 64Ð Bach Dang; dishes 30,000-110,000d;Time breakfast, lunch & dinner) This seafood restaurant serves innovative Vietnamese concoctions and some Swedish dishes to keep the chef-owner in touch with his roots.
Good Morning Vietnam (Tell: 910 227; 34 Ð Le Loi; mains 38,000-105,000d) The real deal with Italian owners and chefs, it serves the best pizzas and pastas in town.
Drinking
For a little place, Hoi An has quite the selection of interesting bars - most offering two for one local cocktails in happy hours that stretch dangerously long. Many of them are open into the early hours, which is quite unusual in itself. If you last the distance, you may have the uniquely Vietnamese experience of stepping over sleeping hotel staff catching their precious few hours of rest on the reception floor.
Avoid xe om drivers at night offering to take you to out-of-the-way venues. We've heard reports of extortionate prices for the return trip being demanded, occasionally accompanied by physical threats. Luckily all the best bars are smack in the centre of the Old Town.
Before&Now: (Tell: 910599;51 Ð Leloi) This swanky bar wouldn't be out of place in London, particularly given the Brit-pop playlist. The walls are plastered in pop-art portraits of everyone from Marx, Lenin, Mao and Che to Marilyn, Gandhi and Bono-as-Superman.
Tam Tam Cafe: (Tell: 862 212; 110 Ð Nguyen Thai Hoc) Tam Tam has its home in a lovingly restored tea warehouse. There are tables on (he street, but the heart and soul of this place remains upstairs, where there is a large lounge and dining area as well as a popular pool table. European and Vietnamese food is on offer here, and there's a fine wine list and bar snacks for those just wanting something to partner a Jug of beer.
Lounge Bar: (Tell: 910 480; 102 Ð) Nguyen Thai Hoc) Just along the road from Tam Tam, this is a stylish conversion of an ancient house with a huge drinks menu. Out back are cushions and a chill-out area.
Treat’s Café: (Tell: 861125; 158 Ð Tran Phu) The back-packer bar of old Hoi An, this place is regularly full to bursting. It is a sprawling place with a restaurant-cafe upstairs. The oh-so-happy happy hours between 4pm and 9pm include two-for-one spirits and bargain beer.
Re-Treat Café: (Tell: 970 527; 69 Ð Tran Hung Dao) Re creates Treat's recipe in the newer part of town, 'same same but better'. Not quite, but saves a walk if you're staying here.
Shopping
Hoi An has a long history of flogging goods to international visitors, and while the port's no longer in business, the people of Hoi An haven't lost their commercial edge. It's a common occurrence for travellers not planning to buy anything to leave Hoi An laden down with extra bags - which, by the way, are easily purchased here. The big lure is the clothes. The number of tailor shops is just extraordinary somewhere around 500. For a look at the ma-terial available locally, take a peek at the Hoi An Cloth Market (Ð Tran Phu). Hoi An has long been known for fabric production. It is not only clothes that are being turned out in quantity - shoes are now a popular purchase. The cobblers here can copy anything from sneakers (trainers) to the highest heels or the coolest Cubans. Prices are very low, so it's a great place to pick up sandals, copycat Campers or anything else that takes your fancy. Reaching Out (Tell: 862 460; 103 Ð Nguyen Thai Hoc; Time 7.30am-9.30pm) is a great place to spend your dong. It's a fair-trade gift shop with profits going towards assisting disabled artisans. The presence of numerous tourists has turned the fake-antique business into a major growth industry for Hoi An. Theoretically you could find something here that is really old, but it's hard to believe that all the genuine stuff wasn't scooped up long ago. Proceed with scepticism. On the other hand, there is some really elegant artwork around, even if it was turned out only yesterday. Paintings are generally of the mass-produced kind, but are still hand-painted; for a few US dollars you can't complain. A row of art galleries (Ð Nguyen Thi Minh Khai), inside the gorgeous old buildings just across from the Japanese Covered Bridge, are great to browse through. And now that you've bought that lovely artwork, you need to light it properly. Lighting is a major growth industry here and lanterns lead the way. Popular Chinese lanterns come in various shapes and sizes, all easily foldable. Woodcarvings are also a local speciality. Cross Cam Nam Bridge to Cam Nam Villiage, to watch the carvers at work. woodcarving is a speciality on Cam Kim Island. Vietnam has a great reputation for its ceramics, and while much of what is on sale here comes from around Hanoi, it is worth stocking up if you are only visiting central Vietnam. The black pottery wish a glassy glaze is particularly striking. It’s best to browse the strip of small ceramics shops ( D Bach Dang) along the riverfront.
Getting There & Away
AIR
The closest airport is 45 minutes away, in Danang.
BUS
The main Hoi An bus station (Tell: 861284;96 Ð Hung Vuong) is 1km west of the centre of town. Buses from here go to Danang (8000d, one hour), Quang Ngai and other points. More frequent services to Danang leave from the northern bus station (Ð Le Hong Phong) from Sam until the late afternoon. A regular stop on the open-bus route, it's easy to pick up a service to or from Hue (US$3, four hours) or Nha Trang (US$6 to US$8,11 to 12 hours).
CAR & MOTORBIKE
To get to Danang (30km) you can either head north out of town and join up with Hwy 1A, or east to Cua Dai Beach and follow the excel-lent new road along China Beach. The going rate for a motorbike taxi between Danang and Hoi An is US$4 to US$6. A taxi costs around US$10. Shop around for rates on car hire. A journey to Hue can vary from US$35 to US$70. A day trip around the surrounding area, including My Son, is about for US$15 to US$20, Agree on your itinerary in advance and get a copy in writing.
Getting Around
Anywhere within town can be reached on foot. To go further afield, rent a bicycle from 10.000d per day - check with your hotel as it may provide them free. Cross the An Hoi Footbridge for a pleasant walk or ride through attrac-tive rural countryside. A motorbike without/ with a driver will cost around US$6/10 per dav Hire places are located all over town. A taxi to the beach costs a couple of dollars.
BOAT
A boat trip on the Tim Bon River can be a fascinating experience. A simple rowing boat. complete with rower, costs something like US$2 per hour, and one hour is probably long enough tor most travellers. Some My Son tours offer part of the journey by boat a lovely but lengthy voyage. Boats that carry up to five people can be hired to visit handicraft and fishing villages in the area; expect to pay around US$4 per hour. Look for the boats near the dock dose to the market.