Hội An Ancient Town is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a traditional Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century.
Hội An Ancient Town is located in Vietnam’s central coast on the bank of the Thu Bon River near the river delta, about 30 km south of Da Nang. The town is an exceptionally well preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. The town is a complex that contains over 1,100 timber frame building with brick or wooden walls.
All of the buildings have tiled roofs and are arranged side by side in unbroken rows with narrow streets and tight pedestrian alleys separating them. The notable highlights aside from the charming town are an 18th century wooden Japanese bridge with a pagoda on it, fishing boats that also take tourists for boat rides, fancy lanterns hanging almost everywhere and a monthly lantern festival.
Most tourists spend their time walking through the town shopping, having drinks, eating at the sidewalk restaurants and people watching. One of the popular activities for Vietnamese visitors is to take pictures in the traditional Vietnamese long dress (called “áo dài”) with the Hội An architecture in the background. Other activities that occur in Hội An are small parades, Lunar New Year celebration and the monthly lantern festival.
Hội An Ancient Town
Hội An was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999 and most of the old shops have been carefully converted into modern businesses aimed at tourists but the look of the town has not been modernized. The photos below are an example of some of the streets and shops in the ancient town.
Hội An waterfront
The Hội An waterfront is where most visitors spend a majority of their time. Walking along the riverside is very pleasant and there is more space between the river and the buildings than there is on the narrow streets and alleys. The waterfront has many bars, cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy fresh seafood, drinks, coffee as well as local and international cuisine.
Yellow colored façades
One of the traits of Hội An Ancient Town is the yellow colored façades on all of the buildings. The uniformed yellow color walls turns the ancient town into the charming “yellow town” of Vietnam. The yellow colored façades of Hội An Ancient Town is a defining characteristic that every traveler will recognize as the city of Hội An, Vietnam.
Japanese Covered Bridge
The Japanese covered bridge is one of the most prominent attractions in Hội An Ancient Town. It is a small pedestrian bridge of only about 36 feet that was built in 1593 by the Japanese community to easily link their neighborhood with the Chinese community.
The other notable bridge is the Hội An bridge of lights. It is a pedestrian and bicycle bridge that connects Ancient Town to Nguyen Hoang Island where the Hội An night market is located. The bridge is attractively decorated but when it is illuminated at night, it becomes even more beautiful.
Another bridge on the edge of ancient town is a traffic bridge that is not as ornate as the other two bridges but it is decorated with lanterns and flags that make is more attractive.
The river banks are stacked with fishing boats and touring boats. These boats are easily hired for a day of fishing or for cruising along the tranquil river.
Lanterns of Hội An
Hội An is famous for having colorful lanterns and for good reason because they are everywhere. A rainbow of colorful lantern of all sizes and shapes sway above the streets, in front of the shops and just about everywhere you look. The lantern are so numerous that they are the reason that Hội An has been called the “City of Lights.”
In Vietnam it is common for restaurants to have tables set up in the sidewalks and Hội An is no exception. Almost all restaurants have places for customers to eat outside and some vendors sell drinks and snacks from the sidewalk and set up small red stools for customers to sit on while enjoying their food or drink.
Coffee is popular all around the world but in Vietnam it has been taken to an extreme. In Vietnam, there are a lot of typed of coffee to choose from when ordering.
Just for clarity, I have tried all of these except for the Coconut Coffee but I have also tried the Avocado Coffee which is not on the list. I will probably try the Coconut Coffee on my next trip but the Vietnamese Coffee is still my favorite.
Vietnamese long dress (“áo dài”)
It is common in Hội An Ancient Town to see Vietnamese women walking the streets in the traditional Vietnamese long dress (called “áo dài”). The ancient town architecture makes for the perfect backdrop to take photographs wearing the traditional Vietnamese dress and many Vietnamese along with some tourist take advantage of the setting to have their photos taken.
Monthly Lantern Festival
One of the most unique experiences in Hội An is the Lantern Festival that is held on the 14th day of every lunar month, when the moon is full. At dusk, the town reduces its normal lighting so the lanterns are more vibrant. Lanterns in the ancient town come to life over the streets, along the sidewalks, on the balconies, in front of the restaurants and shops.
Along the river, the small fishing boats are decorated with lanterns and they take groups of friend, families and tourist into the river to release floating candles into the river for good luck.
Hội An Ancient Town is a very unique place. The heritage of the past has been preserved in the town’s architecture and traditions of the lanterns but the restaurants and shops are same as other places in Vietnam.
I have been to Hội An three times so I tend to agree with the sign in the photo below which says “I love Hội An” in Vietnamese.
Visiting Hội An Ancient Town is all about experiencing a real life environment from a past ear. In many ways it is like stepping back in time. The architecture has been preserved so well that there are few reminders of the modern world, lanterns hanging everywhere are a reminder of the past era and the women taking photos in an áo dài reflect the culture of the past.
Hội An Ancient Town has a distinct feeling that can’t be found anywhere else in Vietnam but it can become crowded so I recommend going early in the morning before too many people arrive. This is when the atmosphere of the architecture takes on its true charm and culture of the town can best be seen and felt.