(Updated October 2018)
I think the reason that I first was a bit disappointed by Viet Nam was the relative absence of this Asian sweetness and abundance of luxuriously decorated temples and mysterious tales. For instance, in comparison to Thailand, it felt so austere or even mundane. It’s more about everyday life than about magic. On the one hand, I liked it, on the other, I missed a little enchantment.
|Phuc Quien assembly hall – one of the most luxurious buildings.
Yet enchantment I’ve found – in the old town of Hoi An. Here you get an idea of how Vietnamese smalltown life must have been many decades ago.
Hoi An used to be an important Vietnamese trading port from the 15th to the 19th century. Today, it deems like an ethnological open-air museum for merchants’ life in Southeast Asia: Streets and alleys lined with beautiful ancient houses, one cuter than the other, arranged around a huge covered market in the center and a vibrant street market right next to river Thu Bon.
Considering the Vietnamese way of driving, it’s very relaxing that in the very center of the historic district only bicycles are the only allowed vehicles.
|Everybody seems to be riding a bike – some with a motor, others without.|
The old temples and clans’ assembly halls guide you back to another fascinating social system.
|Trung Hoa is the oldest Assembly Hall of Hoi An, dating back to 1741.|
At the tourist center (see below) you can buy a ticket that grants you access to a couple of different halls, houses, temples, and the old Japanese bridge; not to be missed!
|….is another architectonic jewel, namely the temple Đình Cẩm Phô|
Hoi An Tourism
567 Hai Ba Trung St
Phone: + 84 – 510 – 222 27 73
Most of the buildings along the main streets in the old town offer a wide range of solid handcrafted souvenirs from leather, silk, or wood. The bags, wallets, and belts made of tough, robust buffalo leather look really cool, and the silken lanterns are not only pretty, but they can also be folded and easily carried home.
|Old House of Quan Thang – since people still live in some of the buildings, it takes a little not being intimidated by disturbing their privacy.|
Especially the tailors along Nguyen Thai Hoc know exactly what they are doing, and they do it at an incredible price – mostly overnight! Yes, I got me an Ao Dai, the traditional female attire. And I was grateful when the lady measuring me mumbled I had to pay more since they will have to use so much fabric on me while she was checking the length and not the width…
|The lovely ladies at Silk Road Tailor working on my Ao Dai (at least the one in the middle)…|
|…and me proudly wearing it to the media ball in Hamburg.
(Photo: © Florian Büh)
Silk Road Hoi Han
91 Nguyen Thai Hoc
Phone: +84 – 510 – 391 10 58
Of course, there are many nice restaurants serving all sorts of Vietnamese delicacies – my favorite is Bale Well on Tran Hung Dao, an unspectacular back alley. They have basically one or two dishes, but they are sooo good and plenty. The waitress prepares your first two to three Vietnamese rolls including chicken, kimchi, peanut sauce, and some other yummy stuff – and then you’re on your own; good luck with it.
If it doesn’t work out, the ingredients taste also good separately.
|Boy, she was fast preparing the Vietnamese rolls for me! I wasn’t even able to capture her hands.|
After the culinary culture, some dramatic art was on my program. I cycled to the theater to see the traditional water puppet theater which is quite cute with lots of splashing and pyrotechnics.
Hoi An Water Puppet Show
548 Hai BàTrưng
Phone: +84 – 235 – 386 13 27; +84 – 941 – 37 89 79 (hotline)
The show takes place on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday, starts at 6.30 p. m. and finishes at 7.15 p. m.
Everything was great, happy got lucky – until the next day.
While the early morning was still fine – I went on a tour to My Son, the remnants of the Cham’s most important religious center – very interesting site, lovely guide, nice co-travellers.
|Remnants of the Cham Temple My Son. Reminds you of Angkor Wat? Well, the Cham actually conquered Angkor in the 12th century and stayed for a while.|
Only on the boat ride back a heavy rain started – and didn’t stop for the next days. Therefore I wasn’t able to cycle to the nearby beach or even explore a little more of Hoi An’s beauty.
|Idyllic Hoi An.|
I need to come back.
|Almost everything Hoi An is about in just one picture: Ancient architecture, fantastic food, and fun silken lanterns.|
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