Hoi An Old Town
Once a major Southeast Asian trading post in the 16th and 17th centuries, the seaside town Hoi An is basically a living museum featuring a unique mixture of East and West in the form of its old-town architecture.
Among the heritage architecture stand Chinese temples, a Japanese-designed bridge, pagodas, wooden shop-houses, French- colonial houses and old canals. Though large-scale trading had long moved elsewhere Hoi An has been successful in preserving and restoring its charming roots and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in December 1999.
Hoi An Riverside is the best place to be at night as the area is lit by quaint and old-fashioned lanterns, making it an atmospheric and beautiful spot. For those who love sea, sun and sand, Hoi An offers two lovely beaches five kilometres away from the town centre – a sort of holiday within a holiday.
Hoi An is known for its great food, fun shopping, skilled tailors, friendly people and cosy atmosphere – all key characteristics that draw people to this picturesque town.
Hoi An Riverside
From the16th to the 18th centuries, Hoi An attracted international traders because of its location on the banks of Thu Bon River, conveniently flowing into the Cua Dai Beach. The merchants chose to stop here to wait for the right wind directions for their next destinations. Among them were traders from China, Japan, the Netherlands, France, Portugal and India.
Of all the streets in the Old Town, the one that runs east-west to the river’s edge is the liveliest. The traditional buildings and shops have welcomed foreign merchants since the days when the town was known as Hai Pho (Seaside Town). Nowadays it no longer greets foreign traders but tourists and travelers.
However, the seemingly untouched architecture in Hoi An’s Riverside and Old Town was built only about 200 years ago and is made up of a mix of Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese and colonial styles. Those who wish to see older buildings will have to go further inland where they can find, for example, a 15th century pagoda.
My Son Sanctuary in Hoi An
My Son Hindu Sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a great sample of the ancient Champa civilization located in the southern part of Vietnam. It was an independent state from around the 2nd to the 17th century, at which time it was occupied by Vietnam.
The impressive Hindu-themed ruins feature many beautiful stone sculptures, temples and towers in tropical jungle surroundings.
My Son was also a political centre and a royal burial ground and the complex consists of more than 70 structures devoted to Hindu gods and goddesses and the most noticeable one, Shiva, was considered the protector of the Champa’s kings. Their skilful use of red bricks and sandstone is remarkable.
Like many historic sites around the world, My Son was destroyed by time and wars and after lying neglected for a long time it was rediscovered and renovated by the French in 1898. Sadly the most recent war did great damage to the complex as the Americans bombed this area knowing that the Viet Cong used it as a hiding place, mistakenly thinking that the enemy would not touch a holy site.
However, the majority of the central complex managed to survive the bombs and parts of the ruins have now been rebuilt. Overall, this Hindu sanctuary reminds visitors of other similar sites in Southeast Asia including the great Angkor Wat in Cambodia. A must-visit for those who appreciate history.