Hoi An Today
The streets and alleyways today are still lined with brightly decked out shops and stalls selling every kind of souvenir imaginable, and in a nod to its silken past, the town is said to boast more than 200 tailors who can turn around a made-to-measure dress, silk shirt or suit in less than 24 hours.
Chinese and Japanese settlers left their architectural legacy in the form of temples, meeting halls and wooden merchants’ houses. The iconic early 17th century Japanese covered bridge and temple spans a narrow tributary of the Tho Bun River, separating the picturesque old Japanese and Chinese quarters of town. Built at the location of the heart of a mythical dragon, the bridge was supposed to pin the dragon down and calm the seismic activity it was allegedly responsible for in distant Japan.
The finest examples of meeting halls, temples and merchant houses, along with the Japanese bridge and temple can all be visited on an official ticket, purchased only at a designated ticket office. The ticket buys entry to 5 of the main attractions, and should you use up your entitlement you will need to return to the official ticket office and buy another ticket. No tickets on the door.
Evening in Hoi An: Traditional lanterns on sale, By: Simon Hare
The ubiquitous bamboo-framed, silk-covered lanterns which adorn every street are one attraction that can be enjoyed free of charge day or night, and have given rise to Hoi An’s often used nickname of Lantern Town. Once a month the town plays host to its own full moon festival where electric lights are dimmed and the streets are illuminated by nothing but thousands of colourful lanterns, adding a romantic mysticism and allegedly a dose of good luck to the old back streets. Clearly this monthly celebration is not to be confused with the rather more raucous full moon celebrations to be found on certain Thai islands.
Indian, Dutch, Portuguese and English settlers also left their mark, giving the town a cosmopolitan feel reminiscent of Old Goa or Fort Cochin. Allegedly many European traders stayed permanently, marrying local Vietnamese women, so impressed were they by their astuteness and business acumen. This gift for, or some might say obsession with, money making is still very much in evidence today, from cute children plying the streets at night selling gaudy plastic toys, to gnarled and weather worn betel-chewing old ladies squatting in the market demanding one dollar for the pleasure of photographing their conical hats and blackened, red-stained teeth
by Simon Hare