May 13, 2013

Hoi An

Picturesque and quaint, Hoi An is a delightful Vietnamese town located at about the midway point of the nation longitudinally. Although they share the same letters in their English spelling, Hoi An and Hanoi are totally unrelated. The small town was once a prominent port in Southeast Asia during a bygone era of ceramics and spice trading. Forgotten by the world for a couple of centuries, the World Heritage site retains much of its traditional architecture and charm.

Hoi An was the place to be for merchants and traders from across Europe and Asia from the 15th to 18th centuries, before falling into obscurity. Touristy yet quiet, the streets of Hoi An are eminently navigable. They are dotted with boutiques, restaurants, cafes, and the requisite tailor shops where Western backpackers can buy affordable custom made suits that they can wear when attending interviews for lowly paid internship positions once they return home.

Before arriving in Hoi An, I made a quick stop at Danang to visit the Museum of Cham Sculpture. When the French set up camp in nearby Da Nang and established it as one of their strongholds in Indochina, the glory days of Hoi An came to a quick end. On the taxi ride from Da Nang to Hoi An I saw massive construction projects of luxury villas and golf resorts taking place along the whole stretch of the coastline, so I was relieved to find the actual ancient town still well preserved.