Hoi An is a city on the central coast of the city of Vietnam and is famous for its fascinating Ancient Town. Step into this part of Hoi An, which used to be a strategic port until the mid-1800s for Chinese, Japanese, Indian, French, Dutch, and Portuguese seafarers and traders. The Ancient Town is lined with canals, wooden houses, temples; it was granted the status of UNESCO heritage site in 1999.

Be a part of this living museum, where people start the morning by lighting argan wood incense and the musky aroma stays with the sepia-tinged lanes all day. You’ll see how gracefully this port city has aged, when, during nightfall floating candle offerings flicker on the Thu Bon River.

Get lost in a 15th-century painting boasting grand architecture and beguiling riverside setting that befits its heritage. Wouldn’t it be lovely to be far away from the 21st-century curses of traffic and pollution?

Tickets to Hoi An:

While more than 800 historic buildings in Hoi An have been preserved, only 18 of them are open to visitors and require an Old Town ticket for admission; the fee goes towards funding conservation work. So, don’t forget to purchase one ticket for 120,000 VND (360.92 Indian Rupees) Each ticket allows you to visit five different heritage attractions from a total selection of 22, including museums, assembly halls, ancient houses and a traditional music show at the Handicraft Workshop.

Well here’s the list of things that you can do in this centuries-old town in central Vietnam:

Get acquainted with the area

building in Hoi An at Vietnam on January 9, 2014Take a bike or just stroll along the canal to orientate yourself with the Old Town by strolling around on a self-guided walking tour, exploring by bicycle or commuting in style with a rickshaw tour. The pretty ancient houses that line the streets, along the line of rickshaw drivers and a variety of basket-balancing older women- gives you a perfect shot of this ancient town.

It is a melting pot of cultures has created a unique atmosphere that one cannot forget. When you walk around the well-preserved ancient town, you’ll see the influences of Vietnam, China, France, and Japan.

Japanese Covered Bridge

The Japanese Covered Bridge in Hoi An Ancient Town, VietnamOne of the most photographed bridges in Asia- the Japanese Covered Bridge is Hoi An’s primary symbol. It is located at the western end of Tran Phu Street and was originally built in the 1590s. The Bridge was constructed in order to help two communities (Japanese Chinese) with the business and was renovated in 1986. Now after many rounds of renovation and restoration, it reflects the wonderful Japanese architectural design.

The Local Cuisine

Unidentified woman with a typical Vietnamese conical hat sells roast beef on a street market in Hoi An, Vietnam.Classical music floats from speakers and the smell of coriander from local dishes (like cao lau and banh xeo) hangs around each lantern-lit corner. Boats bob along the ribbon of the, to the murmur of elderly locals watching from a coffee stall nearby. Though Hoi An ancient town is one of the more tourist-oriented spots in Vietnam, it is by no means massively overpriced.

If you’re on a budget then you can buy from the vendors; or find a small shop with small seats outside. But we recommend the restaurants that are situated by the canal and have outdoor seating. It is worth paying a little more for the best ones.

The Lanterns

Lanterns in Hoi An, VietnamThe town charms you as the night sets in and the Hoi An Old Quarter is lit up with many colourful lanterns. Walk around and you can feel how the mood of the town changes dramatically; with colourful lanterns hung on many buildings. You’ll find that the sky is soon filled with a beautiful display of lights; and it really is a sight to take in. Add Hoi An colours to your home décor as you can also you can purchase a lantern at various shops along the streets.

Phung Hung Ancient House

Old house of Phung Hung in Hoi An, VietnamSituated near the Japanese bridge, the Phung Hung Old House is the most famous ancient house in Hoi An. Built in 1780, the house was occupied by the same family ever since. It is fascinating to know that the family has kept the original documents about the architecture, culture and lifestyle of Hoi An. While entrance hall of the Ancient house plays host to a wide array of lanterns, embroidery and other ornaments; architecturally, it fuses the elements of Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese traditional buildings.

The view from the balcony on the second floor is worth climbing the two floors.

The Assembly Hall Of The Cantonese Chinese Congregation

Cantonese assembly hall, Hoi AnThe Chinese who settled in Hoi An identified themselves according to their province of origin. Each community built its own assembly hall, known as hoi quan in Vietnamese, for social gatherings, meetings and celebrations.

This building was built by merchants from Canton, China in 1786. As you enter the Cantonese Assembly Hall (also called Quang Dong), you are welcomed by a wonderfully ornate carp or dragon both designed using mosaic. The main altar is dedicated to Quan Cong, one of the legendary Chinese military generals. Once again, this building perfectly demonstrates the mix of design styles brought together from a variety of cultures in Vietnam.

The highlight is perhaps the dragon fountain in the central courtyard; here you’ll also find an assortment of spiral-necked creatures made out of Chinese ceramics. If you only visit one assembly hall during your time in town, make it this one.

Tran Ancestor Worship House

Erected in the 19th century, the Tran Ancestor Worship House is a representation of the ancestor worship that is present in almost all of the homes across Vietnam. Take a tour around the house; and learn more about the local design influences from someone who actually lives in the area.

Built as a Vietnamese garden house with three main horizontal parts and two wings, it reflects the Vietnamese tradition. The building also proves the economic and cultural exchange between Vietnam and China in the past centuries.

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