Hoi An

In the 1st century Hoi An was known as Lâm Ấp Phố (Champa City) and possessed the largest harbour in Southeast Asia. Between the seventh and 10th centuries, the Cham (people of Champa) controlled the spice trade and with this came tremendous wealth. The boats still used today in Hoi An probably have the same hull shape as those used by the Champas for ocean voyages. It was an important Vietnamese trading centre in the 16th and 17th centuries, where Chinese as well as Japanese, Dutch and Indians settled. During this period of the China trade, the town was called Hai Pho (Seaside Town) in Vietnamese. Originally, Hai Pho was a divided town with the Japanese settlement across the "Japanese Bridge" (16th-17th century). The bridge is a unique covered structure built by the Japanese, the only known covered bridge with a Buddhist pagoda attached to one side.

In the 18th century, Hội An was considered by Chinese and Japanese merchants to be the best destination for trading in all of Asia. Japanese believed the heart of all of Asia (the dragon) lay beneath the earth of Hội An. Shipwreck discoveries have shown that Vietnamese and Asian ceramics were transported from Hội An to as far as Sinai, Egypt. However, the importance of Hội An declined sharply at the end of the 18th century because of the collapse of Nguyễn rule. Then, with the triumph of Emperor Gia Long, he repaid the French for their aid by giving them exclusive trade rights to the nearby port town of Đà Nẵng. Đà Nẵng became the new centre of trade (and later French influence) in central Vietnam while Hội An was a forgotten backwater. Local historians also say that Hội An lost its status as a desirable trade port due to silting up of the river mouth.

The result was that Hội An remained almost untouched by the changes to Vietnam over the next 200 years. It is now a World Heritage site

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Hoi An is one of the few towns we saw in Vietnam that appears untouched by war. The old town still has its prosperous streets from its old trading days.
One sees the Vietnamese culture and Vietnamese people with a shading of foreign influence in the architecture. The covered Japanese bridge complete with its temples ..
led to the old Japanese quarter, turn the other way and you were in the only "traditional" tourist town that we saw in Vietnam. Hoi An's specialty today is tailors, of the ..
..knock you out a suit in 24 hours variety - I resisted the temptation to get fitted for one. But you could have hand made shoes, ceramics, silk scarves as well as T shirts.
Then there were temples to be seen. It is an odd thing other peoples cultures, the fact that Buddhism and Hinduism survived Communism, and that people believe in the ..
..burning of incense to preserve their souls in the afterlife. From the temple we wandered the streets, children at play and restoration in hand, past more tourist shops..
on to the Old House of Tan Ky, apparently the house has direct descendents of the original owners still living there. The four rooms on the river bank were routinely flooded to about 6 feet every year. One room was for welcoming the Chinese merchants and the others were the living room, courtyard and the bedroom.
The market in the town was a genuine local market with masses of colourful food on display and many colourful vendors in the ubiquitous coolie hats
Although the port could no longer take ocean going ships, it was still a busy river port, with a constant to and fro of ferries and fishermen. From the riverside we ..
wandered back to the bus, with an unnecessary stop at a marble factory (who was going to buy one of these large statues?). Back at the ship note the broken mooring ropes - in the nights we spent in Da Nang, several of the mooring ropes snapped, and were spliced back by the crew.


On to My Son

Cruise Hanoi to Singapore on Orion II