In a country so ravaged by war, Hoi An managed to escape
untouched and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most of the town
is extremely well preserved, with traditional wooden houses,
bridges and temples surviving in their original form. Hoi An is a
wonderful holiday destination for seeing the Vietnam of a bygone
In the 16th century, Japanese and Chinese traders built a
commercial district at Hoi An, and the town became one of the major
trading centres of Southeast Asia. As a result, Hoi An has a
distinctly Sino-Japanese flavour, with these cultural influences
visible in the elaborately carved wooden facades, narrow streets
and tile-roofed houses of the Old Quarter that have survived for
centuries. The Japanese Bridge, built in the 17th century, is an
outstanding example of Japanese architecture.
Adding to Hoi An's old-fashioned charm, on the 15th of every
lunar month, modernity takes a back seat. On these evenings, street
lamps, neon signs and televisions are switched off, leaving the Old
Quarter bathed in the warm glow of traditional silk and paper
lanterns of various colours. Wandering through the old streets in
the ensuing quiet is a special experience.
North along the coast from Hoi An is the old imperial capital of
Hue, set on the banks of the Perfume River. Hue was the country's political,
cultural and religious centre from 1802 to 1945 and its citadel is
an old palace complex from where the Nguyen emperors ruled
Hue is also an important centre of Buddhism, and the city and
its surrounding area are dotted with dozens of pagodas and temples.
Just downstream, and also worth an excursion, are the tombs of the
last emperors of Vietnam.