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Hoi An Ancient Town

Ancient and peaceful, Hoi An is one of the most popular destinations in Vietnam that caters to travelers of all tastes and across the continents. The little town is just the perfect candidate of what Vietnam tourism ministry is aiming to show to the world. Warm-hearted, welcoming and traditional, but never out of touch with the outside world, the people of Hoi An area in overdrive mode trying to catch up to the opportunities their new found fame has recently given them.

A slow stroll through town reveals its gems. Hoi An has to this days well preserved its most sacred treasure, the centuries-old architecture. The town used to harbor foreign traders back in the 17-18th, and once is an important heavily-frequented trading port in Southeast Asia. The foreigners come from all corners of the world, but mostly are Chinese and Japanese nationalities. Some come and go, but many settle in permanently and etch their marks into the history of Hoi An.

Mixing together with Vietnamese design, Chinese and Japanese accents melt and create a picture-perfect Hoi An of the late 19th century, which it has somehow remained mostly intact since. The end product is an oddly strange-yet-familiar sight that exists nowhere else in the world. To this day, few descendants of the foreign traders remain but the architectural setting manages to survive the damage of time.

In 1999, UNESCO formally recognizes Hoi An as a World Heritage Site. There are the things that make up the reputation. Hoi An is home to many temples, pagodas and the ancient homes that bear its very unique mark. The density of such sites is unlike any other in Vietnam. These places carry with them the history of Hoi An itself. The depiction of its formation, its once-prosperous merchant past, its progress and how it manages to become one of today are all well documented, in words and in priceless relics.    

The town is not just reminiscent of the past; it truly takes one for a slow enlightening journey to the past. Such journey is simply unthinkable most elsewhere in Vietnam. It is only possible because of the careful and dedicated works that have gone into preserving and presenting its way - efforts that have come as the result of the UNESCO recognition. Enjoying the spotlight and catering to the increasing number of tourists flooding its narrow streets hoping to catch a glimpse of the past, hotels and resorts are now sprouting up all over town.

One shall find his accommodation options ranging from lowly affordable motel rooms as low as $8 per day to the world-class 6-star top-of-the-line allegedly-best-in Southeast-Asia Nam Hai resort nearby, which starts at a whopping $600. Vietnam may be small, but there will always be an extra bedroom for the staying- over guest. These days, the guests may well outnumber the homeowners however. True to its origin, Hoi An today still boasts a booming trade.          

Coupled with the right prices, Hoi An is truly a shoppers’ paradise, one that dictates its western customers on a unique oriental sense of style. Paradox does not end. One imagines never being able to find western food in such a hardcore Vietnamese setting. That turns out not the case. Hoi An is home to multiple restaurants that serve big hearty American meals with only a small portion of the menu dedicated to local food. The locals prefer their sidewalk vendors to the many re-innovated house-turned-restaurants out there.

There is no shortage of bacon in town, but Cao Lau is the dish that one simply can’t miss. Prices and service are rightfully on par with the latest venues in major cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. Yet in the face of all the hurrying capitalist business going on, for some reason, somehow, Hoi An retains its quite serenity. Life just seems to flow by at an uneventful rate. People seem to slowly enjoy things as they are. While foreigners come to experience the old way, natives also come to Hoi An for a break in the hustling busy path of life.

And it is in Hoi An that their inner peace shall be found, paradoxically in the face of all the money being changed hand. As for a fitting end to a story of many extremes, Hoi An is, sadly, situated in one of the poorest provinces in the country. Apart from the glamour of the tourism-enriching little town, Quang Nam’s population generally lives at the poverty line level. A typical drive from Danang’s airport or train station to Hoi An soon enough will reveal all the stories that are silently told.

Japanese's Bridge

Japanese bridges for long have a reputation for their pure beauty of being graceful curves and the inspiration from Zen spirit. It’s no doubt that the most famous bridge of this kind in Vietnam is the one in Hoi An – the historic riverside town in the Central Part.

Legend has it that the bridge was built as a weapon of ancient people to deter the monster Mamazu, which has its head in India, its tail in Japan and its back in Vietnam, from causing earthquakes and other calamities. In fact, it was constructed by the Japanese trading community in 1593 to connect them with the Chinese area on the other side of a small stream. It remains until today as a spectacular attraction and is a beautiful trace of the Japanese influence in Vietnam.

This nearly-20m bridge connects the 2 major streets of Hoi An’s Old Quarter: Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St. and Tran Phu St., looking over the peaceful Thu Bon River.

Since the building of this site was started in 1593 – Year of the Monkey, and finished in 1595 – Year of the Dog, a pair of these two animals’ statues has been placed at both ends. They represent for the guardians of the bridge. 

Japanese Bridge is renowned for its elaborate decorations, which can be most easily seen at the low entrance. Don’t miss the little porcelain bowls used to cap the ends of the tile, though the interior may be very dark. There’s a small temple on the north side of the bridge, right in the middle over the stream. In addition, visitors may find several interesting galleries at the other end. 

Such a place can’t be ignored for those who want to take photos, with a charming historical background and amazing red faded color. Night is when it looks more elegant, thanks to the lighting.

Old House of Tan Ky

Located at 101 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, in the Old Quarter of Hoi An Ancient Town, Tan Ky Old house is an almost perfect example of a 18th merchant’s residence in this major commercial port town. The name Tan Ky, meaning “Progress Shop”, was given to the house by the second generation to express the owner’s wish for a prosperous business.

In spite of the decline in business of the town and the huge devastation of annual floods, seven generations of the family have continuously strive to keep the house in good condition. Therefore though it’s not the oldest, Tan Ky is the most well-preserved in Hoi An.

There are many of the house’s details, which have remained unchanged to this day, including the storage area, the outside structure made of bricks and tiles, floor covered with Bat Trang bricks. The use of jack-fruit trees, ironwood and peck-wood for inside furniture with thick roofs and wooden walls has kept the house cool in summer and warm in winter.

Being the combination of Vietnamese, Japanese as well as Chinese elements, from a time when the three communities lived together in Hoi An during the 16th and 17th centuries, the house strongly represents features of Oriental philosophy, such as the the triple-beam structure (stands for heaven, earth and humans), the five round blocks (represent metal, wood, water, fire and earth – the five basic natural elements in Eastern philosophy) and several decorative carvings on the edge of the roof and furniture. Amongst several pieces in the house, the most famous one is two vertical panels next to the Tan Ky House's central courtyard, which are inscribed with parallel sentences. What surprising about this piece is that each stroke of writing is an illustration of a bird! One hundred birds in total represent perfection.

Fujian Assembly Hall

Fujian (Phuc Kien) Assembly Hall was built around 1690 and functions as a traditional assembly hall for the Chinese ethnic group from Fujian, China to socialize, but later was transformed into a temple dedicated to their deity named Thien Hau – the goddess of sea who protects sailors from danger. As told by the preceding generations, the Chinese in Hoi An decided to build that temple to worship the statue of the goddess which was found on Hoi An Beach in 1697. Probably the most prominent amongst 5 Assembly Halls in the town, today Fujian Assembly Hall is located in 46 Tran Phu St.

Fujian Assembly Hall bears all the fundamental features in structure of a Chinese Assembly Hall. Its ornate gate and colorful courtyard with fountains make the temple very photogenic. The main hall is the biggest room, where lies a shrine and many delicate-carved dragons. Behind the central altar are the God of Prosperity and the figures of the goddess of fertility, three fairies and twelve midwives (who are said to teach newborns such skills as sucking, smiling, etc.). Hence, childless couples often visit this temple to pray for children.

Not only does the temple concentrate on the worshipping of Goddess Thien Hau but also on the majestic beauty and the power of other influential gods and goddesses in the Fujian people’s belief, reflected in several murals, lacquered boards and paintings, etc. Throughout the temple, there are a plethora of statues, bronze drums, bronze bells and horizontal lacquered board engraved with Chinese characters. The whole combination and arrangement of every element in the hall tend to imply the Chinese philosophy of happiness. 

In addition to its architecture, nowadays its many events and activities to celebrate Chinese’s festivals make the Fukien Assembly Hall a wonderful destination for visitors from both inside and outside of Vietnam.

The Chinese Assembly Hall

Building Assembly Halls as a place to socialize for themselves and the next generations is a tradition of Chinese people when they migrated or did business in another country. Therefore, a lot of Assembly Halls of this type can be found in Vietnam today. In Hoi An Town, which has a long history of international trade, there are 5 Assembly Halls constructed by the Chinese, all are located on Tran Phu Street, facing Thu Bon River. Nowadays, even though not all of the halls stay the same, the five remaining ones (Fujian, Chaozhou, Hainan, Cantonese, and Chinese) become famous attractions of Hoi An.    

Generally, they all follow a formula that has been used by other Chinese assembly halls in other cities: a grand gate, a nice garden with ornamental plants, a main hall and a large altar room. As decoration is a fundamental part of an assembly hall, it is carried out meticulously at all of the halls with statues, lacquered boards, murals, etc. However, because each Chinese community has its own beliefs, different assembly halls worship different gods and goddesses.  

Among the five assembly halls in Hoi An, Fujian Assembly Hall is greatest and most famous. It’s located at 46 Tran Phu St. 

Trung Hoa Assembly Hall (Ngu Bang Assembly Hall) is the oldest among these five, which is now at 64 Tran Phu St. It worships Goddess Thien Hau. 

The Ghaozhou Hall (Trieu Chau) (also called Ong Bon or Am Ban Pagoda) is located in the 157 Nguyen Duy Hieu Street, near Fujian Assembly Hall. It’s dedicated to General Phuc Ba (Bon Dau Quan), a god of mastering waters. 

Cantonese Assembly Hall (Quang Dong) is at 176 Tran Phu Street. Built in 1885, it has a calm courtyard with ornate statuary. 

Hainan Assembly Hall at 10 Tran Phu St. is used to worship 108 Chinese merchants, who were unjustly killed, because they were mistaken for pirates. Later they were vindicated and named “deities” by King Tu Duc, who granted money to build this assembly hall to worship them forever.

Tra Que Herb Village

Tra Que is a small village located 3km north of Hoi An’s Old Town. Its location is between De Vong River and Tra Que alga pond. Thanks to the special condition of rich soil and water, the village has long been known for growing many kinds of vegetables: lettuce, salad, houttuynia, flagrant knout wed, basil and coriander vegetables etc, with which the traditional specialties of Hoi An have gained part of their fame. The village is named after the sweet scented vegetables that spice up the everyday meals of the Hoi An people.

Tourists visiting Tra Que Village are often fascinated by watching the farming procedures of local farmers, including: raking the ground, sowing, watering, picking vegetables and many other activities which are rarely seen in modern daily life. Moreover, tourists can listen to people talking about organic farming techniques and try their hand at actual farming. The farmers don’t use chemical or fertilizers but a kind of algae found only in a lagoon in Tra Que. Thanks to this technique, Tra Que herbs and veggies are widely recognized for their quality, safety and especially outstanding taste and flavor.

The beautifully laid out gardens with mixed beds of vegetables and tiny flowers are also attractive enough for a bicycle tour around, prior to lunch at local friendly families with wonderful food of Hoi An such as: cao lau, Quang noodles, banh xeo, etc and some kinds of drinks extracted from local herbs.

Taking some cooking lessons provided by tourism companies isn’t a bad idea either. Just imagine that you can cook a Vietnamese food by yourselves and learn how food is grown in Vietnam: what an experience.

My Son Sanctuary

If Hoi An enchants you by colorful lanterns along downtown streets by night, charming red towers in My Son surely amazes you in the sunset. My Son Sanctuary is located in My Son village, Duy Tan commune, Duy Xuyen district, 30km west of Tra Kieu (the ancient capital of Cham people) and 69km south-west of Danang city.

Nestling in a narrow valley surrounded by mountains, this temple, tower complex is a masterpiece of ancient Cham architecture.

My Son consists of 70 architectural works ranging from small to great size. It used to be holly land of Cham people from the 4th to 13th century. In the 4th century, in the King Bhadravarman’s time, after the construction of Tra Kieu, the religious center of Cham kingdom was set in My Son to welcome royal members, aristocrats and host important religious rituals. Continually developing through nearly nine centuries, My Son witnessed the glorious, prosperous as well as declining time of Champa kingdom.

The first temple was built from wood in the 4th century to worship the Saint Siva Bhadravarman, whose name is the combination King Bhadravarman at that time and Saint Siva. However, the wooden temple was totally damaged because of a fire in the 6th century. In later years, the Cham Kings continued to build more new temples and towers to worship the God, Saints and show their great power. By late 13th century, Champa kingdom was attacked by neighbor countries like Vietnam, Chinese, and Khmer and had to move the capital to the south in Binh Thuan province. Since then, My Son was decommissioned and no tower was built onsite anymore.

Be forgotten for hundreds of years, in 1898, this holly land was explored by a French scholar, and resorted from 1937 to 1944 by Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient. Unfortunately, this complex was badly destroyed by American bombs in the war, and only 20 out of 32 remnants still keep their original appearance today.

According to many French, Poland and Vietnamese researchers, My Son sanctuary architecture was affected by Arabian, Malaysian, Indonesian, especially Indian culture, and it is the convergence of different styles such as ancient style in the 7th-8th centuries, Hoa Lai style in 8th-9th century, Dong Duong style in the mid of 9th century, My Son- Binh Dinh style. All of the towers were built from red bricks and sandstone. Today, the brick making and construction remain a secret among many archeologists and tourists also.

Though there are not many remnants left, My Son holly land still boasts the rich culture and arts of ancient Champa kingdom in glorious time. Because of those priceless values, it was honorably recognized as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1999, and attracts millions of tourists each year.

Cham Island

Cham Island is a group of 8 small islands, which has been recognized by UNESCO as the World Biosphere Reserve (Cu Lao Cham Marine Park).This ideal destination is endowed with marvelous topography of mountain slopes and biological diversity. From Cua Dai Beach, Quang Nam province, it takes about 30 minutes to arrive at Cham Island by express boat, though tourists may choose 45-minute-boat instead, to enjoy the feeling of travelling by fishermen’s boats.

What appeals to tourists in Cham Island is its wide variety of leisure activities in a picturesque and pristine setting. Traditional forms of recreation range from swimming on crystal-clear beaches, sunbathing on long-stretching white-sandy coast to exploring the forest. For those who are interested in marine life exploration activities, there are available facilities for water sports like: swimming, water skiing, paragliding, kayaking, kite flying, boat racing and scuba diving. This kingdom of aquatic animals is a collection of marine algae, sea grass, sea creatures and especially coral reefs. Tourists are expected to encounter a beautiful marine world with an abundance of colorful fishes, lobsters, mollusks under the clear water-surface.

In addition to recreational activities, Cham Island also gains fame for its cultural attractions such as: an exhibition of nature and Cham island people’s culture, Lang Ong, Hai Tang – a 300-year-old-pagoda, the old well and Huong fishing village. Cham Island is a cultural-historic site, which grows along with the establishment and development of Hoi An City and also has some relics of Cham people’s civilization, dating back hundreds years ago.

Leading a simple and hospitable life, local residents on Cham Island are also well-known for their environmental-harmonizing lifestyle. In a country where nylon bags are thought to be vital, visitors would find it surprising to see a big panel saying: “Please don’t bring nylon bags to the island” at the entrance of the ship dock and also with a complete lack of this material in the area.

TRAVEL BROUCHURE 2013
Spotlight Destination
TESTIMONIAL
  • I spent my 05 holidays in Hanoi and Halong Bay with Vietpremier service. It was a memorable trip for me and my friends. Not only the professional service, but also the intelligent tour arrangement and seasoned tour guide make us feel highly comfortable, minus the cost for us but still bring the best service. This impressed trip made me miss all about the person, scenery, lifestyle and I’m really want to be there again. Those are unforgettable holidays with me and my friends. I’m so excited with my next trip with Vietpremier J
  • Ms. Nguyễn Như Hảo & friends

  • Phung and our guides responded perfectly to our needs. We were tired after the train journey and so the only part of the itinerary we would change would have been to just spend the afternoon by the pool at the resort rather than taking a tour of the Hoi An sites
  • Mrs. Lisa Marie Behan and our family

  • Mr Liem was a wonderful guide he was professional but still showed a good sense of humour. We would never have been able to cross the roads without his help. Your design and management of our trip were excellent. I just realised that I hadn’t given feedback on the meal in the Mekong on the first day – this was at the house on the Mekong river, this was very remiss of me as although all meals were excellent this one was exceptional and the best we had for the entire trip, I should also have mentioned that the guide (a lady) we had on the Mekong cruise was excellent.
  • Ms. Jennifer Grace Agustin & Friends

  • A very well designed tour. We were very thankful to have contacted you and felt that your arrangements for us made everything a lot easier. Mr. Trang He was a fabulous guide who was quite knowledgeable about everything. We really felt like he made our trip even more enjoyable. His English is also extremely good and he tries hard to accommodate. Our favorite was Phu Quoc but we also really enjoyed our tour of the Mekong Delta though didn’t need two nights in Can Tho because there isn’t much to do in the city. Maybe should have done one night on a boat in hindsight but wasn’t sure we would like that.
  • Ms. Marlo Kravetsky & Mr. Daniel Ages

  • Hi Viet Premier!
  • Mr. Johan Kruimer

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