Why we loved Hoi An in Vietnam
Written by Robert Brett
Before this holiday was planned (not by me, I hasten to say: it came ready-made as a hugely generous birthday present), I had never heard of Hoi An. And you may not have either, but you should include it in any trip to Vietnam.
For such a small place, it packs quite a punch: an old trading port that in the 17th and 18th centuries welcomed Chinese and Japanese traders, and still bears their marks today in its architecture and culture. Miraculously undamaged in the Vietnam War, it has been recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Uniquely in Vietnam, its historic centre is pedestrian only.
We were lucky to be there for the full moon festival, an auspicious time when the place is crowded. I don’t mean Bangkok crowded, just a nice happy throng of locals and tourists. To us, the highlight was sunset, on the banks of the sea channel that was the source of Hoi An’s prosperity in the past, seeing people light paper lanterns and float them on the water, and watching as they drifted upstream on the incoming tide. With the full moon lighting it, it was a magical sight.
Hoi An is renowned throughout Vietnam for its cuisine, and the doyen of its restaurants is Morning Glory. We took the precaution of booking, had a wonderful (and very cheap) meal there, but marvelled when we left that there was not only a queue to eat there but also a queue to get into the queue! A popular place indeed. Those of you who may be disappointed not to get a table at Morning Glory shouldn’t fret too much. Hoi An has many great alternatives, all within 200m of the town centre.