Every month at the time of the full moon, the town of Hoi An turns back the clock and gives the enterprising tourist and local alike a glimpse into the way Hoi An was in days past.
All traffic is halted, all TV’s turned off and all modern lighting eliminated and replaced by colorful lanterns for which the town is famous. As you walk through old town you have the opportunity to try traditional foods and imagine this place as a bustling international port in the 17th and 18th Centuries when Western traders referred to it as Faifo.
In the 1st Century the town was the commercial center of the Cham Empire and controlled the spice trade in the region. In the 16th Century the Portuguese established a trading center and they were later joined by the English, French, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese and by the 18th Century it was considered to be the best port for trading in all of Southeast Asia particularly for ceramics with evidence existing of their shipment as far as Egypt.
At the end of the 18th Century however two factors contributed to the port’s decline, the first was the silting up off the entrance to the port making it difficult for ocean going ships to enter. The second was political when the existing rulers fell and new rulers took control with the help of the French. In return, the French were given exclusive use of nearby Da Nang for trading and this not only marked the beginning of French rule in Vietnam but throughout Indochina. While Hoi An faded into oblivion it turned out to be a blessing since the entire old town was unaffected by other events during the 19th and 20th Centuries.
Today, the town is a mecca for tourists both backpackers and the more affluent. They come to the town for its authentic buildings, albeit a little more touristy than in the past, and for the nearby beaches.
One of the remaining remnants of the international period is the Japanese bridge which connected the Japanese part of town to the other areas. It still remains one of the few covered bridges in the area and definitely the only one with a Japanese temple attached. In addition to the bridge, you can visit cultural halls and see how the houses would have looked at the time of the European presence. In addition to the history, visitors also come for shopping particularly custom made jewelry and the silk lanterns used in the full moon celebrations. Another enticement is the high quality tailoring which allows the creation of high quality men’s and ladies’ clothing amount of time and at a price significantly lower than Europe and even lower than Hong Kong.
We recommend a stay of at least two and hopefully three nights in the area and we put our clients in a nearby resort called The Nam Hai which we consider to be one of the best resorts in both the country and the region. If you can drag yourself away from the spa and the beach you could visit Cua Dai Beach for some casual but excellent Seafood. In town we take our clients to Brothers Café which allows them to dine riverside and watch the fishing boats drift by. Another option is the Mango Rooms whose fusion cuisine is an interesting counterpoint to the antiquity of the town.
Regardless of where you stay or dine, you will enjoy Hoi An especially if you are there at the full moon.
To enjoy a stay in Hoi An http://www.ultitude.com/trip_details.aspx?TID=368&C=Vietnam