A 3-day immersion in the old world charms of Hoi An
Hoi An boasts warm weather all year round with an average temperature of 29 degrees Celsius.
The heat reaches its peak between June and August when the mercury can go as high as 38 degrees Celsius during the day.
Between February and April is the most ideal time to visit Hoi An with ideal weather conditions. The rainy season from September until January, a time of typhoons and flooding, especially in October and November, is for the intrepid travelers not bothered by the elements.
Several of them have remarked that traversing the town’s flooded streets on boats during the flooding season is a must-have travel experience.
Day 1: Japanese Pagoda Bridge- Hoi An assembly halls - Hoai River
The Japanese Pagoda Bridge is a symbol of Hoi An that has been enshrined in the nation's VND20,000 bills.
Located adjacent to Nguyen Thi Minh Khai and Tran Phu streets, the bridge was built in the early 17th century by Japanese traders who once made up a large part of the town’s population.
A small shrine was built at one end of the bridge in 1653 to worship the weather gods believed to have the power to prevent natural calamities and bring happiness and wealth to people. Many have since called it the Pagoda Bridge.
Unfortunately, the bridge is not in good shape, damaged by sewage flow below. Some experts have warned that it is in danger of sinking.
Local authorities have approved a VND20 billion ($860,000) renovation plan to save the 400-year-old bridge from collapsing.
As a place frequented by Chinese traders in the 16-17th centuries, the rows of Chinese-influenced assembly halls with red tiled roofs and dragon-carved walls are a very distinctive feature that makes Hoi An stand out from other tourist towns.
Built in 1885, the Cantonese Assembly Hall is located in the heart of the town.
This assembly hall, made of wood and stone, conserves many ceramic artefacts that reflect the Cantonese community culture that once prevailed in the town.
Located at 46 Tran Phu, the Fujian Assembly Hall is the largest and most well-known traditional structure. Visitors tend to light large incense rings and often hang paper sheets with prayers for health and fortune.
The Trieu Chau Assembly Hall was built by the Chaozhou community in 1845 to worship the God of Sea for safe voyages and smooth sailing.
Architectural motifs featuring folk legends decorate the hall, many of them embossed with porcelain.
The Quan Cong (Guan Yu) Temple, where the deity is General Guan Yu who served under warlord Liu Bei of the late Eastern Han Dynasty, is famous for its striking Chinese architecture with tiled roofs, red lanterns and dragon carvings.
At night, the Hoai River, a tributary of the Thu Bon River, on whose banks Hoi An has flourished, is busier than ever. Many locals earn a decent living by offering river cruises on their boats for VND200,000-250,000.
During the boat ride, visitors can release colorful lanterns on the calm waters and make a wish. A lantern costs VND10,000 onwards. As soon as visitors approach the Hoai River, many hawkers offer boat rides and lantern floating services. The price can vary depending on the number of people in a group, so a bit of bargaining is in order to find the best deal.
A boat can carry up to five passengers, and each ride typically takes 15 to 20 minutes.
Minh Thien, a local boat driver, said his family has been carrying tourists along the Hoai River for more than 10 years, but they almost their main source of income for two years because of the pandemic.
If the boat tour doesn't catch the visitor's fancy, a one-hour show called "Hoi An Memories" is a really good alternative option.
With 500 actors and actresses, the show is performed on an outdoor stage covering an area of 25,000 square meters at the Hoi An Impression Theme Park on Hen Islet in Cam An Ward.
"Hoi An Memories" is staged every day of the week except Tuesday from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Ticket prices range from VND480,000-1.2 million ($20.58-51.45).
Day 2: Bike tour - Bay Mau nipa palm forest – traditional craft villages
A five-hour bike tour, which costs from $19.50 per person, enables visitors to see locals deploy their traditional craft skills like weaving straw and making boats while pedaling around Duy Vinh Island, five kilometers from downtown.
Visitors can book a tour at Heaven and Earth Bicycle Tours on Ngo Quyen Street.
From downtown Hoi An, guests can hire bicycles from their hotels and ride less than 5 kilometers to reach the Bay Mau nipa palm forest and go on coracle tours.
A 45-minute coracle tour costs VND150,000 ($6.44) per person including forest entry fees. Crab fishing and acrobatic fishermen performing a unique coracle dance are part of the tour treats.
During the tour, visitors can also try their hand at fishing and enjoy dishes made with freshly-caught seafood.
Travelers who wish to explore the forest but stay off the water can also rent a motorbike for about $5 a day or request a complimentary bicycle from their hotels.
"Overall well worth doing but I would advise to get an early start before the tour groups take over," American tourist Jason told VnExpress International.
Currently, travel agencies in Hoi An are offering one-day tours to the Bay Mau nipa palm forest and traditional craft villages which include a sampling of local cuisine for VND600,000 per person.
The Tra Que Village, two miles from downtown Hoi An, is famous for its fresh vegetables grown in fertile soil and a great place to visit.
Apart from learning about a range of vegetables and spices, visitors can directly participate in plowing the soil, planting and harvesting vegetables. Then they can enjoy Hoi An specialties cooked with fresh seafood like mussels and prawns alongside thick Quang noodles.
Not far from Tra Que stands the Thanh Ha pottery village, which dates back to the 15th century.
About two miles west of Hoi An along the Thu Bon River, the village is home to dozens of families that have been making pots, brick tiles, dishes and many unique souvenirs for generations. Visitors can not only observe the artisans’ techniques but also try their hand at making their own pottery products.
The Kim Bong carpentry village is known for the exquisite and unique woodwork it makes for houses and boats, modern decorations and souvenirs; while the Phuoc Kieu bronze casting village has been around for four centuries.
Day 3: Cham Island
Cham Island is a popular tourist draw, offering added attractions like scuba diving and walking underwater. Situated quite close to the mainland, the island is ideal for a one-day visit. Snorkeling is a popular activity here since the coral reefs are located just two meters underwater. Interested visitors will be taken to designated dive sites and given the needed equipment.
Cham Islands is only accessible by speedboats from Hoi An. Photo by Huynh Phuong
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