Memories of Vietnam: a magical visit to Hoi An

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In the hustle and bustle of returning from a trip, a few memories now and then get lost amid the treasure chest of stories and photos you bring home. So it was with Hoi An, a beautiful city I visited last year during my trip to Vietnam. But a few of those images came to light this week as I was rummaging through the pile, so perhaps it’s time to finally share the photos and the memories of my visit to Hoi An.

Hoi An isn’t one of Vietnam’s big attractions; in fact, I’d never heard of it before I set foot on Vietnamese soil. But the lesser-known treasures often shine the brightest, and that’s nowhere more true than in this ancient town near Danang, in central Vietnam.Hoi An street hawker

In its heyday, from the 16th to the 18th century, Hoi An was a prosperous trading port, where ships from China, Japan and even Europe came to exchange their goods for things like china, aromatic woods and spices. The thriving trade created a cosmopolitan place, filled with people from foreign lands. They built their houses and shops and meeting places in their own styles, creating a unique mishmash of styles and an atmosphere like nowhere else.

Today, most of those buildings are still standing, some 300 or 400 years old, and Vietnamese law forbids anyone to demolish or modify them. Hoi An is a living monument to its past, and in appreciation, it’s been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s also a memorable place to visit, and one that becomes even more memorable if you stay around a while.

I started out in the afternoon, enjoying the antique buildings, peering into the old Chinese temples, poring over the bright ceramics in the gift shops. But as I was strolling through the public market, it started to rain, and within a few minutes, it began to get dark. Suddenly, this pretty town became a magical place. Lanterns shone from every street corner, coloured lights shone off the wet streets, and a warm glow spilled out of the cafés and tea shops.

Wandering down to the riverfront, I found an even more magical scene. Paper lanterns, lit with the hopes of those who launched them, floated on the dark water, mingling with the vivid reflections of buildings across the river. Nearby stood the Japanese Bridge, lit like a green lantern, remnant of a Japanese colony that once lived and worked on this side of town.

My visit to Hoi An lasted only a few hours, but after I left, I wanted to go back. Time didn’t permit it, and I pushed on, to Hue and then to Hanoi. But today, looking at these photos once again, I’m sorry I didn’t. (One note: As always, you can click on the photos to see them larger.)

Hoi An street2

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Hoi An courtyard

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Hoi An poser

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Lacquer dishes Hoi An

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Hoi An ressto

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Hoi An photo takers

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Hoi-An-restaurant lantern-

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light up the night hoi-an-lanterns

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Hoi An waterfront lights

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Hoi An lantern seller

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Hoi An Japanese bridge

 

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About Author

Paul Marshman is a retired journalist who spent 30 years as a writer and editor on Canadian newspapers, while travelling to the ends of the earth. Now he continues to travel while passing on his travel experiences to you.

7 Comments

  1. You were so fortunate to see Hoi An at night Paul…. how beautiful. We were there in the daytime and didn’t really experience the beauty of the lanterns.

    • Hi Lorne: There was a shuttle bus from my hotel in Danang to Hoi An, and I wondered why it left so late in the day. Once the sun went down, I found out. Hoi An is quaint and interesting by day, but it’s magical by night.

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