Hoi An Ancient town is located in Viet Nam’s central Quang Nam Province, on the north bank near the mouth of the Thu Bon River. The inscribed property comprises 30 ha and it has a buffer zone of 280 ha. It is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a small-scale trading port active the 15th to 19th centuries which traded widely, both with the countries of Southeast and East Asia and with the rest of the world. Its decline in the later 19th century ensured that it has retained its traditional urban tissue to a remarkable degree.
The town reflects a fusion of indigenous and foreign cultures (principally Chinese and Japanese with later European influences) that combined to produce this unique survival.
The town comprises a well-preserved complex of 1,107 timber frame buildings, with brick or wooden walls, which include architectural monuments, commercial and domestic vernacular structures, notably an open market and a ferry quay, and religious buildings such as pagodas and family cult houses. The houses are tiled and the wooden components are carved with traditional motifs. They are arranged side-by-side in tight, unbroken rows along narrow pedestrian streets. There is also the fine wooden Japanese bridge, with a pagoda on it, dating from the 18th century. The original street plan, which developed as the town became a port, remains. It comprises a grid of streets with one axis parallel to the river and the other axis of streets and alleys set at right angles to it. Typically, the buildings front the streets for convenient customer access while the backs of the buildings open to the river allowing easy loading and off-loading of goods from boats.
The surviving wooden structures and street plan are original and intact and together present a traditional townscape of the 17th and 18th centuries, the survival of which is unique in the region. The town continues to this day to be occupied and function as a trading port and centre of commerce. The living heritage reflecting the diverse communities of the indigenous inhabitants of the town, as well as foreigners, has also been preserved and continues to be passed on. Hoi An Ancient Town remains an exceptionally well-preserved example of a Far Eastern port.
Criterion (ii): Hoi An is an outstanding material manifestation of the fusion of cultures over time in an international commercial port.
Criterion (v): Hoi An is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a traditional Asian trading port.
Hoi An Ancient Town has retained its original form and function as an outstanding example of a well-preserved traditional South East Asian trading port and commercial centre. It remains complete as a homogenous complex of traditional wooden buildings, with the original organically developed street plan, within the town’s original river/seacoast setting.
These original cultural and historic features demonstrate the town’s outstanding universal value and are present, well-preserved, and evident within the boundary of the inscribed property, even while it continues to be occupied and function as a trading port, as well as a popular tourism destination. As a result of this economic stagnation since the 19th century, it has not suffered from development and there has not been pressure to replace the older wooden buildings with new ones in modern materials. This has ensured that the town has retained its traditional urban tissue and is preserved in a remarkably intact state.
Hoi An Ancient Town has retained its traditional wooden architecture and townscape in terms of plot size, materials, façade and roof line. Its original street plan, with buildings backing on to the river, with its infrastructure of quays, canals and bridges in its original setting, also remains. The historic landscape setting is also intact, consisting of a coastal environment of river, seashore, dunes and islands.
Because most of the buildings were constructed in wood it is necessary for them to be repaired at intervals, and so many buildings with basic structures from the 17th and 18th centuries were renewed in the 19th century, using traditional methods of repair. There is currently no pressure to replace older buildings with new ones in modern materials such as concrete and corrugated iron.
Protection and management requirements
Hoi An Ancient Town was classified as a National Cultural Heritage Site in 1985 and subsequently as a Special National Cultural Heritage Site under the Cultural Heritage Law of 2001 amended in 2009. The entire town is State property and is effectively protected by a number of relevant national laws and governmental decisions, such as: the Cultural Heritage Law (2001, amended 2009) and the Tourism Law (2005). The 1997 Hoi An Town Statute defines in regulations that are implemented by the Hoi An Center for Monuments Management and Preservation, the responsible agency of the People’s Committee for the management of the property. Day-to-day management involves collaboration with various stakeholders, to maintain the authenticity and integrity of the property and to monitor socio-economic activities within and adjacent to the property. The capacity of the professional staff has been and continues to be developed by many domestic and international training courses. Revenue from entrance tickets is invested directly in the management, preservation and promotion of the property. Management and preservation are further strengthened through master planning and action plans at the local level. There are also regular restoration and conservation programmes.
Multi-disciplinary research conducted by teams of international and national scholars has informed the conservation and interpretation of the town’s heritage. This research is on-going. Within the property boundary, the landscape, the townscape, the architecture and all material cultural artifacts are preserved.
A Management Plan was implemented at the time of nomination of the property, and is being kept up to date and reviewed as required by UNESCO to ensure that it remains effective.
The buffer zone is managed to protect the property from external threats. The potential adverse effects to the property caused by annual flooding and urbanization are being effectively controlled with the active participation of all authorities and the local community.
The Master Plan for the Hoi An Ancient town conservation, restoration and promotion together with the city and tourism development was approved by Prime Minister on 12 January 2012, covered the period until 2025.
Long-term management should aim to promote improvement in the living conditions for local residents. As tourism increases a strategy to manage it within the parameters of the site will be required. Strategies to deal with adverse effects of the climate are being developed and should be included in the Management Plan.
In the future, it is an aim to link the Hoi An Ancient Town with the adjacent UNESCO Cu Lao Cham Biosphere Reserve and to build Hoi An into a community integrating ecology, culture and tourism.
Hoi An Old Town seems to aside from the busy development of the country, remaining its ancient beauty from its roads to its architectural works. About 30km south of Da Nang city, Hoi An old town is really a great place to really get up close and personal with the real Vietnam, her people and past as well.
Here is also a rare place where you can find an elegant blend of Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese architecture.
Hoi An has been through a few centuries of history but still remains as in the very first days of its being born. Its two main historical landmarks are the occupying of the Japanese & Chinese, and the Western (Dutch and Spanish) during the 16th and 17th centuries.
During the period of the China trade, the town was called Hai Pho (Sea Town) in Vietnamese. Originally Hai Pho was a divided town, because across the “Japanese Bridge”, it used to be the Japanese settlement (16th-17th century). Then it was known to the French and Spanish as Faifo, a major international port city.
Thanks to these days, the foreign comprehensively positive and special pastimes and culture had made deep influences on today’s Hoi An.
How Is Hoi An Unique?
Whoever coming to Vietnam could not deny that Hoi An old town is so attractive in terms of climate, architecture, religion, festivals and so on.
1. Climate in Hoi An
Being an ancient town in central Vietnam, Hoi An has two seasons with warm weather averaging 29oC dominating for most of the year. The wet season lasts from September through to January, and the rest of the year is of the dry season. Most days temperatures average between 25°C and 30°C with the hottest months being June and July.
Hoi an street from above
Coming here, tourists can see a series of old-architectured lanes and houses with nearly 100% cristinely left from their initial buildings with mossgrown walls, deeply plain roofs, old furniture in their cristine past arrangement, etc.
Hoi An is fortunate to be a cultural crossroads of the Cham culture in the very first southward expansion of Dai Viet (the Vietnamese nation more than 5 centuries ago encroaching on the Indianized Kingdom of Champa, which covered much of what is now central Vietnam), the Asian (Japanese, Chinese, Indian), and the Western ones during their trading here in the 16th century.
These diverse cultural influences remain visible today. Colourful guildhalls, founded by ethnic Chinese from Guangdong and Fujian provinces, stand quietly, a testament to the town’s trading roots.
While Hoi An’s old-fashioned charm is always visible, on the 14th of every lunar month modernity takes another step back. Most premium oriental and western styles of architecture are found here, making a unique ancient Hoi An, absorbing all tourists who are eager for classic beauty! Even you are not classic styled, you still want to see how a lively ancient world can cristinely survive in this new modern and high-tech era!
Hoi An lantern festival – History of Hoi An
Tourists should not miss some of the great festivals of Hoi An, among which is Full Moon Festival. It is held on the 14th of every lunar month, one night before the full moon, when the Old Town becomes even more festive than usual, active and marvelously decorated with colorful lights and lamps along every lane. Another one is the Mid-Autumn Festival held on the 14th of August lunar month.
Hoi An mid autumn festival
Last but not least, the “lantern festival“, the most enchanting and special one of Hoi An, which is typically demonstrated with all colorful hanging cloth and paper lanterns on the 15th of every lunar month switched on altogether while all electrical equipment is off, leaving the Old Quarter bathed in the warm glow of colored silk, glass and paper lanterns. A sparkling, romantic and mysterious view is opened, stimulating anybody’s curiosity and eye feed!
The 14th day of the lunar month is a Buddhist day of worship. Hoi An residents place offerings of food and incense on their ancestral altars and visit one of Hoi An’s many pagodas. The scent of incense and the sounds of people singing adds to the town’s enchanted atmosphere. Visitors will get a rare glimpse into another era – the very far away period of our ancestors, and discovering it themselves.
Traveling to Hoi An, you will not find yourself in the same situation of busy traffic like in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City although motorbikes still play an important role in the traveling of the locals. In some roads inside the town, motorbikes are even prohibited in a certain time, so that crossing the street here raises no scare to tourists.
What To Eat in Hoi An Ancient Town?
Hoi An shops and restaurants
Hoi An’s delicacies are plentiful and particularly tasty and cheap. Let’s take an example, one of the most popular one Cao lầu, a dish of rice noodles somehow closer in texture to pasta. What is its secret?
It is the water used to make it, being collected from a special well in the city. The noodles are topped with slices of roast pork, dough fritters, and lots of fresh herbs and veggies. I think you should try one of these, or else you will soon regret!
Let’s see, you are sitting on stools, eating a bowl of Cao Lau with wooden chopsticks, and sipping ice cold “White Coffee with vinamilk”! Oh, this is really an interesting adventure!
What to See in Hoi An Ancient Town?
Since Hoi An is an old Town, its places of interest are of full historically classical meaning and image. Hoi An’s symbol, the most popular remnant is the Japanese Covered Bridge (Chua Cau or Lai Vien Kieu), on the west end of Tran Phu Street. The bridge was constructed in the early 1600’s by the Japanese community.
Japanese Covered Bridge
Tourists should spend time on visiting Quan Cong Temple, Museum of Culture. Many ancient style-oriented architects come here to have a direct look into the ancient houses of the town, among which are Phung Hung House, just west of the Japanese Bridge, Quan Thang House, or Tan Ky House.
The design of the houses shows how local architecture incorporated Japanese and Chinese influences. Cantonese Assembly Hall (Quang Dong) has a calm courtyard with ornate statuary. You could take a peek at the half-hidden backyard and its kitschy pastel dragon statues.
Hokkien (Fujian) Meeting Hall (Phuc Kien) and Chinese All-Community Meeting Hall (Trieu Chau), are also spanning the block. If you are Buddhist, there are a lot of pagodas to visit. Ong Pagoda, Quan Am Phat Tu Minh Huong Pagoda, etc. are premium places to get in.
Today, Hoi An is also known as a shopping paradise that attracts tourists towards its wonderful souvenirs, handicrafts, antique pieces, silk materials, art paintings and so on.
How to Get There
In order to get to Hoi An Old Town, you can choose some kinds of transportation including train, bus, taxi or even plane if you are not near the Da Nang city.
If you go by bus or by train, you will have to catch “xe om” after that to reach the center of the town. If you go by taxi, you will not need to do that, however, the price is much more expensive. And if you have a car or motorbike and you can drive on your own from Da Nang, it may be more interesting because you can have a chance to enjoy the fresh air and spectacular view along the way.
Where To Stay?
There is no hard in finding a good accommodation near Hoi An Old Town. However, if you want to get the best experience, you can take some of the suggestions below.
Lantana Hoi An Boutique Hotel & Spa
Location: 09 Ngoai Ngoc Hau, Minh An, Hoi An, Quang Nam
Tel: 0235 3963 999
Hoi An Silk Luxury Hotel & Spa
Location: 14 Hung Vuong, Cam Pho, Hoi An, Quang Nam
Tel: 0235 3963 399
Vinh Hung Hotel
Location: 143 Tran Phu, Minh An, Hoi An, Quang Nam
Tel: 0235 3861 621
A Hoi An with colorful lanterned nights, a Hoi An with cristinely old plain houses and special mysterious cultural elements, and a Hoi An with the Etiquette, culturally hospitable and friendly people are warmly welcoming you! Are you ready to take a culture discovery journey?