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Travel GuideTuesday, 10/10/2006, 02:30

Exploring Hoi An on foot 

While walking around Hoi An, exploring the small but beautiful town, tourists - even those who visit frequently - find a quiet peace in the unique atmosphere combining elements of Vietnam, China, and Japan
Exploring Hoi An on foot

Exploring Hoi An on foot 

A corner at Hoi An Ancient Town

While walking around Hoi An, exploring the small but beautiful town, tourists - even those who visit frequently - find a quiet peace in the unique atmosphere combining elements of Vietnam, China, and Japan. Most remarkable are the views from the ancient houses, reminding visitors of a far-gone past and providing a momentary glimpse of a more subdued and simple time.

It is common knowledge that the ancient houses and pagodas in Hoi An are not to be missed.  Unlike the old homes found in Hanoi, those in Hoi An are reminiscent of Chinese style-dwellings and feature two main gates.  One of the gates is used for trading while the other, which opens to the Hoai River, is used for delivering goods from boats.

The ancient town of Tan Ky is an ideal place to find such homes, one of which has witnessed seven generations of a family over a period of more than 200 years.  After passing through two compartments of the house, tourists can see into a large, strange yard.  According to people at that time, the outdoor space was either used to attract sunlight or create an airy atmosphere in the house. Within the house, special attention was paid to details over the years, and artifacts have remained.  There is a carefully preserved tea set as well as cau dai, or �sentence pairs,� a highly specialized form of poetry passed down from the Chinese and used to convey good wishes for Tet.  Within the town can be found handicraft products made by local artisans, ranging from pottery teacups and brocade skirts to snails or stones linked together into jewels. 

Hoi An is known among travelers as a perfect place to have clothing made.  A high-quality ao dai (Vietnamese traditional long dress) or a custom-designed shirt can be completed within a matter of hours at shops along the street.  More than 100 shops have their own styles to meet various demands of tourists.

The day-long meandering on foot may become quite tiresome, but the town can also be enjoyed via cyclo (xich lo in Vietnamese; a three-wheeled bicycle taxi).   Cyclo drivers are some of the best impromptu tour guides, and will enthusiastically take direction to any corner of town while offering a friendly, local perspective.

As for local food specialties, tourists should try Cao Lau. The dish is made from noodles sliced carefully and served with thinly cut meat, fried pork fat and a cup of nuoc mam (fish sauce). Fresh vegetables and bean sprouts make the dish more delicious. Mi Quang, Hoanh thanh, and Vac cakes are other interesting options of the area.

Small family-owned shops and carts along the street with many kinds of che (grass jelly and bean desert) and ice cream can satisfy your thirst.

At night, the rooftops and awnings in town are decorated with paper lanterns. It is so captivating that one may feel they have traveled into the past. The town is ablaze with these lanterns on the lunar 15th day of the 8th month (or Mid-Autumn Festival).

 


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