Just a month before we had to return home in early 2020 we were in Hội An, a beautiful city in central Vietnam. A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1999, the city had been a trading port from the 15th century up until the 19th century. According to UNESCO, “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.”
It really is a pretty town during the daytime, and we walked to the traditional market, went swimming at nearby An Bang Beach and took in the surrounding farmland. But at night the city really came alive
Our hotel was in the north-west part of town closer to the edge of Hội An. Although it was further from the main part of town, one benefit of our neighbourhood was a pub that served beers from various microbreweries in Vietnam.
Each day we would walk the streets and alleys towards the old town. It took about 20 minutes to reach the waterfront and there were a few different ways to get there, each with its own winding streets and alleyways. At night some of the streets were busy and others were quiet. The crowds didn’t appear until we were closer to the waterfront.
The old part of town had a number of traditional Chinese temples and meeting halls. They were decorated with colourful flowers and manicured bushes.
Walking along Along the waterfront we eventually reached the Bridge of Lights (Cầu Đèn Lồng). Crossing it took us to Cẩm Nam, a set of small islands in the middle of the river.
Cẩm Nam was the site of the night market, filled with food and souvenir stands of all types. It was busy and noisy, and drew large crowds of tourists. Some of the food stands had an interesting selection of delicacies.
Hội An was a short stay during our trip through Vietnam, but a memorable one. It had an old-world charm that was so unlike many of the bustling cities elsewhere in the country. With steady tourism and a busy night market, it wasn’t exactly laid back (our choice would be the area around the Phong Nha caves in northern Vietnam). However, it did have a more traditional feel, with a historical centre and waterfront that was bustling with life and activity. The old town reminded me of places like Split in Croatia, where the historical centres are still in use. For us, the echoes of the traditional port of centuries past can still be seen in Hội An today.