Five hundred years ago, Hoi An was famous as a popular trade hub where spices were traded between China and the West. As it became known as a busy but welcoming port, it was given the name ‘Hoi An’, meaning ‘a peaceful meeting place’, and that reputation remains today. This is one of the safest and most popular places in Vietnam and attracts hordes of tourists every year, most of whom arrive just in time for the monthly Lantern Festival. On the 14th day of each lunar month, the city switches off its lights and falls quiet, and thousands of locally made coloured lanterns are released from the riverbanks up into the sky. It is quite simply one of the most magical sights you can see in Vietnam.
Location: Hoi An–The river port
Hoi An’s success as a trade hub centres around its location around the estuary of the Thu Bon River, which flows into the East Vietnam Sea. Today, most East Asian trade is done via the port of Da Nang, 30 km to the north. Hoi An’s popularity means it is easily accessed by Vietnam’s main roads, although it is a good distance (approx. 850 km) from the country’s capital, Ho Chi Minh City.
Business: Trading on the past
Hoi An has not been used as a trading port for more than 200 years, but the city centre has been so well preserved that it been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, noted as a world class example of a 15th–18th century Vietnamese port. Today, most of the city’s business comes from tourism, although traditional industries such as crafts and fishing are still thriving.
Culture: Light up the sky
For many visitors, Hoi An represents the pinnacle of their Vietnam experience. This is largely due to the phenomenally popular Lantern Festivals, which take place during the first full moon of every month. This is a local tradition, which has taken on celebrity status since the advent of Instagram and Facebook, as the soft glow of thousands of lanterns floating across the river is just picture perfect. To learn more about the history of the city and its surrounding areas, visit one of the four local museums, or simply ask a local!
Activities: Take some down time
Hoi An is a place which deserves to be seen properly. Hire a bike and explore the surrounding countryside, or take a river cruise through the old city. After you dance the night away at the Lantern Festival, treat yourself to some down time at the famous Palmarosa spa.