By day Hoi An is a shoppers paradise, shops and custom tailors fill every street, but by night the riverside old town of Hoi An becomes a magical place lit up with lanterns and traditional performances. Nearby are the My Son temples, a world heritage sight that delights tourists and history buffs.
We stayed just outside Hoi An’s old town, an eclectic collection of riverside markets, chapels, communal houses and temples. The river is sprinkled with boats of many uses, most are for tourist rides, some for fishing, and a few small picturesque dingies with old women offering a snapshot for a fee. The city is famous for its tailors; suits, dresses, shoes, pants, and anything you could ever want tailor made to your size. We quickly learned then when a local approaches your streetside lunch table their purpose is to lure you into their family tailor shop – a friendly “where are you from” will turn into a 5 minute babble of “discounts for you, cheapest prices” that are hard to convince of our uninterest.
We visited a handful of heritage sights, including the Muesum of Hoi An History and Culture that had an impressive display of ancient artifacts from original Hoi An. Brightly decorated temples, communal houses, and a family chappel occupied most of our afternoon as we slowly doddled through admiring the detailed designs and shrines.
An hours drive South from Hoi An is the world heritage sight of My Son, a cluster of temples built by the Champas between the 4th and 12th centuries. Many of the temples were bombed during the Vietnam war, but the few that still stand show incredible craftmenship; the bricks were cemented togather by molasses or sugar, creating very strong structures and seamless walls. The remaining temples are a beautiful sight, dusted in moss and wild flowers, and foreground to the tall and worshiped Cats Tooth mountain.
On the trip back from My Son we took a relaxing boat ride down the river and ate lunch with a slowly passing view of the riverside. Before returning to town we stopped at Lang Moc Kim Bong, a small woodcarving village. We wandered through shops that were filled with intricate carvings, trinkets, and souveniers all made from wood. One sculpture had 1000 dragons detailed on it, in celebration of Hoi An’s 1000th anniversary. Locals laboured away at their newest project, undistracted by the cloud of tourists drifting through.
Our limited luggage space along with our shoestring budget restricted us from splurging on the tailor made clothing, but I still greatly enjoyed the enchanting lantern lit canals and historic streets that make up my favourite city in Vietnam, Hoi An.