Fellow travellers showered effusive praise on Hoi An, a little town in Central Vietnam known to be a tourist magnet. A diametrical opposite of entropy filled Hanoi, Hoi An is a quiet, calm, sophisticated place living in practice for and because of tourists. It was a commercial centre of Vietnam once, receiving ships from far and wide. Eventually the river that connected it to the sea became stilted, and just like in Brugge this allowed Hoi An to remain conserved in time. As it was a key port, many a Chinese merchant opted to live there. As a result, the cultural heritage of Hoi An is painted in Chinese colours. The main attractions are Chinese temples, houses of Chinese merchants and the so-called Assembly Halls – community houses of various Chinese provinces.
Hoi An’s old quarters are grouped around the river, which served as the main commercial channel. The water of the colour of earth and the grey fog surrounding the city reminded me of my visit to Mandalay in 2012. In the evening though Hoi An suddenly flowers with a kaleidoscope of light, turning its streets into fairytale channels piercing the darkness.
Lamps on the river:
A boat woman waiting for custom:
I asked this boatman to take me around the river.
At night the locals sell paper lamps with candles. It is said that floating a paper lamp brings good luck.
Of course I sent one down the current!
In the old part of Hoi An there is a so-called Japanese bridge. It was built by the Japanese merchants around 1600. Forty years later the shogun introduced the policy of complete isolation for all of Japan and so the merchants had to abandon Hoi An, leaving the bridge in the care of other communities.
At night it is particularly striking
Streets of Hoi An
Colonial houses hold cozy cafés
Tan Ky house. It belonged once to a very successful Chinese merchant and is still owned by the family, eight generations down the road.
A wall in the internal courtyard
Quan Kong temple
Hokkien Assembly House. Here the merchants originating from the Chinese province of Hokkien (Fujian) gathered and managed their common affairs.
A covered courtyard in front of the temple
A ship as big as a man
All-Chinese Assembly House
The entrance to the All-Chinese Assembly House. The courtyard is guarded by a fantastic dragon
Behind the building in the garden there is an even more phantasmagoric dragon