Hoi An is a remarkably well preserved historic location on Vietnam's South China Sea coast. Home to around 120,000 inhabitants, Hoi An was once a bustling trading port, its maritime traffic plying trade routes across Asia from the 15th to 19th centuries. It is well worth a visit because it's diverse architectural reflects all the influences, local and foreign, that have left their mark over the centuries.
Hoi An's old town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999, and the veritable army of taxi drivers, hotel bus drivers, receptionists and shop assistants alike are keen to continue promoting their home city to its many visitors.
If you feel like a break from browsing through the city's charming street markets, there are four museums highlighting the port's colourful heritage. The Hoi An Folklore Museum, opened in 2005, is the old town's largest two-storey wooden building. It answers almost 500 artefacts, split into folk arts, traditional occupations and contemporary memorabilia. The Museum of Trade Ceramics was originally built in the mid-19th century, and contains items from across Asia, including Iran, India, China and Thailand. The origins of each piece speak volumes about the importance of the city as a major trading hub for south east Asia. The Museum of History and Culture was once a pagoda built in the 17th century, adjacent to a temple. It contains a diverse collection of relics that trace the history of the region from its earliest inhabitants, through to the French colonial era and beyond.
The Museum of Sa Huynh Culture was established in 1994 and contains around 200 exhibits representing the Sa Huyhn culture. These are the people considered to be the region's earliest settlers, dating back two millenia; indeed, the collection of these artefacts is regarded as Vietnam's finest example of the Sa Huynh era.
Over the centuries Hoi An has been a melting pot for different civilizations. There is evidence of this wherever you look in the city. The old quarter is bustling with quaint colonial style buildings, their highly decorative balconies and arches making them look as if they have been transported from Europe brick-by-brick. There are numerous examples of fabulous pagodas, complete with carved dragons standing guard outside. A notable example of mythological art is the dragon fountain to be found at the back of the Cantonese Assembly Hall, Quang Trieu.
Elsewhere it is possible to soak up the atmosphere of this once thriving port, either by browsing through the bustling streets, or taking a stroll down to the seafront.