Hoi An Travel Guide
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Hoi An Travel Guide
Hoi An is a beautiful city in Vietnam about 30 km to the south of Da Nang. The Old Town of Hoi An is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hoi An is also commonly used as the base for half-day trips to a cluster of abandoned and partially ruins of My Son, another UNESCO World Heritage Site in the west of the Central Highlands.
Hoi An, once known as Faifo, with more than 2,000 years of history, was the principal port of the Cham Kingdom, which controlled the strategic spice trade with Indonesia from the 7th-10th centuries and was a major international port in the 16th and 17th centuries. The foreign influences are discernible to this day.
The culture and heritage is mostly from the Cham people whose kingdom originally stretched from Hue south to Phan Tiet (south of Nha Trang). The Champas were most likely originally from Java. The original Cham political capital was Tra Kieu, the commercial capital was Hoi An and the spiritual capital was My Son (Hindu). The Cham people were Hindu, and by the 10th century the influence of Arab traders to Hoi An resulted in the conversion of some to Islam.
The second major influence was Chinese, first by traders, then by escaping Ming Dynasty armies, who after settling in Hoi An for some years, moved further south and created Saigon as a major trading port.
The third and last major influence of culture and heritage was from the Vietnamese and is fairly recent and only came after the Cham lost control of this area. For a tourist wanting Vietnamese culture and heritage, Hue is a much better destination than Hoi An.
While the serious shipping business has long since moved to Da Nang, the heart of the city is still the Old Town, full of winding lanes and Chinese-styled shophouses, which is particularly atmospheric in the evening as the sun goes down. While almost all shops now cater to the tourist trade, the area has been largely preserved as is, which is unusual in Vietnam, and renovation has proceeded slowly and carefully. It’s mercifully absent of towering concrete blocks and karaoke parlours.
The culture and heritage that UNESCO WHS status for Hoi An Old Town was trying to preserve is long since gone. Since 1999, when UNESCO status was awarded, there has been a massive increase in mass tourism, with the result that most houses have been sold to speculators and shop owners to be used for commercial purposes. The community and with it their culture and heritage is gone and in their place are shops, restaurants, art galleries, etc. There are hundreds of tailor shops in Hoi An, all selling similar low value products to ever smaller numbers of Western tourists. The hawkers are distressingly aggressive, and organized crime groups use watering hole attack strategies. Your name and a file might be passed by your tour bus operator, your hotel, or the taxi mob, to the gangs pushing women and drugs. Western backpackers are a steady source of income for these groups.
UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status also applies to Hoi An Old Town, but in reality this status, like all other UNESCO designations, has not been accompanied by enlightened site management.
The main thoroughfare in the Old Town is Tran Phu. Just south of the Old Town, across the Thu Bon River, are the islands of An Hoi to the west, reached via Hai Ba Trung, and Cam Nam to the east, reached via Hoang Dieu.
Hoi An Vacation Rentals : Holiday Lettings in Hoi An
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