Hoi An Ancient Town

 Viet Nam
Hoi An Town, Quang Nam Province
N15 52 60 E108 19 60
Date of Inscription: 1999
Criteria: (ii)(v)
Property : 30 ha
Buffer zone: 280 ha
Ref: 948
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Hoi An Ancient Town is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. Its buildings and its street plan reflect the influences, both indigenous and foreign, that have combined to produce this unique heritage site.

Hoi An Ancient town is located in Viet Nam’s central Quang Nam Province, on the north bank near the mouth of the Thu Bon River. The inscribed property comprises 30 ha and it has a buffer zone of 280 ha. It  is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a small-scale trading port active the 15th to 19th centuries  which traded widely, both with the countries of Southeast and East Asia and with the rest of the world. Its decline in the later 19th century ensured that it has retained its traditional urban tissue to a remarkable degree.

The town reflects a fusion of indigenous and foreign cultures (principally Chinese and Japanese with later European influences) that combined to produce this unique survival.

The town comprises a well-preserved complex of 1,107 timber frame buildings, with brick or wooden walls, which include architectural monuments, commercial and domestic vernacular structures, notably an open market and a ferry quay, and religious buildings such as pagodas and family cult houses. The houses are tiled and the wooden components are carved with traditional motifs.  They are arranged side-by-side in tight, unbroken rows along narrow pedestrian streets. There is also the fine wooden Japanese bridge, with a pagoda on it, dating from the 18th century. The original street plan, which developed as the town became a port, remains. It comprises a grid of streets with one axis parallel to the river and the other axis of streets and alleys set at right angles to it. Typically, the buildings front the streets for convenient customer access while the backs of the buildings open to the river allowing easy loading and off-loading of goods from boats.

The surviving wooden structures and street plan are original and intact and together present a traditional townscape of the 17th and 18th centuries, the survival of which is unique in the region. The town continues to this day to be occupied and function as a trading port and centre of commerce. The living heritage reflecting the diverse communities of the indigenous inhabitants of the town, as well as foreigners, has also been preserved and continues to be passed on. Hoi An Ancient Town remains an exceptionally well-preserved example of a Far Eastern port.

Criterion (ii): Hoi An is an outstanding material manifestation of the fusion of cultures over time in an international commercial port.

Criterion (v): Hoi An is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a traditional Asian trading port.

Suggested Base:

Da Nang (Đà Nẵng) is Vietnam’s third largest city after Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh city. It’s located in Central Vietnam and on the South China Sea coast, midway between Ha noi and Ho Chi Minh City. The city itself has neither the ambiance of Hanoi nor the hustle-bustle of Ho Chi Minh City, but has its share of sights and is close to the charms of Hoi An and the imperial capital of Hue, making it a popular vacation spot for those looking to explore the attractions of central Vietnam or soak up some sun while hanging out on the city’s beaches. The regions surrounding Da Nang (My Son, Quang Nam) were founded by the Cham Hindus perhaps 3,000 years ago, serving as the capital city and centre of the Hindu Champa Dynasty. Vietnamese invasions into the region in the 17th century significantly halted Cham development. [read more]

Hue (Huế) (sounds much like huh-WAY) is in the central region of Vietnam and is the former imperial capital. Hue is intimately connected to the imperial Nguyễn Dynasty, based in Hue, which ruled from 1802 to 1945, when the Emperor Bao Dai abdicated in favour of Ho Chi Minh’s revolutionary government. The city went through tough times during what is known locally as the American War, when it was conquered by the Viet Cong and held for 24 days. During that time, they executed around 1,000 people suspected of sympathizing with the South. After a ferocious assault, US and South Vietnamese forces retook the city. Hue is easy to get a grip on. The main landmark is the Perfume River (Hương Giang), with the old city and the citadel on the north side and the newer city, including most hotels and restaurants, on the south side. [read more]

Quang Ngai is a city in the Central Coast region of Vietnam. Known for the My Lai incident during the Vietnam War. A sleepy town that is up and coming but well off the beaten tracks. This place doesn’t receive many visitors who often bypass the town for Da Nang north or Nha Trang to the south. Recent government investments in oil refineries has earned Quảng Ngãi recognition. The town’s numerous cultural and historical sights are getting more attention. Quảng Ngãi is a town that used to be neglected, forgotten, and bypassed by government, tourists, even the residents wanted to get out of this uneventful town. Now with all the oil money coming in, Quẚng Ngãi has been recapitalized, revitalized, and reborn. Now, everybody seems to be rushing back into town. New cafes, resorts, and upscale restaurants are popping up all over town. Business folks from Hanoi and HCMC are coming to this town to snatch up properties, open cafes, bars and dinning places [read more].

14 replies »

  1. Hoi An was, beside the Six Senses in Nha Trang, the most enjoyable part of our three week holiday in Vietnam earlier this year. We stayed in a smaller guest house, just outside of town, and cycled everywhere, in to town, around town and to the beaches too. Five days was perfect, and we are glad we didn’t shorten the trip and try to cram in more. We would have skipped Saigon, 24 hours was fine for Hanoi, 2 days in Halong Bay, but the full five days was ideal at Hoi An. Of course we had suits and skirts and blouses made, and are delighted with our purchases. Arrive with an empty suitcase, take only your favorite clothes you wish to have copied.


  2. Laden with multicolored lanterns, the ancient town’s canals and alleyways are a sight to behold during the lantern festival. The locals turn off their lights, leaving the town bathed in candlelight.

    The myriad floating lanterns dotting the water’s surface make for an incredible view, but the festival’s atmosphere is lively, romantic and mystical.


  3. I love the lights at night it looks so magical ! I also like the fact that some streets are blocked to traffic, must feels so quiet. Can’t wait to go there !


  4. When it comes to ancient towns, Hoi An is right up there for us. I’ve always loved the romance and allure of an old town where all the buildings date back 100’s of years, generations within a family own businesses and each street has a tale to tell. Add colorful fabric lanterns adorning the streets, brightly painted shop fronts and bicycles a plenty and you have old world charm like no other and plenty of Instagram-worthy corners. In fact I dare you to try not take photos whilst there; it’s not possible.

    It’s a great place to find many a talented tailor who can whip up a dress, linen pants or suit of your choice within a day. One of my favourite leather bags comes from a shop there ( made from buffalo hide) and I can’t recall finding better vietnamese food anywhere else. By day you can cycle through the streets, cruise the river in a local boat and by night watch the town explode with markets, lanterns aglow and their Japanese bridge ( dating back to 16th century) change colour in the light.


  5. Walking through Hoi An’s beguiling maze of narrow lanes, traditional houses, temples and shops, we lost track of time.


  6. One way to gain some perspective – geographically speaking – on how exactly Hoi An looks, is by doing a cruise on the Thu Bon River which runs right through the heart of the city. We were there when a monsoon struck central Vietnam, but judging by the locals’ nonchalance about this imminent disaster, this was the sort of this that happened quite often… Either way, the elevated river gave us an even better view of the famous Hoi An market at dusk, just when the Chinese lanterns lit up the streets…


  7. I was lucky enough to be there during the lunar lantern festival where the old town shuts off electricity in the evenings, is closed to traffic and transforms into magical alleyways of colourful lanterns, flickering candles and lively gatherings.


  8. I adored Hội An for its charming riverside Old Town and lanterns lighting up the night. The Hội An lantern festival is a gorgeous tradition and because of its popularity with tourists, one can now experience this beautiful light show every night. I was excited to see so much lush bougainvillea and many silk lanterns adorning the storefronts and restaurants of Hội An. Take it from me, be sure to dine along the river from 7 to 9 p.m. and watch Old Town illuminate. It’s quite the romantic and magical spectacle.

    There’s such a diversity of experiences in Hội An: beautiful beaches, hand-tailored clothing, delectable food, vibrant night markets, colorful lanterns, and ancient temples in the mountains. There are many cute boutiques lining Hội An’s beautiful streets. Not surprisingly, you can find a photo op at every turn.


  9. At night, the historic old town is jumping with people strolling by, and shops selling stuff, as well as locals offering everything from boat rides and fruit, to silk scarves (the town is known for its silk) and leather sandals. People also come to Hoi An to have suits and clothing made for them, and you’ll find several streets lined with custom tailor shops.


  10. In the evenings, Hoi An casts a spell on its visitors. This spell is not only lit up by the moon itself, but also by the hundreds of lamps and candles that are both hung on the trees, and also made to float in the Hoai River. Simply strolling around the Old Town and particularly by the riverfront is how one should welcome the night when in Hoi An.


  11. Many buildings have great designs and architecture with wooden sculptures on the rafters and beams, and these buildings have been inherited by generations. It’s such a precious treasure for the community and the city.


  12. We had no idea what to expect when visiting Hoi An, but I’m so glad we visited. It was one of the best stops on our visit to Vietnam. The people, food and shopping are amazing! I’m sure you will love it too.


  13. We are lucky enough to be here for a few days during the city’s Lantern Full Moon Festival (which pays tribute to ancestors, a recurring socio-religious theme throughout our time in Vietnam), so the streets are festooned with colour, light and more old-world charm than you can imagine.


  14. Hoi An gets even more beautiful at night so around dusk, make your way over to the river and experience something magical. You’ll find hundreds of colourful paper lanterns (with a candle at the bottom of each) floating down the river and tourists in little boats trying to get that amazing photo. I opted out to spectate from the river bank but it was still a beautiful tradition to see, and all the lights and colours were simply amazing!


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