Hoi An was one of the major trading centres in the South East Asia in the 16th century along side Malacca and Makassar. Although it has been habitated by westerners since then, Hoi An does not lose its distinct Chinese appeal. Trailing through the narrow streets, the ancient town is so much alive despite of being ancient. To me, ancient connotes dull and boring and historic. Only after you are there, you will be transformed into a movie set from 19th century.
Forget the hustle bustle life. Forget the tally tall buildings. Forget about high tech world.
There is nearly no traffic on the road although the cycle rickshaws keep on honking to the meandering tourists to disperse and give ways. Cycle rickshaws, bicycles and motorcycles are the only vehicles allowed in the ancient town. Hoi An must be the safest town in Vietnam; the one you feel safe traveling within.
Although the name of the streets, shops and locals aren’t ones that you can instantaneously restore in your mind, you will come across repeated word such as Tham, Trang, Chu, Van Hoa and many more. The narrow road leading to the ancient town is walled by a mossy wall high enough that you cannot crane your neck to look beyond the wall.
Common sights in Hoi An ancient town are hard wood fronted doors seasoned by the centuries, old bicycles, saleswomen with conical hats on whose shoulders bear long stick to balance two heavy food containers – fruits, tau foo fah or vegetable, and of course, colorful oriental shophouses with fading paints.
Let us skip talking about tailor shops in Hoi An.
One of the many things that differ Hoi An from other town apart from the tailor shops is the coloured lanterns, an ancient practice which was revived in the year of 1998. Starting the fall of 1998, 14th day of the lunar month, every residents in the ancient town will switch off their lights and instead, they will hang cloth and paper lanterns near their windows. It is not a wonder to see many shops selling nothing but colourful paper and cloth lanterns. They come in various size and colours. If you hang out and be friendly to the local, you may sit and learn how to make a lantern.
Don’t miss eating like a local along quiet narrow streets.
Further walk towards the river, you will find yourself in the wet market. As you stroll away, few friendly locals might try to sweet talk you to their aunties’ tailor shops. Ah, look at the ferry chartering more motorcycles than men onboard.
Vietnamese life at its best. Enjoy.