We were looking forward to visiting Hội An, having read much about it. The town is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a Southeast 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 UNESCO World Heritage site.
Going to Vietnam the first time was life-changing for sure. Maybe because it was all so new and different to my life before and the world I grew up in. The food, culture, landscape, and smell; they’re all inseparable. It just seemed like another planet; a delicious one that sort of sucked me in and never let go.Anthony Bourdain
While in Hoi An we stayed at the Magnolia Homestay, a wonderful small B&B. The place had a small garden where we could eat breakfast and had free bikes for rent which we used to ride to the old town. The B&B was a wonderful deal at the time with our room charge of $50 for two nights.
The best time to visit is around the 14th night of each lunar month when the moon is at its fullest and brightest. Most of the electric lights in the old town are turned off and multi-colored lanterns are lit providing for a wonderful atmosphere with crowds walking the cobblestone streets. On sale as well are small paper lanterns lit with candles that are placed on the Hoai River as an offering to God as well as our ancestors. Along the riverbank, there are folk performances with music (bamboo flutes, drums, and fiddles) and poetry readings.
During our stay in Hoi An, we took a tour with Heaven & Earth Bike Tours. We departed at 8:30 am for leisurely cycling through the scenic countryside. We tried the renowned Vietnamese basket boats and of our group, only my wife turned out to be a successful pilot.
At lunchtime, we visited the home of a local Vietnamese family for a traditional Vietnamese meal, and to learn their customs and traditions. After relaxing under the shade of a mango tree we returned to Hoi An by boat.
One of the highlights of our trip to Vietnam was being invited to the Hội quán Phúc Kiến (Assembly House) for a private dinner by Mr Yip and his wife.
The Assembly Hall, located at 46 Tran Phu Street, was founded in 1690 and served the largest Chinese ethnic group in Hoi An (the Fujian). It contains the Jinshang golden mountain temple and is dedicated to Thien Hau, the goddess of the sea and protector of the sailors. The pagoda is also a place of gathering for the natives of Phuoc Kien.
We were given a tour of the house by one of the caretakers and had dinner in the rear of the complex and made to feel welcome by our host whose ancestors built the house. We saw many historical items not viewable by the general public that traced the history of Chinese from Fujian to this town. It was a tremendous honor.