You may have heard of Vietnam's large cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, with their legendary hustle and bustle and frenetic pace of life. But you may not have heard about one of Vietnam's most interesting and more manageable cities - Hoi An.
After traveling Vietnam from top to bottom, I've pinpointed the Central Vietnamese city of Hoi An to be my favorite. It's not as loud as Hanoi or as congested as Ho Chi Minh City and much easier to navigate. Yes, it's still chaotic (this is still Vietnam, after all), but it more than makes up for it with its charm.
If you're headed to Vietnam anytime soon, here are four reasons why you should add Hoi An to your itinerary.
Hoi An was once home to one of the most important trading ports in all of Southeast Asia, thanks to its location on the on the Thu Bon River near the Vietnamese coast. For centuries, everything from exotic spices to intricately crafted ceramics passed through Hoi An, bringing wealth and recognition not only to the city, but to the surrounding Quang Nam province as well.
You can see this history still reflected in the city today. Even though Hoi An is no longer a major port in Asia, the city still retains its original layout. This is one of the reasons UNESCO named Hoi An's Old Town a World Heritage Site in 1999.
Another reason Hoi An received UNESCO recognition is because of its old, traditional architecture that reflects influences of quite a few different cultures. You'll find timber-frame buildings, intricately detailed Chinese assembly houses, and even a wooden Japanese-style bridge with a pagoda in the middle.
And let's not forget the lanterns. Hoi An is known for the paper lanterns that hang over roadways and in shop windows. At night, they add pops of color once they're illuminated. All of this adds to the ambiance of present-day Hoi An.
If you've ever dreamed of getting something tailored just for you, this is the place to do it. You can get dresses, shoes, handbags, even tuxedos made in Hoi An from one of the many tailors that operate here. Choosing the right tailor for you can be daunting (I recommend reading reviews online before you choose), but once you decide, the process is kind of fun.
You get to pick your material and pattern, or you can just bring in a picture of something you'd like made for yourself. Then someone will take your measurements and info, and you'll usually have a first draft of the item a few hours later to try on. After a couple of fittings, the final product is usually done in just over 24 hours.
Lastly, you can't talk about any city in Vietnam without mentioning the food. Hoi An has a couple of unique food specialties, most including big yellow noodles that come from this part of Vietnam. Cao lau is a must-try yellow noodles, pork, bean sprouts, and fresh vegetables in a dark pork broth. And then there's also Banh xeo, or Hoi An Pancakes crispy pancakes filled with pork and prawns. If it's street food you're after, head to the central market food hall for an incredible variety of culinary treats. And, if you want to learn how to cook any of the dishes you eat, many Hoi An restaurants offer cooking classes.
Have you heard of Hoi An? Is it a place you want to visit?
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Graduate student by day and avid traveler and blogger by night (and on weekends and during holidays), Amanda is just a small-town Ohio girl trying to balance a "normal" life with a desire to discover the world beyond her Midwest bubble. Amanda's adventurous nature and inability to say "no" have led her to some pretty amazing adventures all around the world. But she has no desire to stop exploring anytime soon. Read Amanda's blog, A Dangerous Business, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.
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