With your Old Town entrance ticket, you can also choose from a number of Chinese meeting halls. I found most of these a bit over the top but it is interesting to see just how influential the Chinese were in settling this great city. Most people opt for the Assembly Hall of the Fuji an Chinese Congregation but to me, it looked a bit Disney with hordes of tourists snapping countless photos of themselves in front of its pink façade entrance. We chose the Assembly Hall of the Cantonese Chinese Congregation, which looked less ornate from the outside but had a fantastic statue of dragons in the back courtyard. It was a lot less crowded and for that alone, I think it was a good choice. If this type of architecture is your thing, you can pay an additional 10,000 dong to check out as many as you like or just buy another city ticket for 50,000 dong and enjoy some more of the city’s charming Old Houses too.
Hoi An's Old Town is a World Heritage Site and to visit it, you technically have to purchase a city ticket for 50,000 dong (just over $3). Along with strolling the narrow streets, you can also enjoy one attraction in four different categories: old houses, meeting halls, museums, and temples. The price is steep by local standards but it seems to be doing a good job of preserving the area so I figure its money well spent. Quan Cong Temple is one of your choices of places to visit on your city ticket. This is a good example of a Chinese temple with lots of red and gold ornamentation and a carp-filled pond in the opened portion of the inner courtyard. This open space allows for some nice lighting if you get there around midday.
When you purchase your city ticket for 50,000 dong, you can choose from a number
of Old Houses. One complaint with this system is it forces you to buy more than
one ticket or to pay extra to see more of these fantastic glimpses into the past
history of Hoi An. I, for one, would rather go to more of the houses than the
elaborate but, for my tastes, ostentatious Chinese meeting halls. We did check
out two of the houses and Tan Ky was the most impressive for the interior decorations. This elaborate table of mother of pearl was a true highlight. Perhaps the most memorable thing about these incredible homes is their inner courtyards. Though well in the busy Old Town, you find such tranquility in them. You can also enjoy the intricate wooden carving that is traditionally the hallmark of these stunning architectural marvels.
One of Hoi An's biggest attractions, this Japanese built bridge dates back in various incarnations to 1593 and contrasts sharply with the Vietnamese penchant for elaborate ornamentation. Simple but ruggedly constructed, there is a small temple built inside and the two entrances of the bridge are guarded by a pair of dogs on one side and monkeys on the other. I found it a bit anti-climatic due to all the fuss made about it but certainly worth the short walk over to see it though you should pass on the temple inside and use your ticket for the Quan Cong Temple.
Hoi An is a real hodgepodge when it comes to architecture. Evidence of its past as the first Chinese settlement in south Vietnam is readily seen in the abundance of Chinese meeting halls that dot the city. Interspersed with these are 19th century wooden houses that show both Chinese and Japanese influences. Adding color to this already eclectic mixture are numerous examples of Hoi An’s French Colonial past. These simple but elegant buildings are noted for their wooden shudders that stand out against otherwise yellow exteriors.
If Hoi An were a totally landlocked town, it would still be spectacular. However, with Cua Dai beach a mere five kilometers away and the atmospheric Thu Bon River running through it, it has its share of natural as well as man-made beauty. This splendor is not lost on the local population as much of the city’s commerce still revolves around the rivers flow. To visit Hoi An and not enjoy the livelihood of this picturesque river would be to miss quite a bit. And very unlikely at that as it seems to draw all those who come to town.
Hmm, seems somehow we managed to visit more than one of the Chinese meeting halls. From looking at the map and using my sometimes failing memory, I figure this was the Chaozhou Hall, but I can't be sure. At any rate, there are lots of nice sights to see in Hoi An so just walk around and stay away from the crowds as much as possible. Most people come here on a day trip and go to only the most popular sights so go in the opposite direction for the most atmosphere. This place was totally empty and just as nice as anything we saw in town.
This fantastic temple was built in 1653. It has a nice central pond where you can see fishes, turtles and other aquatic animals. It is decorated in an intense and "baroque" chinese style, with gold and red motifs everywhere you look at.
It is located in the back part of the market.
Officially known as "Assembly Hall of the Cantonese Chinese Congregation", this building (1786) was the gathering place for this trading association.
It has a meeting Hall, an altar deidcated to Quan Cong and an entrance hall.
It can be visited with the general tickets too. Is located near the Japanese Bridge.
There are other Assembly Halls:
- Chaozhou Chinese Congregation
- Hainan Chinese Congregation
- Fujian Chinese Congregation
and ageneral "All Community Assembly Hall".
This 1593 old bridge used to join the Japanese sector of the town with the Chinese one. It has lasted so long time, as (even in those times!) japanese builders were highlu concerned about the possibility of earthquakes...
It is located in the westernmost part of the touristic city centre. You can see it from the outside and cross through for free, but if you wanna go to the little exhibition inside you have to buy one of those official tickets.
This is one of the many private mansions and shrines you can visit in Hoi An.
In this case you can only visit the shrine building, which (as it's written at the door) served as background of some "Elle" magazine reports.
They are guided visits, a member of the family explains to you the history and details of the place... and afterwards takes you to the souvenir shops and tries to seel you some stuff!!
Being a UNESCO World Heritage place, Hoi An's old centre is considered as a whole when visiting.
You can walk through the streets for free, but if you wanna visit something, you will have to buy a "Multi-entrance" ticket. You buy them in any of the ticket offices that are in some travel agencies in the old town. With one ticket (50.000 VND, about 3 USD) you can see:
- 1 of the 3 museums
- 1 of the 3 Old Houses
- 1 of the 3 Assembly Halls
- Traditional Music Concert and Handicraft Workshop
- The Japanese Bridge or Quan Cong's Temple
The money goes to mantaining the old town.
A tour to Cham Island is a nice days outing.
I was picked up by bus and taken to a port where I boarded the boat. I could sit downstairs or up on the top open deck, this is what I did, as I'd rather take photo's from there than from behind glass.
I was given a bottle of Water and 2 cup cakes for breakfast, [nice!] and these were FREE!
The trip to the island took about 1.5 hours. It was quite interesting as lots of fishing boats with their fishing nets were out on the water.
The town on the island is in a pretty little cove. Lots of basket boats are here and the people don't pressure you to buy like in Hoi an, a nice respite. It was enjoyable watching the locals get on with their life.
We went out on the boat for snorkelling, a bit cold and windy the day we went. Onto another nice secluded cove, just our group for lunch and rest and recreation on a sandy beach with palm trees, this was so lovely!
Then it was time to return to the Boat, and head back to the mainland, where a bus took me back to my Hotel.
A word of warning for the trip back.....
The wind had come up and the sea was very rough, so if you suffer from sea sickness, take some tablets with you.
Also, everybody was frozen, except for me, as I took a cardigan with me, and even that was not quite warm enough. There was nowhere to get away from the cold wind! Take something warm with you, even in warmer weather, as the return trip may be cold!
In 2008, I paid $19 for this tour after checking with many travel agencies. Check around, as prices DO VARY!
I see a tour in 2011 cost $32us......including lunch, but this is by speedboat which is the faster boat.
I dearly wanted to do a cooking school whilst in Hoi An but ran out of time.
But for the benefit of other travellers, I do want to tell you about Red Bridge. It seems to be the best of many cooking schools here.
They have various half & full day cooking tours. All include a visit to the markets to learn about all of the ingredients that will be used in the cooking lesson later. You then board the Red Bridge boat for a cruise along the Hoi An River to the cooking school's location. They have a swimming pool there that you are free to use after the cooking tour has finished and they provide towels & showers.
Prices in March'08 were US$18 for half day, US$30 for a full day, and they also run an evening class for US$10.
Visiting tourist attractions of Hoi An is restricted to five places for one entrance ticket. To make things more complicated, you can't visit any five places of your choice, but each one must fall into a different category. The categories are: museums, assembly halls, old houses, cultural events ( which means either a concert of traditional music or visiting a handicraft workshop) and "other" (the choice of two temples). If you want to visit another attraction, you must buy a new ticket. Swapping the attractions doesn't seem to be possible. Tickets cost about five dollars and can be easily bought in various ticket offices in the Old Town.
Although the system may seem annoying, I do understand the town's need for funds, especially with the place being haunted by frequent floods which make the task of conservation very urgent.
From my own experience I can say that one ticket is enough to see the highlights of Hoi An. Luckily, to immerse in its unique atmosphere you don't need any ticket, at all.