Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower

Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower
The view from Amsterdam Tower

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hue and Hoi An (Part 2 - Hoi An - The Ancient Town)


History: In the 16th and 17th centuries, Hoi An was the international trading center in Southern Vietnam. Right in this town, Japanese, Chinese, Dutch, Indian traders set up their emporiums or established their town quarters for permanent habitations.

The town is now a wonderful living museum of architecture and urban life style.


As part of my 3 day 2 night trip to Hue, I included a day trip to Hoi An. It is a long trip from Hue to Hoi An via Da Nang. Not to mention that it was raining since I woke up. More water than the previous day and it continued all the way from Hue, Da Nang and Hoi An.

My original travel itinerary was to drive to Lang Co Beach Da Nang through Hai Van Pass. However it was changed to Hui Van Tunnel. The hotel staff did not recommend driving through Hui Van Pass due to heavy rain. Being unfamiliar to the area, I had to respect to that decision.

Hai Van Pass has beautiful scenery which reminds me of Puncak in West Java/Indonesia. However the twisting road on the pass has long been a challenge for drivers traveling between the cities of Hue and Da Nang. More info on Hui Van Pass:

However, as I had to drive through a tunnel…. Voilà… The tunnel is 6.28km, lies on highway 1 between the two cities of Danang and Hue in central Vietnam. It was officially opened in June 2005. 3G signal works at the front and end parts of the tunnel by the way, no signal in the middle. More info on Hai Van Tunnel:

Indeed the rain continued, no way to see the beautiful mountains surrounding, but I still enjoyed the greenery view, residential areas, open field which I assume they are rice fields, farming areas, animal farm, people in the raincoats and traditional hats and of course the fog…


My driver for the day is Thanh. He is young, polite and speaks very decent English. During the peak season in Hue, he drives tourists from Hue to Hoi An (just exactly like my itinerary) twice to three times a week. We talked about Hue, Da Nang and Hoi An. Answering to my query, he said that distance from Hue to Ho Chi Minh City is 1,000 km and it takes 18 hour to travel by train. It is a single track railway, the train has to stop and wait for other to pass. He also told me that Hue and Hoi An is 130 km and it takes 3 hours to drive due to the rain and road condition.

Due to rain, another itinerary had to be changed. No point to stop at Lang Co beach in Da Nang. Passing the beach along on the left side, I could see the foggy beach, strong current, dark clouds in the sky and strong winds… I am sure that Da Nang beach is very beautiful in dry season.

Da Nang city looks cute in the drizzling morning. There is a long street that reminds me of Hai Ba Trung Street in Ho Chi Minh City. The street has many shops: florists, church, clothes, banks and a cute Pizza Hug restaurant -:)

That is all I could say about the city, as I only drove through.


Kota tua ini sungguh menakjubkan, luar biasa! – This ancient town is very astonishing, remarkable!

I underestimated myself by only having 3 hour trip in Hoi An, as it is part of the day trip from Hue. As the minute I walked into this ancient town… I realized that I should at half a day and preferably until the dark comes. Never enough to admiring this town.

My mind wondered around; I was confused about where to start my walk, which place should be visited first, how did people use to live in those years? Oh no…it rained again, where my driver parked his car - otherwise I would not be able to find him, oh God - I was physically tired but at the same time I was so excited, how big this place is,…. also I was confused how to take pictures. On top of that, deep inside my heart, I regretted traveling by myself – first it is because this place is so bloody damn romantic even during the day! – Second reason: who would be patient taking my pictures? -:)

My driver parked his car at the Tourist Service Office. That is the limit of where he could go to the area. No car/bus is allowed to get into the ancient town. I like this idea as it is one of the ways to keep the authenticity of the town.

At this Tourist Service Office, I purchased a ticket of 90,000VND which includes five tickets to enter special historical buildings. There are some types of tickets; we can walk around the ancient city and visit the buildings with no additional charge – and there are some other ancient buildings require additional charge/ticket.

Finally I started to walk… Unfortunately I found this Hoi An map after the trip, however it is still worth to be shared:

Hoi An Market

Visiting a market is a good idea to start my walk! LOL… Rain was following me or I was following the rain, no one knew.

The market is still functioning as a market with shops, buyers, sellers, tourists, etc. This fact astonished me. This ancient town is an active town with all of the day to day activities, but with the fact that it is an ancient town that started to rapidly develop since the 16th century.

Tan Ky House

It is an old house and was built nearly 200 years ago. The person who built the house was a Minh Huong (a Chinese native) who came to Vietnam to do business in the 17th century. Seven generations of owners have successively lived there.

The house has been lovingly preserved and today looks almost exactly as it did in the early 19th century. The design of Tan Ky House shows some evidence of the Japanese and Chinese influence on local architecture. 

See this link as reference:

Nha Tho – Tran Family’s Chapel

It is a place for all family members of the Tran clan to worship their ancestors. Tran Tu Nhac, an intelligent mandarin who lived during the reign of King Gia Long (around 200 years ago), built this house.

Annually, all of the clan gather in the house, in front of the altar to show their gratitude and piety towards their ancestors and to pray for happiness. On this occasion, they recall the past, discuss the future and teach their offspring to do good things. The meeting is organized in a joyful and warm atmosphere. Parents educate the children about the clan's traditions.

There's a souvenir shop at the hack of the chapel. I bought a compass in a shape of a turtle. One of the ladies who guided me in the chapel explained that turtle is a symbol for longevity.

House for Ceramics Trading

Apparently ceramics have been actively trading through Hoi An. History says that Hoi An port town and the “Silk road” and “Ceramic road” on the seas attracted lots of merchant boats form China, Japan, India, Thailand, Portugal, Holland, Britain, France...

No wonder there is a “House for Ceramics Trading”. There is a souvenir shop in this house selling ceramics and other types of souvenirs of which I bought myself some ‘very small’ cutlery. It just happened that I needed that thing to hold the chopsticks.


Another way to keep the authenticity of this town – instead of light, lampion is used in the evening. They are hung in the streets and buildings. This is the reason why preferably it is better to stay until the dark comes.

Walk Continued

I just walked, took pictures, took deep breaths, opened my umbrella when it rained and closed it when it stopped, and walked again… I saw many attractive building such Hoi An Museum which is petite and beautiful, many souvenir shops, food sellers selling Vietnamese donuts, General Assembly which was founded as a place to hold community meetings… I passed a small bridge – the bridge has unique gates at both sides of the streets and it has roof top…. I walked inside the gate to the other side of the street; I had interesting feeling and felt the spookiness. 

Then I returned back to exactly the same the street that I previously took – because I was tempted to grab a bite at the restaurant a few block before I saw the bridge. Fried Vietnamese spring roll was yummy – especially I was tired and it was a good idea to sit down and cool down…

While sitting in that restaurant, I saw many tourists walking around and some of them rode their bicycles, very rare I saw people on motorbikes. There were two men pushed a wooden trolley full of wood and the road climbs up. Right away two young men in the road voluntarily helped them to push the trolley. That is the spirit of the people living here.

I looked at the map given by the Tourist Service Office, there is apparently a well-known Japanese Covered Bridge. Is it the one I visited before? Somehow I was not sure and I wanted to go back after finishing my spring roll…

Mmm… I went back to the bridge and I tried to peep from outside, nope, it is not the same one as the Japanese Covered Bridge, so where is that bridge? Mmm… I think this is the bridge but silly me I just could not take nice picture from outside as my legs did not want to move…

I continued my walk by turning to the left as I saw a river. There is another bridge passing Hoai river. It is an open bridge with no roof top. But this bridge has lampions hung along the side. 

On both sides of the road, separated by a river, there are restaurants/coffee shops where people can sit outside enjoying the view…. In between the restaurant there are gallery/shops… Some boats and fishermen were in the river. This view is gorgeous…

There are some performances around town which unfortunately I could not enjoy. The Hoi An Art Craft Manufacturing Workshop has morning and afternoon sessions for traditional music show. Hoi An Traditional Art Performance House performs folks songs/dances and traditional music presentations in the evening. In some performances, visitors have to dress decently, sleeveless blouse, drawers and over knee skirt or dress are not welcome inside the show places.

As I continued walking and rain poured again, I decided to stop and overcome my caffeine addition. I stopped at a coffee shop, ordered for cappuccino and sipped it while observing the rain and witnessing how lovely the ancient town of Hoi An is... 

That day, throughout the morning, I had to cancel some travel itinerary due to rain, my legs were tired, my left shoulder hurt for carrying a camera – all of these paid by joy being able to visit Hoi An. If there is a second chance to revisit this town, I would take it in order to take nice pictures of and with the Japanese Covered Bridge…. Normally good people deserve second chance. Hoi An, till we meet again.

Some websites of Hoi An for reference: and


  1. Wow, nhìn huế thấy cổ kính qua ha.

  2. hi veve.. nice blog :) eniwei, ada rekomendasi tempat makan enak di hoi an?

  3. Wow, Hue is great. Cheap vietnam flight Ho Chi Minh to Hue , welcome to vietnam friendly.