Hoi An Old Town is a living, breathing relic from the past. The entire village is, itself, a museum. You can walk down cobbled streets lit up by softly glowing lanterns, explore houses and shops that have stood for centuries, and get a glimpse into history at this UNESCO World Heritage site.
In the ancient port city of Hoi An people from around the world came together to trade, communicate, and share their cultures. The town that still stands today, centuries later, is a testament to that unique blending of cultures. There are of course Vietnamese homes, pagodas, and canals– but there are also ornate Chinese temples and shops with gilded Chinese characters hanging from their signposts, a Japanese bridge over the river– still delicate and peaceful as the ages pass, and French-colonial houses adorned with the luxury that France has always been known for.
Time has not changed Hoi An’s appreciation and respect towards their customs, folk festivals, and traditional foods, so while you’re in this peaceful village you have the chance to see Old Vietnam alive and well.
You will find good food, plenty of shopping, skilled artisans, charming architecture, and carefully preserved history all in Hoi An’s Old Town, so while you’re there you should take the opportunity to really explore.
To gain access to the many sites of Old Town you will need to buy a coupon for $6– they are sold at the entrances at Hai Ba Trung Street or Hoang Dieu Street. These coupons allow you to enter Old Town, see street performances, folk festivals and night markets, shop, eat, and explore the historical sites. You can choose 5 of the 18 special points of interest to enter.
To give you a little insight on what you’ll get to see in Hoi An Old Town, I wanted to take a quick closer look at the four different museums that you can choose from.
The Museum of Folk Culture
The Museum of Folk Culture displays the dress and culture of rural Vietnam and shows you what village life is like. It is located in a, ancient house that has courtyards, staircases, and beautiful old rooms.
They offer displays on pottery, fishing, and farming, with special attention to silk production. They introduce the process of silk farming, show you baskets of cocoons and explain the life cycle of silk worms, show an array of skeins of colored silks, and have a display of weaving looms.
As you wander upstairs you will get to see traditional clothing– both daily wear and festival costumes in bright colors. They have tools, nets, and artifacts from village life through the years. There are also explanations of local folklore and history.
There are several gift shops that have silks, replicas of traditional tools and other small souvenirs for sale.
The Museum of Trade Ceramics
At the Museum of Trade Ceramics, the highlight is not actually the museum, but the beautiful home that it is set up in. Its shape and layout is arguably even better than the Old Houses you can choose from to explore. There is a courtyard, an old shrine, and a balcony that looks out over the ancient streets of the town.
The ceramics on display are a collection of old Vietnamese, Japanese, and Chinese ceramics. The vases, pottery, and cookware date back from the 16th to the 19th centuries. There are maps and illustrations to offer more insight into when and where the pieces originated and how they were used.
The Museum of History and Culture
The Museum of History and Culture is, like all the museums of Old Town, set up in a beautiful space. It is in a 17th century Chua Ong Temple that is worthy of exploring in itself.
The most popular exhibit in this museum is on the history of Hoi An– there are maps of the ancient port city, along with black and white photos documenting some of its later days when it was still a thriving trade center.
They have an old canon, two thousand year old pottery from the Sa Huynh period, and artifacts that date back to the 9th century Champa Kingdom.
The Museum of Sa Huynh Culture
In the Museum of Sa Huynh Culture, housed in an old French-colonial building, you can see two different displays. The main collection downstairs has very ancient pottery and urns that date all the way back to the 1st century, with information on ancient lifestyles, customs, and burial traditions. The Sa Huynh Culture is truly an ancient civilization, and this museum offers a glimpse into their past.
The second display is upstairs and consists of wartime weapons, including machine guns. They offer some small insights into strategy and history of the wars in Vietnam, as well as Hoi An’s role in the revolution.
To Really Explore Old Town
A complete list of your sight-seeing options available from one coupon book:
You can pick one Museum
- Museum of Folk Culture
- Museum of Trade Ceramics
- Museum of History and Culture
- Museum of Sa Huynh Culture
One Old House:
- Quang Thang House
- Phung Hung House
- Tan Ky House
- Duc An House
- Tran Family’s Chapel
One Assembly Hall:
- Trieu Chau
- Quang Dong
- Phuc Kien
One Cultural Presentation:
- Handicraft workshop and traditional arts performance
- XQ Hoi An Embroidery Gallery
One Traditional Site:
- Japanese covered bridge
- Cam Pho Communal House
- Minh Huong Communal House of Tuy Tien Duong
- Quan Cong Temple
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