Hoi An Old Town Reviews
Old Town charm in Central Vietnam Nov 24, 2008
Without a doubt Hoi An is a beautifully preserved little town that has the ambiance of Malaysia's Melaka and the romance of the Philippine's Vigan. It is a center for arts and crafts, silk, and, yes made-to-measure clothes that has everyone going crazy.
Although it is free to walk the streets of the old town, a ticket scheme is put into place to enter some of it's point of interests. There are 6 ticket outlets dotted around town, and A ticket costs 75000VND ($4-5) and would allow access to 5 out of the 12 landmarks: 1 museum, 1 assembly hall, handicrafts workshop or traditional theatre, 1 merchant's house, and either the shrine on the Japanese covered bridge or the Quan Cong Temple. Of course you can visit all twelve by buying 3 tickets, but if you have only a day in Hoi An, the following sites are your best bets (yes i've bought 3 tickets) :
If you have to choose between the Japanese Covered bridge and Quan Cong Temple, i'd say choose the temple. You can cross the Japanese covered bridge as many times as you want, the ticket only applies to the shrine within the bridge, and you need not enter it to view it. Quan Cong Temple is a better choice since it's also across the market where you can do a little shopping.
Museums: I only entered 2 museums: the Hoi An Museum of History and Culture, and Museum of Trade Ceramics. The Museum of History and culture can serve as your introduction to Hoi An with it's displays of relics and photographs. The museum of trade ceramics, on the other hand, is all about broken pottery. Not really that interesting, the building is more of the highlight of this museum rather than the exhibits.
Assembly Halls: I sorta made a booboo here because I entered the same sight twice... brain cells getting depleted as each day passes by. Anyway, between Quang Dong or Cantonese Assembly Hall and the Phuc Kien Meeting Hall, my pick would be the latter as it is bigger, more colorful, and a lot nicer. There's really nothing to see at the Cantonese Assembly except for the central courtyard with the dragon statue. The Phuc Kien Meeting hall on the other hand boasts of lots of hanging incense that's really quite nice to look at.
Old Houses: As you enter a house, a member of the family who supposedly lives there will greet you and act as your guide. They basically have the same spiel (age of the house, how many generations has lived there, the japanese/chinese architectural influence, etc.) but the most informative would have to be the Tran Family Chapel. The other two houses(Phung Hung House and Tan Ky House), they just let me sit down, did their spiel and then left me to explore the house on my own. It is however worthy to take note of the Tan Ky House and how it's inhabitants mark the water level of the overflowing Thu Bon river. 2007's flood was by far the highest, it has almost reached the second floor. My Pick: Tran Family Chapel. It's more informative, and it's quite different from the other two houses in terms of structure and there's a souvenir shop inside where you can buy silks, coins, ceramic/jade figurines to bring home to your mother or sister or girlfriend.
Traditional Theatre/Workshop: I really had no choice here since Bach Dang (the street where the workshop is as indicated in the map provided by the ticket outlet) was flooded. so It was the traditional theatre for me at 75 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street. Although I am quite confused since the at the back of the theatre has a workshop where lantern making and wood sculpting takes place. The front hall is where the performances are held. If this is the same workshop that's included in the ticket then i guess i've been to both theatre and workshop under one roof.
The best thing about Hoi An is that the old town center is off limits to heavy vehicles, hence it's a pedestrian's heaven. Even just by walking along the old charming streets is an experience to remember. The rain can even add more charm to the city. So however miserable the weather can be, I guess you just have to suck it up and enjoy your stroll or bike ride. Besides, rain is perfect for a cup of ka phe in one of the many cafe's around town.
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