Hội An (會 安, meaning “peaceful meeting place”) has a history that dates back well over two thousand years. Located in Quảng Nam Province in central Vietnam on the coast of the South China Sea, the city was the principal sea port of the Cham Kingdom and during the pinnacle years of the spice trade, was considered the most important trading port in all of Asia. Its importance quickly declined at the end of the 18th century when the neighbouring city of Đà Nẵng was made (and still is) the principal trading port of the area. For almost 200 years, Hội An existed in a time bubble, isolated from the many changes that were happening elsewhere in the country. That is, until it was discovered by tourists!
Situated on the mouth of the Thu Bồn River, the entire ancient town of Hội An has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, and that has completely transformed and revitalized the city. The eclectic and colourful mix of building styles reflect the many influences, both local and foreign, that have shaped the village. While the influx of tourist money has done a lot to preserve the village, the increased popularity has inevitably also resulted in rowdy bars, loud music, and neon signs.
Still, you could do worse than spend a balmy evening strolling the atmospheric old town. A local handicraft specialty, handmade silk lanterns are available for purchase everywhere. In the evening the whole village is lit up with them (and if you happen to visit on a full moon, all other lighting is turned off, so it’s quite an extraordinary sight). And for a dollar or two, light a candle and send it afloat on the river with your innermost wishes.