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5 places to visit while exploring Hoi An’s UNESCO World Heritage old town


In the 16th and 17th centuries, Hoi An was a small scale trading port in Southern Vietnam.  The town traded widely, both with the countries of East Asia and with the rest of the world. Traders who came, set up their stores and quarters within Hoi An for permanent habitation.

The old town has many well-preserved buildings that reflects both indigenous and foreign cultures, especially Chinese, Japanese and later European. These places include houses of prominent people, assembly halls, communal houses, shrines, temples, bridge, market and wharf.

Hoi An was included in UNESCO World Heritage list in 1999. No motorised vehicles are now allowed within the designated ancient town area. Many of the old houses had been converted into stores, cafes, restaurants and some into museums.

One of the highlights of visiting Hoi An is to explore the insides of some of these places. We bought a ticket for the ancient town with 5 coupons that allows entry into 5 historical places of our choice. This ticket is sold in the ticket office next to the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge, one of the “must see” place. The ticket with the coupons can be used over a few days, so there is no rush to see all within the same day.

These are some of the best places to visit with the coupons. It included the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge, two of the best assembly halls and two old houses.


1. Japanese Covered bridge

The Japanese Covered Bridge is a unique and beloved symbol of Hoi An.

The early 17th century, the Japanese built the bridge over a stream that fed into the Thu Bon River in order to create a link with the Chinese quarters across the stream. The bridge was constructed with a roof so that it could be used as a shelter from both rain and sun.  The Japanese Covered Bridge is a unique and beloved symbol of Hoi An.


Photo of the bridge in the early 20th Century.

Photo of the bridge in the early 20th Century.


Japanese Covered Bridge - The two entrances of the bridge are guarded by a pair of Monkey statues at one end and a pair of Dog statues at the other.Dog and Monkey at both ends of the Japanese Bridge.


The two entrances of the bridge are guarded by a pair of Monkey statues at one end and a pair of Dog statues at the other. These two animals are symbols of sacredness in Japanese culture. It is believed that the construction of the bridge was initiated in the Asian zodiac’s Year of the Dog and was finished in the Year of the Monkey, hence the two animals.

The bridge is restored by the Chinese and Vietnamese in the later centuries and a small temple is built in the centre of the bridge, dedicated to the Northern God Bac De Tran Vo. This God is considered the God of Weather.

Small temple in the centre of the bridge, dedicated to the Northern God Bac De Tran Vo.

Small temple in the centre of the bridge, dedicated to the Northern God Bac De Tran Vo.


Another old photo of the Hoi An Japanese covered bridge.

Another old photo of the bridge.


Hoi An Japanese Covered Bridge

The end of the restored bridge looked different from that in the old photo above.


2. Quang Trieu (Canton) Assembly Hall

Out of the four assembly halls within Hoi An ancient town, the Quang Trieu (Canton) Assembly Hall is one of the most impressive. It is located near to the Japanese Covered Bridge.

It was built in 1885 by Chinese who came from Guangdong, the Canton province of China. In the early days, the house was dedicated to Thien Hau (Goddess of the Sea), then to Quan Cong, and then to the sages who came from Guangdong.  The assembly hall was a place for Chinese fishermen and traders to rest, interact and trade goods. In the old days, there was a wharf at the front of the house.


Courtyard in the Quang Trieu (Canton) Assembly Hall in Hoi An ancient town

A fountain that features a dragon in the courtyard in the Quang Trieu (Canton) Assembly Hall.


Dragon is a regular theme in this place. In the middle of the courtyard, there is a stone dragon and carp sculpture. Golden dragons encircled red pillars in a sitting area by the side and dragons are also found in the roof decorations. The courtyard provides some shade away from Hoi An’s hot weather. It was a good place to take a rest while taking in the visual treats inside this impressive place.

Pillars with encircling golden dragons on one side of the courtyard. Quang Trieu (Canton) Assembly Hall in Hoi An ancient town

Pillars with encircling golden dragons on one side of the courtyard.


Resting in the shade of the assemble hall. Quang Trieu (Canton) Assembly Hall in Hoi An ancient town

Resting in the shade of the assembly hall.


Painting of the “The Eight Immortals Cross the Sea” – a Chinese myth and legend. Quang Trieu (Canton) Assembly Hall in Hoi An ancient town

Painting of the “The Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea” – a Chinese myth and legend. Spirals of red incense hung from the ceiling.


There is a large garden at the rear with a large wall mural of General Quan Cong. More statues of dragons covered in pottery and also statues of a family of goats could be found in the back garden.

 Mural with Chinese General Quan Cong on a horse at the garden in the rear of the Quang Trieu (Canton) Assembly Hall in Hoi An ancient town

Mural with Chinese General Quan Cong on a horse at the garden in the rear of the assembly hall.


Quang Trieu (Canton) Assembly Hall in Hoi An ancient town

Colourful mosaic on the floor of the Quang Trieu (Canton) Assembly Hall in Hoi An ancient town.

Colourful mosaic on the floor of the Quang Trieu (Canton) Assembly Hall in Hoi An ancient town.


Colourful painted door gods as viewed from inside the hall, looking out. Quang Trieu (Canton) Assembly Hall in Hoi An ancient town

Colourful painted door gods as viewed from inside the hall, looking out.


3.  Phuc Kien (Fujian) Assembly Hall

Further down the street from the Japanese Bridge, the Phuc Kien Assembly Hall, located at 46 Tran Phu Street, was founded in 1690 and served the largest Chinese ethnic group in Hoi An (the Fujian).

Entrance to the Phuc Kien (Fujian) Assembly Hall in Hoi An Ancient Town

Entrance to the Phuc Kien (Fujian) Assembly Hall

Steps leading to the grand entrance reminded me of the steps leading to imperial Chinese palaces.

The Assembly Hall is in fact a temple that holds the sea goddess Thien Hau, the goddess Thuan Phong Nhi, who is able to hear the distress calls of ships even a  thousand miles away, and the goddess Thien Ly Nhan, who is able to see these distant ships.

The Phuc Kien Fujian Assembly Hall is in fact a temple that holds the sea goddess Thien Hau, the goddess Thuan Phong Nhi, who is able to hear the distress calls of ships even a  thousand miles away, and the goddess The Phuc Kien (Fujian) Assembly Hall is also a place of worship, with many altars and spiral incense hanging from the ceiling.

The Phuc Kien (Fujian) Assembly Hall is also a place of worship, with many altars and spiral incense hanging from the ceiling.


The Assembly Hall is in fact a temple that holds Mazu, the Chinese Goddess of the Sea that protects sailors and fishermen. Mazu is flanked by the deity Thuan Phong Nhi (Chinese: 順風耳 Shunfeng Er), who is able to hear the distress calls of ships even a thousand miles away, and the deity Thien Ly Nhan (Chinese: 千里眼, Qianli Yan), who is able to see these distant ships.

Sea Goddess Mazu with flat-topped imperial cap with hanging beads at the front and back, flanked by the goddess Thuan Phong Nhi (Chinese: 順風耳 Shunfeng Er) and Thien Ly Nhan (Chinese: 千里眼, Qianli Yan).

Sea Goddess Mazu with flat-topped imperial cap with hanging beads at the front and back, flanked by the deities Thuan Phong Nhi and Thien Ly Nhan. Mazu is also known as Thien Hau Holy Mother to the Cantonese.


A wall painting depicting the scene of six  generals of the Ming Dynasty who came from Phuoc Kien Province, riding horses and leading to fight the Qing.

A wall painting depicting the scene of six generals of the Ming Dynasty who came from Fujian Province.


A wall painting depicting the scene of six  generals of the Ming Dynasty who came from Phuc Kien (Fujian) Province, riding horses and leading to fight the Qing. But they were defeated and their offspring had to flee from China to Hoi An in the 17th century.

An altar dedicated to six generals of the Ming Dynasty who came from Phuc Kien Province.

An altar dedicated to six generals of the Ming Dynasty who came from Phuc Kien Province.


There are many altars dedicated to the various gods and goddesses, like most Chinese temples.

Phuc Kien (Fujian) Assembly Hall

It was relatively quiet during our visit. We were free to explore the hall and even rested on the antique wooden chairs.

 Dragon sculpture in the Phuc Kien (Fujian) Assembly Hall with live goldfishes in water feature below.

Dragon sculpture in the Phuc Kien (Fujian) Assembly Hall with live goldfishes in water feature below.


4. Old House of Tan Ky

Old House of Tan Ky in Hoi An

The Old House of Tan Ky is one of the most visited old houses in Hoi An. We were invited to sit on the old wooden furniture and offered small cups of tea while a host presented the history and architecture of the old house.

Seven generations of the same family lived in this house. This house is more like a museum, than a living quarter. This house reflected what it was like in the 18th century, when Hoi An was an important trading port and wealthy traders built such impressive houses. The house traded in agricultural products in the 18th century when boats came up the Thu Bon River.

Information board describing the architecture of the Tan Ky house.

Information board describing the architecture of the Tan Ky house.


This bed, made in 1878 belonged to a 3rd generation lady. Note the hard, rectangular pillow used in the old days.

This bed, made in 1878 belonged to a 3rd generation lady. Note the hard, rectangular pillow used in the old days.


An exquisite set of antique furniture in the Tan Ky House. We are not allow edto touch these prized masterpieces.

An exquisite set of antique furniture in the Tan Ky House. We are not allowed to touch these prized masterpieces.


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Exquisite craftsmanship using mother of pearl on the back of the chair.  Batman would be proud of the bat symbol carved at the top of the chair’s back.

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Another piece of furniture with bat symbolism.


Many of the carvings in furniture or wall dividers featured symbolism such as bats. The bat is a symbol of happiness and joy in Chinese culture. The Chinese for bat (fu 蝠) sounds identical to the word for good fortune(fu 福).

Our host also showed us a small Confucius cup in a display cabinet in the living room. It is a porcelain cup with a figure of a man in the middle. This special cup is designed such that it would function as a normal cup if filled up to the 80%. If the cup is overfilled above the 80% level, all the tea or water in the cup will drain away from a hole at the bottom, leaving you with nothing in the cup.

Confucius is a famous philosopher and teacher in Chinese culture. The philosophy behind this cup is that one must not be too greedy and try to gain everything. Live life in moderation or you will be left with emptiness.

I did a bit of research after my trip and learnt the physics behind this special cup. The figure of the man in the middle of the cup actually hid a small inverted U-tube that acts like a siphon once the cup gets filled above the 80% level. This type of cup was actually designed by Pythagoras, the Greek Mathematician who is more famous for his Pythagoras Theorem involving the equation for the right angle triangles. A Greek trader could have brought one of the Pythagoras cup with him to Hoi An.

There were interesting information and photos about the history of the old house and its occupants displayed. We learnt that the old house was built by Le Tan Ky, a poor orphan boy who later became very rich and very generous later.


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The pillars in the living room had Chinese characters formed using birds icons, made with mother of pearl.


His descendents still lived in this house, on the second floor. The house is made of iron wood which is resistant to water and had withstood the yearly floods for hundreds of years. When the yearly flood occurs, the family would shift everything to the second floor till the flood subsides.

House of Tan Ky  - Photos of flooded Hoi An and flood water level over the past years.

Photos of flooded Hoi An and flood water level over the past years.


There is a small showcase in the rear, next to the exit, that displays some artefacts such as flat irons and lime pots for betel nuts.


Old House of Duc An

As we entered the old house of Duc An, we saw many traditional medicine cabinets with many small drawers on the right side of the entrance. In the early twentieth century, the house was a Chinese medicine dispensary.

Like the Tan Ky house, this house is rather longish, with an opened courtyard in the middle for light and ventilation.

Old House of Duc An

In the old days, the front part of the house before the courtyard is reserved for men and VIP only. Women and children are not allowed to sit or play in that area.

This is a house with nice old wooden furniture. We are free to sit on some of the old furniture which are elaborately carved.

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Elaborately carved wooden chair, with marble seat and symbol of a bat at the top.


Old House of Duc An

Old House of Duc An. Wash basin and mirror in the courtyard. There is no faucet. Water is drawn from a well in the courtyard.

Wash basin and mirror in the courtyard of Duc An house. There is no faucet. Water is drawn from a well in the courtyard.


The family is still living in the rear and second storey of the house.


6. Quan Cong Temple

Quan Cong Temple in Hoi An ancient town

Outside the Quan Cong Temple in Hoi An ancient town.


This post is supposed to be about the 5 best places to visit using the Old Town coupons but I am mentioning 6 places.

An alternative to visiting the Duc An house would be to visit the Quan Cong Temple instead. This small temple is dedicated to Quan Cong, an esteemed Chinese general who is worshipped as a symbol of loyalty, sincerity, integrity and justice. 

We did not go into the Quan Cong temple, since we had seen many similar temples in our home country. But others may find this temple interesting.

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Enjoying UNESCO World Heritage Hoi An in the evening


Enjoying UNESCO World Heritage Hoi An in the evening


We found that the best time to explore Hoi An’s UNESCO World Heritage old town is in the evening period, just before sun set.

The weather in September at Hoi An is warm and very humid. Although the temperature may show as about 32 degrees C, it felt more like 40 degrees C during the day when we visited. It was good that we stayed in a guesthouse near to the old town. When the weather got too warm or we just felt tired, we walked back to the Tea Garden Homestay for a little rest before coming out again in the evening.

As the day gets cooler, the town comes alive as the locals and tourists come out to play and flocked to the riverside. The ancient town and Thu Bon river side area is even more beautiful at night when the lanterns are lit.


Enjoying UNESCO World Heritage Hoi An in the evening


Hoi An is famous for its hand-made lanterns, which adorn all the main streets in the Ancient Town.

Hoi An is famous for its hand-made lanterns, which adorn all the main streets in the Ancient Town.


Hoi An is famous for its hand-made lanterns, which adorn all the main streets in the Ancient Town.

Colourful flowers also adorned the streets of Hoi An’s ancient town.


We stayed 4 nights in Hoi An and we spent each night around the river-side area. There are plenty of photo opportunities in the historic old town of Hoi An. The best times for photography are during the hour just before and just after sunset. 

Here are some of the best things to do in Hoi An during the evenings and nights.


Enjoy the views of the river and take boat rides on the river in the evening


A popular activity for couples and families is a boat ride on the river during the evening time

Hoi An - View of the river and the wooden boats in the evening

A popular activity for couples and families is a boat ride on the river during the evening time

River is full of boats giving rides to tourists in the evening.


A popular activity for couples and families is a boat ride on the Thu Bon river during the evening. There are many vendors canvassing for business by the banks on the river. The boat ride may include the releasing of floating candles on lotus flower shaped cardboard holders down the river. 

Old ladies also sells these floating candles to tourists who could release them from the banks of the rivers using long poles with a carrier

Many old women are making a living selling fruits, food and floating candles around the Hoi An riverside.


Vendors also sell floating candles to tourists who could release them from the banks of the river using long poles with a plastic carrier.

You are to make a wish before releasing the floating candles and the wish should come true.

My wish was to stop polluting the earth, so we forego this activity. Hope my wish would still come true.



Visit the Night Market

The night market is located across the crowded bridge over the river.  

Crowded bridge across the river in Hoi An.Crowded bridge across the river in Hoi An.


Lanterns for sale at the entrance to the Hoi An Night Market

The night market is easy to find. Right at the entrance to the night market, there are many different stores selling lanterns. Crowds gathered here to snap photos of the incredibly beautiful lanterns. On most nights, we could see local couples getting their wedding photos taken with these lanterns, with the blessings of the store keepers.

Beautiful handmade paper lanterns for sale in Hoi An.

Beautiful handmade paper lanterns for sale in Hoi An.


Beautiful lanterns for sale in Hoi An.


Although it is not immediately obvious, the night market is actually on an island and the 300-meter street runs from the river to the other end of the island. There are many roadside stalls on both sides of this street offering local street food, handicrafts, souvenirs, clothing and accessories for mobile phones, humans and home.

Hoi An Night Market

Like most nights markets in South East Asia, bargaining skills are needed to secure a reasonable good deal where both the seller and buyer are happy with the transaction.

We stopped by a craft stall to observe a young girl write words (such as names) on tiny grains of rice. The tiny grain, with engraved name, is then inserted into small glass trinket that could be made into a necklace or bracelet. Three of my young nieces would be receiving these as gifts after my trip.


Go eat, shop and drink - check out the stores in the old town

There are many stores (not roadside stalls) that sell higher quality goods and clothing.  Most of these stores are also opened at night.

Shopping in Hoi An ancient town.

Shopping in Hoi An ancient town.

Intersperse with these stores are cafes, restaurants and pubs that made ideal pit stops on a night out.


Massage and Spa

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The spa by the riverside where we did our leg and foot massage.

An hour of leg and feet massage was especially good after a day of exploring Hoi An on foot. There are many such spas offering massage services around town at reasonable prices.


Enjoy dinner at a restaurant by the river

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table by the river at the Copper Pot Restaurant & Bar

On one of the cooler nights, after a day of rain, we decided to have dinner in one of the restaurants by the river.  Reservations are recommended. We went to a few restaurants without prior reservations and could not get a table with views of the river.

We managed to get a table by the river at the Copper Pot Restaurant & Bar.  We were quite impressed with the delicious food and good service. 

A happy hour cocktail, followed by delicious main course, dessert and plenty of people watching was a good way to spend the evening at Copper Pot Restaurant & Bar in Hoi An.

Our happy hour cocktails, followed by delicious main courses of Vietnamese food and plenty of people watching.


Mango on Sticky Rice is my favourite Thai dessert. This is deliciously done in Vietnam as well, with roasted sesame seeds sprinkled on top.

Mango on Sticky Rice is my favourite Thai dessert. This is deliciously done in Vietnam as well, with roasted sesame seeds sprinkled on top.


A happy hour cocktail, followed by delicious main course, dessert and plenty of people watching was a good way to spend the evening.

Alternatively, have dinner at the Morning Glory Restaurant. This is one of the best restaurants in Hoi An. The food is so good that we had dinner there twice during our four days at Hoi An. 


Enjoy the local events and festivals

Giant lanterns in the forms of animals are displayed along the banks of the river in Hoi An.

Giant lanterns in the forms of animals are displayed along the banks of the river in Hoi An.


Festivals take place in Hoi An according to the lunar calendar. The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on 1 to 4th October (on the 15th day of the 8th Month in the Lunar Calendar). Since we visited Hoi An in late September, we were a little early. Despite that, we managed to witness some of the celebrations which started early. Groups of children went around the old town, performing lion dances. The sound of drum beats and sounds of excited children filled the air.  There were a few dance troupes performing or practising on the streets.

Kids performing lion dances outside the Copper Pot Restaurant where we had our dinner.

One of the group of kids performing lion dances outside the Copper Pot Restaurant where we had our dinner.


Kids performing lion dances around Hoi An old town before the Mid Autumn Festival.

This young lion dancer is perched on top a pole. I was pleasantly surprised when it started spewing sparklers from its mouth.

The “lion” would also go into shops, start dancing as a blessing of luck and fortune. Some shop keepers will reward the lion dancers with red packets filled with money for good luck.



Enjoy the sights of the lanterns-lit ancient town

It would be even more dramatic for visitors during the Full Moon Festival, held on the 15th day of the every lunar month. On this night, the town switches off all electricity, to be lit up only by multi-coloured paper lanterns and flickering candles.

You don’t have to visit during a festival to enjoy the beautiful sights of the lantern-lit streets and alleys of the old town.

One of Vietnam's most iconic attractions, Hoi An's Japanese covered bridge which dates back to the 18th century. Lit at night, it is a beautiful historical piece of Japanese architecture.

One of Vietnam's most iconic attractions, Hoi An's Japanese covered bridge which dates back to the 18th century. Lit at night, it is a beautiful historical piece of Japanese architecture.


Enjoy the sights of the lanterns-lit ancient town

The streets of the ancient town are perfect for walking. No motorised vehicles are permitted. It could get pretty crowded with foot traffic and the occasional cyclos and bicycles.

Further away from the central and night market area, one could enjoy the slightly quieter side of Hoi An in the evening, without the hordes of tourists.

Hoi An ancient town at nightQuieter part of Hoi An ancient town at night.


River boats at the pier next to the Central Market at night.

River boats at the pier next to the Central Market at night.


For personal safety, we did not wander too far away from the touristy area at night.

Hoi An with the restaurants by the river


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We spent 4 nights exploring the lantern-lit streets, eateries, night market and stores in this old town. And each night, we enjoyed something that is different in this quaint old town.

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