When travelers explore Southeast Asia, they’re often drawn to Thailand’s affordable accommodations, palatial tropical beaches, and ancient ruins. What many overlook, however, is the modest authenticity of other regions, especially Vietnam. Centuries of recondite history and culture culminate with a truly refreshing experience in this architectural oasis. If you’re looking for an international getaway brimming with solitude, reflection, and perspective, Hoi An has that and more.
And although Mexican and European destinations may seem more appealing to the American traveler, Vietnam offers edifying veracity other tourist destinations overlook. Hoi An lies on the banks of the South China Sea, but remnants of its bustling past life as a port city are few and far between. Merchant houses, temples, and ancient architecture are but a few attractions in this quirky Asian hub. Next time you’re in Vietnam, make sure drop into Hoi An’s little-known melting pot.
Japanese Covered Bridge
This 400-year-old, rigidly constructed piece of history includes Chinese and Japanese influence that encourages respect and comradery among Asian nations. Its arresting salmon-colored exterior surrounded by concrete monkey and dog statues makes it one of the city’s staples. Access to the bridge is free, as is making time for personal meditation.
For the best in rest and relaxation Hoi An has to offer, Palmarosa is the place to be. Conveniently located on the edge of the ancient town, this historical spa blends traditional European and Asian massage with hot stone and full body treatments. The spa uses only natural ingredients in its extensive collection of stones and oils, a celebration of Hoi An’s colorful spa district. Given Vietnam’s famed affordability, it wouldn’t be out of the question to spend a lion’s share of your day immersed in unbounded decadence.
A haggler’s paradise, Hoi An’s Central Market rivals that of New York City’s Chelsea Market. Offering fresh seafood, produce, and local delectices, the market’s vendors encourage the age-old art of bargaining. This practice can sometimes seem tacky to American travelers, but many Asian countries expect and even appreciate it. Take a tour through the market district to catch a glimpse of idiosyncratic Vietnam.
Quan Cong Temple
Named for ancient Chinese general Quan Cong, considered a symbol of rectitude and homage, this intricate temple includes delicate statues and tributes to peaceful Chinese imagery, including carp and native Chinese botany. Be sure to remove your shoes before entering any temple in Hoi An, and confirm customs in any sacred edifice.
Cam Kim Island
In the past, Cam Kim Island was connected to the mainland only by boat or ferry, but the recent construction of a bridge makes the island easily accessible to visitors. A number of local villages, covered in frayed coconut palms, makes Cam Kim a great escape into the less trafficked region of Hoi An. The island is home to buoyant bicycle routes that travel through some of the city’s unblemished small towns, offering first-hand societal perspective and a tranquil day trip.