World Heritage, White Sand and Fresh Seafood – it doesn’t get better than Hội An, Vietnam
If you found yourself on a Japanese merchant ship in the 1700s sharing sea lore by candlelight in the South Pacific, you would be told that the heart of all of Asia – the dragon – lay beneath the earth of Hội An, Vietnam. And no wonder – the picturesque harbor snakes past coral-white beaches into a deep-water refuge surrounded by tropical flora and lantern-lit streets. And nothing has changed.
Thanks to the French who chose Da Nang as their primary port, Hội An remained untouched by the changes to Vietnam over the next 200 years. Between textile and ceramic crafts, narrow cobblestone streets, covered bridges and bamboo foot paths, this UNESCO World Heritage site is a treasure-trove of cultural splendor straight out of Raise the Red Lantern.
And each night thousands of traditional Chinese lanterns cast a warm glow onto the two-story Asian and French architecture, lending pure romance to the town of 75,000. Dine on traditional Vietnamese cuisine in restaurants perched on docks in the harbor, your table casting candle-lit reflections across the bay. Walk the quiet streets at night and visit a tea shop or bar/lounge.
When the sun rises, the fish market is the first to stir as fishing boats unload their morning catch. Fresh shrimp and mussels compete for space alongside an array of colorful vegetables. Pack a backpack full, rent a traditional Flying Pigeon bicycle and peddle three miles to the coast for an afternoon of sun and swim.
The white-sand beaches are the best Vietnam has to offer and the emerald seas of the Gulf of Tonkin are breathtaking. Travel by calendar? Visit in January for a lantern festival to celebrate the Lunar New year.
Hội An was the best week of a three-month tour of Southeast Asia and I already know I’ll be going back.