By Candacee White
Hoi An
Vietnam
Photo gallery
While planning a trip to Vietnam, you're probably focusing your stay in either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, with short ventures out of the main drag for some vegetation or tourist sites. One of the best spots to venture off, ironically, lies almost exactly half way in between the two major cities in Vietnam. Hoi An, a small coastal city of around 120,000 people, is quickly gaining popularity as a tourist or backpacker's paradise.
   
EscapeWizard.com invites you to visit Hoi An, Vietnam. You can reach Hoi An by flying to the Da Nang International Airport (DAD), and then taking a taxi or bus from there, a mere 10 mile journey. Book your flight to Hoi An, Vietnam today using EscapeWizard.com's easy-to-use website (www.escapewizard.com/flight.php). Then, when booking your hotel, click here (www.escapewizard.com/hotels.php?flag=htl) to utilize our hotel finder.
   
Before you begin your tour of Hoi An, brush up on some history in order to truly appreciate what you will see and experience in the town. Hoi An is one of Asia's oldest port cities. First settled in 200 B.C., and established as a trading post by Portugese traders in the 1530s, it enjoyed fame as the most important trading port in the South China Sea for centuries. In the early 18th century, however, when Emperor Gia Long gave the French exclusive trading rights to the port city of Da Nang, Hoi An quickly lost importance.
   
As a result, Hoi An was largely ignored for the next several hundred years, which kept it immune to the many unfavorable changed that faced Vietnam during that time. The old town in Hoi An has a mixture of traditional and foreign architecture and stands as a well-preserved model of a 15th century Southeast Asian trading port, which led it to become a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999.
   
There are a number of things to enjoy during a visit to this historic town. The town is also small enough that walking or renting a bicycle will suffice to see all of Hoi An. If you need to get somewhere in a hurry, there are plenty of motor bikes and taxis that can transport you for a small fee.
   
At the Riverfront, tourists can enjoy a boat ride along the same river that carried cargo ships and Portuguese sailors so many years ago. Now, the river and bay are used only for fishing and boat rides. Just off the river a number of internet cafes, shops and restaurants have opened to accommodate tourists. Visitors can sample almost any imaginable type of cuisine, from Vietnamese to western foods. A local specialty is cau lau noodles, which cannot be found outside of Hoi An.
   
Venturing inland from the river you will find many of the craft and tailor shops that harken back to Hoi An's trading post days. One of the most prominent shop types in the city is the tailor shop. Despite its numerous charms and treasures, Hoi An may be most famous among travelers for its cheap, efficient tailor-made clothing stores. At any given shop, you can request a style, choose fabric yourself from hundreds of bolts, have your measurements taken and pick up your order within a day or two. Services like these would be very costly anywhere else in the world, but in Hoi An, they are quite cheap. As a result of these great deals, many shipping providers have cropped up nearby, to accommodate the tourists who just can't carry it all home.
       
If shopping is not your cup of tea, Hoi An offers vacationers many different ways to relax during their trip. The beach is a short bicycle ride away from the center of town. If you choose to sit on one of many reed mats of towels laid out on the beach, you will be very quickly handed a menu by vigilant bar and store owners. Though you may find the hawkers and drink sellers a bit aggressive, simply moving along and indicating you're not interested is enough to enjoy a quiet stroll along the beach.
   
Hoi An is a great destination for travelers who want to visit Vietnam and venture just a bit off of the beaten path. Although Hoi An is most certainly a tourist town, it is small, charming and well worth the visit, if for shopping alone. EscapeWizard.com invites you to visit this old port city and enjoy the history, culture and food of a 15th century Southeast Asian trading post for yourself by clicking the link above.