SEE THE SITES
Image: Quan Cong Temple
Hoi An Old Town
Save the gold lame hotpants and mankinis for the hotel pool and take a sarong to the beach. For private homes, temples and pagodas -- cover knees and shoulders and flick-off the flip-flops. For everything else dress conservatively, or in PJ's and a conical hat.
For a culture packed dive into Hoi An's history and to understand its multi-cultural roots, reserve half a day to explore the old town's most notable buildings.
Old Town Site Seeing Ticket
Every person over the age of 16 (children go free) is recommended to buy a ticket (VND120.000) to enter the old town, each ticket is valid for the duration of your stay. You may need to show it each time you enter, so keep it handy. The ticket has six tear-off coupons. One gives you access to a traditional performance held daily (17:00) at the Folklore Museum. The others are for entrance to your choice of five of the 21 ticket-only sites in Old Town. A large percentage of the ticket proceeds go directly back into Old Town renovations and paying the guides and families who open their private homes to visitors.
TIP: At the entrance to every site ask for a guide (included in the price of the ticket).
Of the twenty-plus sites on the ticket, the five listed below offer the richest experiences
Recognisable by their Chinese architecture, the assembly halls generally feature ornate gates, main halls, altar rooms, and statues and murals in honour of gods and goddesses. Four of Hoi An's assembly halls—Fujian, Hainan, Cantonese, Chinese—are located on Tran Phu Street. Among them, the Fujian Hall (46 Tran Phu) is considered the most prominent. Built around 1960, it has bronze bells, drums, and statues on and is known for its red boat, a tribute to diety Thien Hau, who is believed to save sailors from stormy seas. Beyond the fountain courtyard and ornate gate is the main hall with its altar—take note of the three fairies and 12 midwives; these symbols of fertility draw in childless couples from afar, who come to pray.
The mesmerising, colourful Quan Cong temple, 24 Tran Phu Street (also known as Ong Pagoda) is a must see. It was built in the mid 17th century by Minh Huong people, a quiet place to gather and worship general Quan Cong (Guan Gong), an esteemed Chinese general who is worshipped as a symbol of loyalty, sincerity, integrity and justice. Pay special attention to the detailing, both inside and out -- the gilded statues, the carp-shaped rain spouts on the roof edge, the tiling, the ambience.
TIP: In our humble opinion, for intricate architecture, beautiful artwork and stunning layout -- Quan Cong knocks the socks off all the other ancient buildings in Hoi An. If you only do one temple, visit this one.
The old quarter is home to over a thousand ancient relics, including some beautifully preserved traders houses. The most popular is Tan Ky House (101 Nguyen Thai Hoc), a two storey family home dating back centuries, that fuses the impressive architectural styles of the Chinese and Japanese. The wooden frame is carved with dragons, fruit and crossed sabres, the walls inlaid with mother-of-pearl depicting Chinese poetry and birds in various stages of flight.
Hoi An's most celebrated icon was built in 1593 by Japanese merchants to connect the Japanese quarter with the Chinese neighbourhood on the other side of the river. Legends surround the the bridge --the most popular being that it was built to disable a disaster-causing dragon, with the small altar inside dedicated to the worship of Bac De Tran Vu, the northern God of wind and rain. The bridge is guarded by a pair of spirit dogs on the Chinese side and two imperial monkeys on the west.
TIP: You need only cash in your ticket if you take advantage of the bridges temple tour. For all other purposes (crossing, selfies) eyes forward, elbows out.
Of the town's four museums, the most rewarding (and family friendly) is the Museum of Folk Culture (66 Bach Dang). Here you'll find a kitschy display of folk art, photographs, flamboyant costume, some startling statues and ancient tools used in the surrounding craft villages. Alongside the daily traditional theatrical displays, craft workshops are held at various times during the day.
TIP: Arrive early for the daily 5pm theatrical display for a 'behind the scenes' peek at the colourful show preparations.
Hoi An Water Puppet Show
Every Friday and Saturday evening at 18:30, Hoi An hosts a water puppet show at the new stadium - 548 Hai Ba Trung St, tickets are available in advance or at the door for 100,000VND per person (50% off for children). The show lasts for one hour.