The beautiful town of Hội An, is situated on the coast of the East Sea beside the resort city of Da Nang, mid way down the eastern coast of Vietnam. It is home to approximately 120,000 inhabitants and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We were fortunate enough to visit the town a day after Lunar New Year whilst it was still decked out in arrays of colourful lanterns and decorations.
Hội An is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. Its buildings and its street plan reflect the influences, both indigenous and foreign, that have combined to produce this unique heritage site.
Apparently because the citizens of the ancient port were so poor following the decline in it’s trade in years gone by, the town never underwent the “modernisation” blight that ruined so many wonderful old towns around the world. Thus we have the pleasure of seeing it virtually as it was in the old days.
The town possessed the largest harbour in Southeast Asia in the 1st century and was known as Lâm Ấp Phố (Champa City). Between the seventh and 10th centuries, the Cham (people of Champa) controlled the strategic spice trade and with this came tremendous wealth.
The former harbour town of the Cham at the estuary of the Thu Bồn River was an important Vietnamese trading centre in the 16th and 17th centuries, where Chinese from various provinces as well as Japanese, Dutch and Indians settled. During this period of the China trade, the town was called Hai Pho (Seaside Town) in Vietnamese.
Originally, Hai Pho was a divided town with the Japanese settlement across the "Japanese Bridge" (16th-17th century). The bridge (ChÙa cầu) is a unique covered structure built by the Japanese, the only known covered bridge with a Buddhist temple attached to one side.