Hoi An was once a major port and many Japanese and Chinese traders have left their mark here. We started our day with a look round the local market. A wet market selling vegetables, fruits and meat is combined with cooking stalls for the locals, very similar to those we have seen in Singapore. We then entered the old town of Hanoi which is traffic free in the morning and again in the evening, definitely an excellent idea on these narrow streets.
More than 800 old buildings have been preserver here and it really is a beautiful area. It’s a shame so many have been converted into shops touting for your trade. However, there is some really good work going on here, silk worms are breed for silk production which is then turned into beautiful scarfs and clothes and you can even have items custom made.
Silk lanterns, jewelry, intricate tapestry and many other items are still produced by hand and there were some real gems in among the usual tourist tat. In the evening the silk lanterns line the streets of this lovely historic town.
The Chinese who settled here identified themselves by their province of origin and each community built its own assembly hall for meetings, gatherings and celebrations. We visited the Phuc Kien assembly hall where visitors had left incense coils with their wish for good fortune. These coils take one full month to burn. Later we also visited a Cantonese assembly hall with the most impressive dragon statue in the garden at the back.
Many of the old houses are open for viewing despite the fact they are still lived in. We were taken to see Quan Thang house, built in the late 17th century with a tiny little 97 year old lady still living here, the 5th generation of the Chinese merchant who built the house. Marks on the ancient posts show where the building had flooded over the years.
Finally we went to see the Japanese Bridge, small and sturdy this bridge was built to last, the original builders were concerned about the threat of earthquakes. Built in 1590 it linked the Japanese community to the Chinese quarters over the stream.