Hoi An, the Asian Venice
Imagine a place full of colors and lights, with beautiful canals, small streets populated by bicycles and people only, 7th-17th century buildings mixing Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese architecture styles and classical music being played on the streets. That’s the picture you get when you enter the old town of Hoi An, listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was home of the Champa people who originated from Java and one of the major international ports in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Despite the fact that most of the buildings now cater to the tourist trade, the area is really well preserved and has a chill, hippie vibe.
The ancient Cham Empire also built My Son (20 km from Hoi An), another UNESCO World Heritage Site nowadays. It is a complex of ruined ancient temples that were the spiritual center of Champa’s leaders. Though not much is left today, we could see impressive architectures made out of bricks only, without the aid of mortar. Some sculptures of gods, priests or animals are also still visible. But what was really awesome is that we were lucky to be there at the time of the daily 15-20 minutes show with traditional dances and costumes. It was beautiful!
We passed the evening checking the cocktails in the hippie bars of Hoi An old town and chatting with a gay English couple (again?!?! I do not know how we manage so well to make gay friends) in their 50s – weird dudes leaving in a caravan in the forests around Manchester and seeing only one another for weeks in a row. They offered us “laptic” for free and explained how to get more if we wanted: go to a certain bar at the end of the street, order drink, pay immediately (do not drink before paying) and someone will come to the table. Ha ha…the Hoi An mafia. As much as we were curious to test it, we preferred to stay safe. We are in Vietnam after all!!!