Hoi An Town, formerly known as Fai-Fo or Faifoo, is a small town with a population of approximately 120,000 in central of Vietnam and noted since 1999 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Old Town Hội An is recognized as an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century, its buildings and street plan reflecting a unique blend of influences, indigenous and foreign. Prominent in the city’s old town, is its covered “Japanese Bridge,” dating to the 16th-17th century.
Hoi An History
Between the seventh and 10th centuries, the Cham (people of Champa) controlled the strategic spice trade and with this came tremendous wealth. The former harbor town of the Cham was an important Vietnamese trading center in the 16th and 17th centuries, where Chinese from various provinces as well as Portuguese, 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 is a unique covered structure built by the Japanese, the only known covered bridge with a Buddhist temple attached to one side.
In the 18th century, Hoi An was considered by Chinese and Japanese merchants to be the best destination for trading in all of South-east Asia, even Asia. The Japanese believed the heart of all of Asia (the dragon) lay beneath the earth of Hội An. The city also rose to prominence as a powerful and exclusive trade conduit between Europe, China, India, and Japan, especially for the ceramic industry. Shipwreck discoveries have shown that Vietnamese and Asian ceramics were transported from Hoi An to as far as Sinai, Egypt.
Hoi An’s importance waned sharply at the end of the 18th century because of the collapse of Nguyen rule. Then, with the triumph of Emperor Gia Long, he repaid the French for their aid by giving them exclusive trade rights to the nearby port town of Da Nang. Da Nang became the new center of trade (and later French influence) in central Vietnam while Hội An was a forgotten backwater. Local historians also say that Hội An lost its status as a desirable trade port due to silting up of the river mouth. The result was that Hoi An remained almost untouched by the changes to Vietnam over the next 200 years.
Today, the town is a tourist attraction because of its history, traditional architecture and crafts such as textiles and ceramics. Many bars, hotels, and resorts have been constructed both in Hoi An and the surrounding area. The port mouth and boats are still used for both fishing and tourism.
A World Heritage and tourism
In 1999, the old town was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO as a well-preserved example of a south-east Asian trading port of the 15th to 19th centuries, with buildings that display a unique blend of local and foreign influences. According to the UNESCO Impact Report 2008 on Hoi An, tourism has brought changes to the area which are not sustainable without mitigation.
Due to the increased number of tourists visiting Hoi An a variety of activities are emerging which allow guests to get out of the old quarter and explore by motorbike, bicycle, Kayak or motorboat. The Thu Bon River is still essential to the region more than 500 years after António de Faria first navigated it and it remains an essential form of food production and transport. As such kayak and motorboat rides are becoming an increasingly popular tourist activity.
This longtime trading port city offers a distinctive regional cuisine that blends centuries of cultural influences from East and Southeast Asia. Hoi An hosts a number of cooking classes where tourists can learn to make “Cao Lau” or braised spiced pork noodle, a signature dish of the city. This culinary experience has become an increasingly popular activity for visitors.