Hoi An is small town in Quang Nam Province, Central Vietnam. It is about 1000km away from Ho Chi Minh and 810 km away from Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. Currently, Hoi An has estimated population of more than 83,000 people.
Hoi An is one of the most visited place in Central Vietnam. The town does not have any airport nor train station but still tourists do not hesitate to include this in their itinerary. Da Nang, the biggest city in Central Vietnam is about 30 km away. Da Nang has international and domestic airport, train stations and bus stations. It makes it easy for travelers to visit the famous town of Hoi An because of access Da Nang offers.
But how can a small town be famous not only in Vietnam but all over the world? There is a good reason behind it. It goes back centuries ago.
The Cham arrived in Vietnam around 200 BC and set up a kingdom from Hue to Nha Tran. They then settled in “Lam Ap Pho” in the first century AD. The Lam Ap Pho (Champa City) or now known as Hoi An became the commercial capital while My Son was the spiritual capital of the powerful Cham Kingdom.
During the Champa rule, Hoi An became the largest harbor in Southeast Asia. With the trading, the Cham gradually became a wealthy kingdom and its influence reached even the wealthy cities in the Middle East and the West. By the seventh to the tenth centuries, Hoi An traded spices, silk, aloe, ivory and many more to China, Japan, and western countries. Due to the increasing popularity and jealousy of its neighboring cities, Vietnamese people from the North and the Khmer people in Cambodia, the Cham faces difficulties later on until the kingdom was so weak that it cannot even protect its spiritual capital and it was left into ruins. The powerful Cham Kingdom fell to Vietnamese people in the late fourteenth century.
For the years, the trading in Hoi An couldn’t recover but it was eventually revived during the Nguyen dynasty as the first Nguyen kings saw the benefits of having an influential trading post like Hoi An.
During the sixteenth to seventeenth century, Hoi An became the most important port in Southeast Asia again. Japanese started settling in the small town, frequent visits of Chinese, Dutch and Indian merchants made it possible for this small town known all over the world.
But the succeeding Nguyen emperor opposed the increasing number of westerners entering the country and wanted to stop the open trade in Hoi An. This is due to increasing influence of foreigners all over the country and spreading different religions. Eventually the trading post ceased.
During the French occupation, the government saw the potentials Da Nang and made it the center for trade. Da Nang trade became popular and Hoi An was forgotten but the people continued their practice and did everything to preserved the culture and all the things related to the ancient trading place as if they know that later on this will also help the town to win back the people all over the world.
UNESCO named Hoi An a World Heritage Site in 1999 because of the well-preserved Asian trading post of 15th to 19th century. This recognition attracted and still attracting tourists all over the world to visit this forgotten ancient trading town. The silk production and ceramics are still intact in this small town, making it one of the many reasons why people go and visit the old town.
Since the town got used to trading with people all over the world, almost all the tourist guides can speak several languages like English, Chinese, French, Russian, Japanese and Spanish.
Travelers should definitely need to find a way to visit the ancient for a day or two, most especially in the evening, where lanterns will be the only the ones that will light the whole town and the river. Let yourself experience the beauty of the ancient town and the amazing people in it.
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