Wait for a full moon to visit Hoi An – you will not regret it. Every month, fourteen days after the new moon, the city’s Old Town bans even motorbikes and shuts off its lights. It then glows with silk hanging lanterns and colourful floats parading down the street. There is singing, dancing, games and food – lots of it. Chinese shop houses and hundreds of ancient buildings have changed little since the 16th to 18th century, when Hoi An’s strategic location by the South China Sea attracted Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian and Dutch traders to the city.
Today, no car is permitted to enter the Old Town. Thus, this part of Hoi An is relatively free from pollution or modern eyesores. In this charming Hoi An, nestled in the centre of Vietnam, there is no need to evoke the past. Old structures are woven into the city’s life. It is symbolised by the Lai Vien Kieu covered bridge, which remains intact to this day though it was constructed by the Japanese in 1600.
Inside it is a small temple dedicated to the weather god Tran Vo Bac De, who was deemed integral to the place in those days because of its busy port. The Quan Cong Temple was built around the same time in honour of a brave Chinese general. Colourful Cantonese, Fukian and multi-community congregation halls are reminiscent of the pervasive Chinese circles that inhabited Hoi An in previous times. Historic houses also boast of colours, ceramics, memorabilia and designs. For a novel twist, wake up before the sun rises and troop to the harbour to catch the activity in the fish market. To fully experience Hoi An, remain after sundown, when the hordes of tourists have already retreated to the numerous hotels.