Hoi An is Vietnam’s most charming and atmospheric town, an old port city that has remained remarkably well preserved for hundreds of years.
A stroll through the city’s lantern-lit old town, along winding lanes, temples and Chinese shophouses is a romantic journey to the past. Hoi An (then called Lam Ap Pho) was the main trading port of the Cham Empire from the 2nd to the 14th centuries. The city rose to prominence again in the 16th century under the Nguyen Lords and became a major economic center. Chinese, Japanese and traders from Europe all played a role in the city’s development, giving it a uniquely international flavor.
Today, Hoi An’s historic charm coexists with abundant shopping and chic modern restaurants, making it a top tourist destination and a culinary haven. As you stroll around Hoi An, you’ll notice a typical architectural feature of old houses—a pair of round “eyes” mounted on door frames. Call mat cua (door eyes) these are often inscribed with yin-yang symbols, trigrams called bat quai or animal figures such as dragons and tigers. These eyes are a symbol of the animism that has long been a part of traditional Vietnamese culture and are meant to guard the house and drive away evil spirits.