Five large hills look completely out of place along the otherwise-flat coastline between Danang and Hoi An. These are the Marble Mountains, each named for a different element: Thủy (Water), Hỏa (Fire), Thổ (Earth), Kim (Metal) and Mộc (Wood). They were once mined for rock, and a number of stone workshops are still found in the area, but today the mountains are a popular tourism destination.
For such a small city, Hoi An has a surprisingly rich food culture. There are dishes here which you can’t find anywhere else in Vietnam, and an abundance of great restaurants and street stalls in which to try them. If in doubt, head to the central market, where a delirious hall of food stands is […]
Hoi An began life as a port for Chinese traders, the more successful of whom built stately city homes for their families. Many of these ancient houses have survived the trials of time, flood and war, and can today be visited as part of Hoi An’s ticket scheme. We made it to five.
About an hour southwest of Hoi An, is the archaeological site of Mỹ Sơn: the religious and ceremonial center of the Champa people, who once ruled central and southern Vietnam. With ruins dating between the 4th and 13th century AD, no less an authority than UNESCO describes the monuments of Mỹ Sơn as “unique and without equal in Southeast Asia”.
Until the end of the 18th century, Hoi An was Vietnam’s main port-of-call, and home to a large number of foreign traders. Above all, the city was popular with the Chinese, many of whom established a permanent presence among the Vietnamese. Communities from the various regions of China built Assembly Halls: social and religious buildings in which they could congregate and worship their ancestral gods.
The small city of Hoi An, just south of Danang, was once Vietnam’s principal port of trade, and one of the most important in all Asia. Those days are long past, but the town’s rich history is kept alive in the ancient quarter. Houses, communal halls, temples and bridges have remained in miraculous condition, and today, Hoi An is regularly hailed as the most beautiful city in Vietnam. We’d be spending a week here.
Toward the end of April, we went to the station in Saigon and boarded the Reunification Express, a train which connects the two capitals of the once-divided Vietnam. But we wouldn’t be taking the train straight to Hanoi, a journey which would require 34 hours. No, we’d be taking it in stages, stopping off in a number of Vietnam’s most historic cities. First stop: Danang.
When we chose Saigon as our seventeenth “For 91 Days” destination, we never expected that Hanoi might be the eighteenth. We’ve never stayed in a country for a second consecutive adventure, and it wasn’t even under consideration. But we never expected to be so completely enamored by the people, culture and cuisine of Vietnam. After spending three months in the south, we simply couldn’t leave without devoting an equal amount of time to the north.