The UNESCO World Heritage port town of Hoi An is often a key element in any visit to Vietnam. With nearby Cua Dai, An Bang and Ha My beaches, or the pleasant Thu Bon riverside offering an alternative to staying in the historic town itself, visitors will frequently enjoy a few days in the vicinity, soaking up the ambience of history and charm in the town whilst also enjoying the holiday atmosphere of sand, sea and sunshine.


The old town area nestled in the heart of the surrounding modern buildings is a true step back into time. Famous for its fine silks, Hoi An, then known as Fai Fo, was a significant port in the oriental trading culture of the 1600’s, a centre of commercial exchanges with China, Japan, Southeast Asia and Europe.

The Historical area borders the Thu Bon River, centred around three main thoroughfares, and possesses some fascinating ornate architectural features, a very fine example of which is Ba Mu temple, contracted in 1626.

Other noteable features include the Japanese covered bridge, pagodas, Chinese Assembly Halls, and wooden Merchant Houses.

Insight into Hoi An’s history and culture can be further enriched by visits to the Museum of Trade Ceramics, Museum of History and Culture, and the Museum of Sa Huynh Culture.

The unique ambience of Hoi An is best appreciated during the monthly full moon festival, during which the electrical street lighting is replaced by colourful traditional lanterns and the streets closed to motor traffic, which are instead filled with strolling people and traditional arts performances. This event is further augmented with the delightful sight of lit floating lanterns set drifting along the river during the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Reflecting the inherited craftsmanship of former times, Hoi An abounds with pottery, lantern making and woodcarving and is also home to many silk and tailoring outlets which can readily produce quality custom garments to order. The town also boasts a fine traditional market, and is famed for its distinctive cuisine.

Offshore from the fine golden-white sand of Cua Dai beach are the Cham Islands, home to fishing communities and harvesters of the swallow nests so prized in Chinese cuisine, and its clear coral waters are good for a snorkelling adventure.

Before the Dai Viet kingdom (Vietnam) began its ever southward expansion from the Red River delta, the land here had previously been home to the Champa kingdom, and the UNESCO World Heritage site of My Son Sanctuary is an impressive and fascinating historic remnant of the now supplanted ancient Hindu culture of early Indochina, most dramatically epitomised by the famous temples at Angkor in Cambodia.

With most of its masonry structures dating between the seventh and thirteenth centuries, this burial site for Cham Kings originally comprised seventy structures, of which only twenty-five now remain, with American shelling during the war having hastened the ravages of time. The site is nevertheless an inspiring window upon a long forgotten past, with its cultural roots in a world stretching far beyond contemporary human psychology.


When the Thu Bon River in Hoi An began to silt up, its trading potential began to constrict and wane, and the neighbouring port of Da Nang, a little way to the north, began to flourish in its stead, evolving into the key city port of today. The city is also widely known for having hosted the largest American base during the war.

For those with an interest in Cham culture, Da Nang’s Cham Museum is a treasure trove of Cham artefacts and sculptures, and affords real insight into this long lost civilisation.

Aside from the museum, some French colonial buildings and the opportunity to experience Vietnam’s thrumming third city and its awesome fire-breathing and water-spouting Dragon bridge, Da Nang has little in the way of tourist-specific attractions, and is most visited for its nearby beaches, among the very best that Vietnam has to offer.

Non Nuoc Beach, Nam O (Red) Beach, Lang Co and the famous My Khe 'China' Beach, the latter known to all US service personnel during the American War as a recreational escape from the fatigue of battle, are the main focus of visits.

Other nearby attractions include the marble mountains with their cave temples, and the opportunity to enjoy walking the rewarding nature trails of Bach Ma National Park, home to a rich and complex diversity of species.

A little to the east of Da Nang, Son Tra Peninsula provides an opportunity to see the very rare Red Shanked Douc Langurs in the wild.


A delightful escape from the heat, after the fashion of the French, can be found nearby to the west of Da Nang and Hoi An, at Ba Na Hills, reflecting an authentic air of French hilltop village life, and built by French colonists in 1919.

A cable car will take you up to the village to enjoy the slightly incongruous, yet charming, French flavour of this restored and remodelled former colonial retreat.

A recent addition to the attractions of Ba Na is the sculptured Golden Bridge, which caused something of a sensation on social media when it opened and affords wonderful views over the surrounding landscape.