Buddha left, forgetting to put his face on!
Hoi An probably is the most touristy place in Vietnam, and in advance, I expected it to be one of those famous "historical" cities where tourism has managed to kill all the charm and character a place once had.

Surprisingly, I loved every minute of every day of my stay in Hoi An, didn't want to leave, and definitely will go back there.

Hoi An has had a lot of Chinese and Japanese influence and the Chinese shop houses that the city centre is full of today are one of the reasons why the city has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's a unique place that combines several east Asian cultures, yet it has this wonderful South-East Asia feel to it (which is different to that of Hanoi, and even Saigon). It's also famous for its silk and tailor made clothes, but what really stood out for me were all the cultural attractions: temples, restored old houses, craft shops as well as theater, art and music performances. After all, while the Vietnamese government is not restricting or banning the country's ancient culture and traditions, it's not exactly a fan of them, especially Buddhism.

Hoi An is a little bit like a Disneyland version of Asia, but it does not drown in tourists and has a relaxed, charming feel to it.

Another pro is that the city is only about 3 miles away from the beach and it's absolutely worth walking or cycling there (you can always take a moto back). Hoi An's beach is where the Essex boy and I welcomed the year 2012 (that's sounds dreadfully romantic...), as nobody in Vietnam really celebrates on 31st December, not even in this touristy place.

baby clams with spices at the market

Talking about cycling, we went on a market tour/bike trip/organic/farm trip/cooking class in the outskirts of Hoi An, which was, in spite of the rain, one of the best things I did in Vietnam - after Hoi An itself. We booked it a day before with The Sinh Tourist for about $18.

We also visited a traditional dance show and while I cannot judge how traditional or "real" it was, the costumes and dance were beautiful and the musicians really stood out.

Another great place is Lifestart Foundation's headquarters, an organisation that trains and provides work for disabled people in the area. We were too late to get a place in their lantern making workshop, but I bought some handmade body care products that Lush would envy. Oh, and there was that spa.. but that is another story.

For the "regular" attractions (temples, old houses, museums) of Hoi An, you can get a ticket to visit 5 of them from the tourist offices, and I was seriously considering to buy another one (there are over 20 sites to visit) - but then, I figured out I will be back to Hoi An and will see those places next time.

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