Hoi An is a small town on the coast of South China Sea in Central Vietnam. Hoi An is located in the Quang Nam province and is home to approximately 25,000 inhabitants.
The former harbour town of the Champa people at the estuary of the Thu Bon river was an important trading centre in the 16th and 17th centuries, where Chinese from various provinces as well as Japanese, Dutch and Indians settled down. During this period of the China trade, the town was called Hai Pho (Seaside Town), during the French occupation. Originally Hai Pho was a divided town, because across the Japanese Bridge used to be the Japanese settlement. The bridge (Chua Cau) is a unique covered structure built by the Japanese, the only known covered bridge with a Buddhist pagoda attached to one side. The town is known to the French and Spanish as Faifo; the name is thought to be the result of a mis-communication between a local habitant and a Spanish trader around the 17th century. The trader asked whether this was Pho and received the answer "Phai! Pho." ("Yes! Pho.").
In 1999, the Hoi An old town was declared World Heritage by the UNESCO, as a well-preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading port of the 15th to 19th centuries, whose buildings display a unique blend of local and foreign influences.
Today, Hoian is still a small town, but it attracts a fair number of tourists, also being a well established place on the backpacker trail. Many visit for the numerous art and craft shops and tailors, who produce made-to-measure clothes for a fraction of the western price. Several internet cafés, bars and restaurants have opened along the riverfront.
The nearest airport is in Danang, which has frequent connections to Hanoi, Saigon and some flights to Bangkok, Singapore and Siem Reap, Cambodia (for Angkor Wat). A taxi from the airport to Hoi An costs about US$15 thanks to the cartel, but only about half that in the other direction.
There is no railway station in Hoi An. The nearest is in Danang, from where there are several trains a day from Hanoi, Saigon, Hue, Nha Trang etc. Most travel agents and hotels can book a train ticket for you.
Traveller buses run daily up and down the coast from Da Nang, Hue and Nha Trang. Note the road to Nha Trang is awful and the trip takes all day - it is much better to take a train. Sinh Cafe's office is at 2 Phan Dinh Phung St., just off Hai Ba Trung, and they charge US$2 for the trip to Hue (4 hours, twice daily).
By motorbike or taxi
It's easy to take a motorbike or taxi to and from Da Nang via the Marble Mountains (see below), from where you can catch a train onwards.
The centre of Hoi An is very small and pedestrianised, so you will be walking around most of the time. Unfortunately bikes have not been banned from the center yet, so particularly at night keep an eye out for motorized kamikazes.
To go to the beach, or reach some of the more remote hotels, it is easy and cheap to hire a bicycle. Taxis are few and far between, but can be called by phone. You can also charter boats for about US$1/hour.