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04 October 2020

Hoi An - Viet Nam - the city of lanterns and with a Polish episode

It's October. The first full moon in autumn has just arrived.

All Southeast and East Asia is celebrating. The Chinese have a double this year. The Harvest Festival coincides with the 71st anniversary of the People's Republic of China on October 1st, lasts 3 days and is a national holiday. China has a lot of free time - from October 1 to October 7 they celebrate.

Everywhere in Asia there is a madness with lanterns and moon cakes. I would say, I also celebrated.



The city of lanterns

Speaking of lanterns, the best place to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival is Hoi An.

Hoi An is located in Central Viet Nam. It is one of three cities on the so-called "Royal Route". These three include Hue, the city of emperors, the cradle of statehood, Da Nang, one of Viet Nam's largest ports, and Hoi An, one of the oldest cities in Viet Nam.

The city lies at the mouth of the Thu Bon River to the South China Sea and is picturesquely situated on islets formed between the arms of this river. It is known as the City of Lanterns.

If I had to recommend a stay in this area, I would definitely start by flying to Dong Hoi and visiting the Phong Nha Ke Bang cave complex. After 3 days, travel by train to Hue, where the "Royal Route" begins. Then I would go to Da Nang by car via the famous Hai Van Pass. Hoi An is 40 km south of Da Nang and you can order a taxi or Grab at any time, and the cost of the trip is around 300,000 VND, or Viet Nam Dong. It's about PLN 50. One way.

As you can see, all these cities are located in close proximity to each other and are rich in unique tourist attractions. It is worth spending two or three days on each of them, and this is the route I did in July. I will write about it in a separate article.

So we celebrate the full moon in Hoi An.



Ancient City

Hoi An is a former Portuguese seaport. It was founded around the end of the first millennium BC. by the Austronesian sailors who inhabited East Indochina at that time. Over time, Hoi An became the largest port controlling this part of the Silk Road. It played a major role in the country's economic life for a long time. Especially to colonial times. Currently, Da Nang has taken over the priority and role of the dominant port in this area.

The flourishing of the city, its commercial importance and architecture, arose mainly in the sixteenth century. Back then, the city of Hoi An Pho, literally translated as "safe landing city", was indeed one of the most important ports in the South China Sea.

Significant enough that Chinese, Japanese and Portuguese merchants settled here. This is reflected in the city's architecture. When you get to Hoi An, enter the thicket of streets, you will immediately notice that the city must have had Chinese and Japanese roots. Architecture of buildings, temples, street layout. All of this has a very strong influence on both cultures. This is what makes this city unique.

The street layout and the appearance of the houses in Hoi An are unique and authentic at the same time. This is a true remnant from the 16th century.




One of the most interesting and historic buildings in this city is the Japanese Bridge. It was built, as the name suggests, by the Japanese who came here in the 16th century. century. It is the only covered bridge in the world with a Buddhist temple. Wonder.

It is also worth starting your tour of Hoi An from this place. The bridge is located right next to the river and in the vicinity of the bridge you will be able to stroll through countless small, narrow streets illuminated with beautifully decorated lanterns.

The perfectly preserved architecture and layout of the city is associated with a Polish trace that can be found in Hoi An. This trace was left by Kazimierz Kwiatkowski. An architect and restorer popular in Viet Nam. He left for Viet Nam in the late 1970s with a conservation mission. The Vietnamese government asked the international community to help rebuild a country devastated by a terrible 40-year war.

Poland was one of the countries that supported Viet Nam in its reconstruction, received a large number of refugees and helped to rebuild the war damage. Today, the Polish diaspora of the Vietnamese with over 200,000 people is the second largest in the world, right after the USA. It is also worth mentioning that she is wonderfully assimilated with Poles and contributes to the Polish economy.

"Kazik", as the Vietnamese called him, was the first foreign restorer to come to Viet Nam. He was fluent in Russian and French. It helped a lot.

Upon his arrival, for the first few months, he documented what remained after the war. He focused on the ruins of the spiritual origins of Hinduism from the Champa Kingdom period - My Son towers temple near Da Nang.

He saved 26 of them, and in the most impressive, the My Son Sanctuary Musem has been operating since 1994.

When he visited Hoi An in 1982 to relax on the local beaches, he was reportedly the first "white" man to be seen by the locals.

The city charmed "Kazik". He compared its historical values ​​to the Polish Kazimierz on the Vistula. When he found out that the city authorities wanted to demolish the Old Town, get rid of the moldy buildings and allocate this area for the construction of apartment blocks, he did a lot to persuade the city authorities to renovate and maintain this part of the city as a unique monument.

Thanks to him, Hoi An has retained its historical value and since 1999 it has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

At the same time, a Pole, Kazimierz Kwiatkowski, gained fame and great respect among the Vietnamese. Virtually every inhabitant of Hue, Da Nang or Hoi An, knows "Kazik" and knows how much he has done to preserve and restore the monuments of central Viet Nam.

In 2007, a statue of Kazik was unveiled in Hoi An - a Vietnamese town that owes its tourist success to a Pole.

Hoi An is the second most visited place in Southeast Asia. It is also included in the group of the most charming and tourist-friendly towns in this part of the world.



It's time for a walk

You really need two days to visit Hoi An, but if you accumulate some attractions or shorten participation in some events, you will be able to see the city in one day. It all depends on your plan.

By taxi, Grab car or bus we get to the central square of the city. From this point on, car traffic is closed and we move around the city on foot, by bike or by rickshaw.

I definitely recommend hiking. First, Hoi An is not a big city. Today it has about 75,000 inhabitants. There are only a dozen streets in the Old Town, each less than 1 km long. You really can go all the way around in one day.

Near the square where you will get off there is a Highland Coffee cafe where you can eat, for example, a late breakfast or an early lunch. Or you can just sit down for a while, have a coffee and make an itinerary.

As you continue your walk, you pass old merchant huts, still with signs from the 19th century. All these houses are restored today, and although you can see the tooth of time, they look great, showing the splendor of the merchant community of XVI. centuries.

Going straight you will come to a concrete bridge, which is the only spice site for cars in this part of the city.

Everything to the right and left of this street is a traffic-free zone.

To the right of the bridge, as you head west, you will pass river harbors where you can order a motorboat cruise. It can be a 30-minute cruise around the city, but you can also order a river cruise all the way to the sea. Such a trip will take about an hour and the cost per person is 400,000 VND or 70 PLN. A cruise around the city is 200,000. VND.

As you stroll along the quay on the right side of the river, you will pass by the countless stalls of the local vegetable market and numerous stands offering all kinds of souvenirs.

On both sides of the river you will find cozy pubs and modern restaurants where you can have a good lunch or dinner while enjoying the view of the river.



After dark

However, all the charm of Hoi An manifests itself after dark.

While during the day it is worth seeing the Japanese Bridge, numerous Buddhist temples, going down the river or visiting the nearby beaches, the beauty of the city is visible just after sunset.

When it gets dark, Hoi An blooms.

Imagine the city you have been to, Kazimierz on the Vistula River or maybe the winding streets of the old town in Krakow. This is what Hoi An has to offer. Narrow streets, beautiful buildings, preserved architecture and atmosphere of this place. Places from hundreds of years ago. At the same time, dozens, hundreds and even thousands of colorful lanterns light up this city when the sun goes down.

The view is truly breathtaking.


During the Harvest Festival, Hoi An becomes even more charming. It looks even more beautiful because the river comes to life, children walk with small lanterns in their hands and dozens of small rowing boats appear on the river, on which you can sail and release your lantern, containing a candle and a wish. By sailing a boat with a lantern, you can enjoy the full moon, watch the city from the river level or simply have a moment of relaxation and rest from the hot day.

The northern and southern parts of the city, separated by a river, are however connected by a walking bridge, which also has beautiful decorations. It is a typical "photo" bridge where dozens of people simply take a "selfie".

It is also worth admiring the sunset from the bridge. The aforementioned Japanese Bridge is located at the northern exit of this bridge. In turn, near the Japanese Bridge there is a public space where folk art shows are held. It's worth staying here for a while.

You can see traditional Vietnamese pantomime, listen to live music, watch a theater performance or listen to a concert of regional songs.

A whole range of cultural experiences, available for free as part of your stay in Hoi An.


A street along the creek, over which the Japanese Bridge stretches, leads to a large, one of many Buddhist temples. Entry is ticketed and the temple itself closes at 5:00 PM. So it's worth visiting this place in the first half of the day.

We will go to the riverside promenade to end the day with a tasty dinner, a glass of beer or a glass of wine - depending on your preferences. It is a charming arcade with dozens of cafes and bars. All beautifully decorated with lanterns. In the background you can see rowing boats flowing lazily, you can hear the buzz of children enjoying the upcoming dry season. Heaven on earth.



Can you imagine, that we can admire it all thanks to the Polish architect, Kazimierz Kwiatkowski? Kazik, thank you for saving this place for the generations.


Now it's time to make a wish. There is a full moon, every wish comes true.


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