Old Houses Hoi An - review by Rusty Compass
Hoi An | see and do guide

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Old Houses Hoi An

| 26 Apr 2017
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Old Houses Hoi An
90,000VND provides access to a set number of city sights

Our rating
26 Apr 2017

A handful of Hoi An's historic houses have had their interiors preserved to capture the original style of the town's merchant residences. Five of these heritage sights can be visited as part of the Hoi An Heritage tour (120,000VND per ticket). They're worth a visit, but watch out for big crowds - especially in the afternoons. These places are small. None of the houses make much effort to provide much by way of historical information either. The souvenir shops seem to be the priority. 

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Hoi An's old streets are packed with houses dating back to its emergence as an important Asian trading port in the eighteenth century.  The houses reflect the architectural styles of the major trading partners of the time -  China and Japan as well as Vietnam's coloniser, France.

Most of the town's grand heritage listed buildings date back to French times in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The oldest houses are much older though and are quite distinct from those of the French era. A handful of these older merchant houses are open for visitors holding the Hoi An Heritage Tour ticket.

We’ve selected three favourites, Duc An, Tan Ky and Phung Hung houses, but there are a number of others that you’ll be sure to stumble upon as you walk the old streets of the town. None do the much justice to the history. All are more interested in selling tacky souvenirs.

Duc An House

One of our favourite old merchant houses is Duc An’s house at 129 Tran Phu St. A charming space decorated with some beautiful pieces. When we originally listed this place, it wasn't overrun with travellers or souvenir sellers. Its owner, Phan Ngoc Tram - a direct descendant of the founding family - held out. But is seems he's now lost the battle. The souvenir stalls have arrived.

Duc An House,Hoi An,Vietnam
Photo: Mark BowyerDuc An House, Hoi An

Part of the appeal of Duc An’s House is that it’s the only old house in Hoi An that makes a genuine effort to present some real history. And if you’re fortunate enough to meet the eccentric Mr Tram, he’ll regale you with plenty of tales.

The property has been inhabited by the same family for over 400 years though the present house was built in 1850. It became the most successful bookshop in central Vietnam selling famous Vietnamese and Chinese texts as well as the works of foreign political thinkers like Rousseau and Voltaire. Early Vietnamese non-violent independence advocate Phan Chu Trinh was a regular at the house. A nearby major street is named after him as are streets throughout the country.

In the early twentieth century the house was a Chinese medicine dispensary. Soon after, it became the centre of anti French activity in Hoi An. Previous resident Mr Cao Hong Lanh was later decorated by the Communist government and the house contains many images of the now deceased Mr Lanh’s revolutionary past and visits from Communist Party luminaries including national hero, General Vo Nguyen Giap.

Address: 129 Tran Phu St, Hoi An

Tan Ky House

Hoi An,Old House,Tan Ky,Vietnam
Photo: Mark BowyerOld door at Tan Ky house, Hoi An

Probably the most popular of Hoi An’s old houses, Tan Ky at 101 Nguyen Thai Hoc St is also well worth visiting. The two story shophouse that backs on to the Thu Bon River fuses the styles of the great Asian influences on Hoi An - China, Japan and Vietnam.

The two story structure dates from the late eighteenth century and features beautiful carving and inlay work. Tan Ky house is also still occupied by the founding family who provide a friendly welcome and a light tour. The house also exhibits heirlooms from the previous generations of traders.

Address: 101 Nguyen Thai Hoc St, Hoi An

Phung Hung House

Hoi An,Phung Hung House,Phung Hung Old House,Vietnam
Photo: Mark BowyerTour guide at Phung Hung house, Hoi An

Just across the Japanese Bridge on the eastern side of town, Phung Hung house is the third of our recommended old houses. Also from the late 18th century the house spans two floors and is considerably larger than either Tan Ky or Duc An’s houses. This place feels a little like a tourist trap with plenty of selling going on but it’s reasonably low key. Not much by way of good information here unfortunately.

Address: 4 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St, Hoi An

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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