ATTRACTIONS - Free Walking Tour

Instead of springing for a second ticket of Hoi An’s central sites (see Old Town), why not sample some the very similar sites that are free instead? This walking tour — shown on the map – takes some in.

Japanese bridge, Hoi AnStart at Hoi An’s famed JAPANESE COVERED BRIDGE (Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St, half a block west of Hai Ba Trung St), built in the late 16th century. Inside note two monkey statues at the west end, the dog statues at the east end – supposedly marking the beginning and ending of construction: the year of monkey (1593) and dog (1595). The small temple here is a sailors’ temple of sorts as it’s dedicated to the Emperor of the North (Tran Vo Bac De), who controls the weather. You can easily peek in without the getting the ticket (and sometimes no one’s there to check anyway).

Walk a quick block east on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St, taking your first right towards the river – this area’s nice at night when the lantern shops to your right light up the street – then turn left on Nguyen Thai Hoc St. Nearly two blocks up on your left – past the Tan Ky House (ticket) at #101 – is the free small, odd DIEP DONG NGUYEN HOUSE (80 Nguyen Thai Hoc St), a 19th-century Chinese merchant’s home and later a pharmacy, as many of the old bottles on the floor-to-ceiling shelves attest.

Head to Le Loi St nearby, turn left a block, then right on Tran Phu St, where – a block east – is a free CHINESE ASSEMBLY HALL (64 Tran Phu St), where you can get in a few snapshots of an (often empty) Chinese-style courtyard or altar shots of potted plants in bronze pots with demon-vomiting-elephant legs: similar to what you’ll find at the ticketed halls.

If it’s 10:15am or 3:15pm, walk straight out the door and south a block on Hoang Van Thu St, then left on Nguyen Thai Hoc to peek inside the door of the HOI AN WORKSHOP (9 Nguyen Thai Hoc St) during the traditional-music concert. The street ends just east at the market. Follow it left back to Tran Phu St. A block east it passes the CLOTH MARKET – where you can find fabrics for your new blouse or tie the local tailors can make you.

Continue straight ahead half a block, where on your left, is the HAI NAM ASSEMBLY HALL (10 Tran Phu St), easily as impressive as halls on the ticket route. Check the English sign to the left as you enter. It’s dedicated to the 108 Chinese merchants who were killed at sea in 1851 by a conniving Vietnamese general. To his credit, Vietnamese King Tu Duc learned the truth and executed the offender by ‘dismembering the body.’ In a back room to the left, see the ‘conehead’ mural.

When you’re done, you can always head back to the river and take an offer for a (not free, but it ain’t walking) BOAT TRIP – a rowboat ride to nearby villages should be no more than US$3 or US$4 per hour.

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