In recent years, modern industry has changed the vintage Vietnam landscape in a big way. Some may argue that modernizing your city is could be a good thing, but the historic city of Hoi An in central Vietnam, however seems to be unfazed by the prospect…

The South-East Asian trading port still holds all the wonders it did since the 15th century. The true beauty of central Vietnam is on full display here…to help navigate Vietnam’s living time capsule, here is a pictorial guide to the beautifully preserved city of Hoi An.

Stepping foot into Hoi An’s “Old Town” District feels as though you are stepping back into an era suspended in time. This is a stark contrast from the rising city of Da Nang a mere half-an-hour drive away. While here, life seems to move at a much slower pace.

Since Hoi An does not have an airport, the easiest way to get here is to fly to Da Nang and hire a driver or taxi from the airport. The half-an-hour ride from Da Nang to Hoi An should cost no more than 200k VND.

The usual chaos of motorbike traffic, which has become synonymous with Vietnamese life is replaced with traditional single-speed bicycles. They are only outpaced by the caravan of rickshaws ferrying tourists through the city’s winding streets. If you can’t find a rickshaw driver, they will undoubtedly find you. For 150k VND an hour, they will cycle you around the Old Town’s walking street.

The Hoi An city centre is obsessed with lanterns. Adding to the charm of the city, the lanterns sway peacefully in the wind waiting to be illuminated as night falls.

We chose to stay at a friend’s home just outside of the main district. The beautiful three-bedroom villa was built from the ground up just before the city’s land prices began to boom.

The juxtaposition of the surrounding land gives a clear indication of the contrast between the Hoi An of old and what the future will undoubtedly bring.

But back in Old Town, the city stays suspended in time. Some of the buildings here date back to the 15th century. Motorbikes are only allowed in this area until 3:00pm. After which the district becomes pedestrians and bicycles only.

Many of the locals choose bicycles over motorbikes. You can rent a single speed bike from many of the hotels in the central area for 30k VND a day, which is more than adequate in getting you around the historic district.

The women here are incredibly strong for their age, as they row their boats through the canals all day, every day.

Some of the old rustic buildings have seen better days

We had lunch at Morning Glory, one of Hoi An’s best-known restaurants. Located at 106 Nguyen Thai Hoc in the heart of Old Town, Morning Glory serves up many traditional dishes that can only be found in Hoi An.

For a starter, we had Hoanh Thanh Chien. A crispy fried wonton shell garnished with shrimp, onions, tomatoes and cabbage.

Com Ga is one of Hoi An’s most traditional dishes. The rice gets its yellow colour by being cooked in chicken broth.

Mi Quang is a popular dish eaten by locals for either breakfast, lunch or dinner. This hearty pork and noodle dish is served lukewarm, with only a minimal amount of soup. Perfect for the hot Vietnamese summers.

Continuing our food excursion, we went to Cho Hoi An next. The indoor market dedicates most of its retail space to food and snack stalls.

Banh Vac are bite-sized dumplings made from a translucent white shell. The dumplings are filled with a tiny morsel of ground shrimp. These dumplings are also exclusive to Hoi An.

The unique Cao Lau noodle is made using a water source from an undisclosed ancient well located somewhere on the outskirts of town. Cao Lau contains no soup, but is served with thinly sliced pieces of pork, fried lard and fresh greens.

Hand-made wood carvings. Chiseled out of wood to sell to tourists.

The three Phuc Loc Tho Gods, representing Happiness, Wealth and Longevity. Hand-carved out of wood and sold as souvenirs.

There’s plenty of other souvenir shops lining the streets. All of them seemingly trying to outdo each other for your attention.

Along the streets as well. There is no shortage of fresh fruit and drinks at the ready.

A woman preparing her boat for the night’s festivities. The Thu Bon River comes alive every evening as locals and tourists alike comes to the city centre.

Enjoying a Vietnamese drip coffee at the Hoi An Roastery.

Crowds begin to gather as the lanterns are lit throughout Old Town.

As night approaches the river is flocked with boats and people placing floating lanterns in the water. You can rent a boat for for 100k VND for a half-an-hour trip around the river and under the bridge.

You are never too old to make a buck in Vietnam. Prices for these hand-made lanterns should only be 5k VND each…but can go as high as 30k VND if you’re a foreigner. Prepare to bargain…

You are never too young to make a buck in Vietnam as well. Talking to this little girl I could tell she was wise beyond her years.

You are meant to make a wish as you lay the floating lantern into the water…such as “I hope those life jackets work.”

The lights from the shops and bars illuminate over the water.

The more elaborate lanterns are sold as souvenirs. All of them are hand-made and hand painted.

BBQ meat on a (chop)stick for 6k to 8k each. Other street food can be found all over the main strip. Just follow your nose.

Nearing night’s end, we found a small watering hole down a narrow alleyway. Well…we just followed the flamenco music until it led us here.

The start of a new day…we decided to leave Old Town behind to explore the beaches along outskirts of Hoi An.

As you leave the city opens up to vast fields of rice, but in the distance, you can see that modern industry is already coming.

We head to Cua Dai beach on the shores of the East Vietnam Sea, about a 20-minute motorbike ride from Hoi An’s city centre.

We enjoy some seafood while watching people swimming and parasailing. In recent years this piece of coastline was on the brink of being destroyed by erosion, But luckily people have taken measures in curbing the destruction.

To cap off our last night in Hoi An, we head to the incredibly busy An Bang beach, just a 10-minute ride north from Cua Dai beach.

Finding a spot away from the commotion of the beach, we settle in a local bar to watch the sunset.

Enjoying oysters in a half shell on the beach.

As night falls we bid goodbye to beautiful Hoi An.

From Hoi An, it’s now possible to explore many of the other wonders of Central Vietnam. The beach city of Da Nang and its fire breathing dragon bridge is only a half-hour away. You can also ride west to the ruins of the Hindu temples of My Son further inland. If you are not finished with historical cities the Vietnamese emperor’s old palace resides in the city of Hue a three-hour bus ride away.