By Unesco decree, more than 800 historic buildings in Hoi An have been preserved, so much of the Old Town looks as it did several centuries ago. Eighteen of these buildings are open to visitors and require an Old Town ticket for admission; the fee goes towards funding conservation work.
Each ticket allows you to visit five different heritage attractions from a total selection of 22, including museums, assembly halls, ancient houses and a traditional music show at the Handicraft Workshop. Tickets are valid for 10 days.
Technically, the tickets are for access into the Old Town itself, but you won't normally be checked if you're just dining or shopping in the area. Keep your ticket with you just in case. You could be checked for a ticket as you cross the Japanese Covered Bridge, but insisting that you are just visiting shops nearby usually works. When the bridge is very busy with pedestrians, chances are you won't be asked either.
All four museums are small. Displays are pretty basic and the information provided minimal.
The Chinese who settled in Hoi An identified themselves according to their province of origin. Each community built its own assembly hall, known as hoi quan in Vietnamese, for social gatherings, meetings and celebrations.
All the old houses, except Diep Dong Nguyen and Quan Thang, offer short guided tours. They are efficient, if a tad perfunctory. You’ll be whisked to a heavy wooden chair while your guide recites a scripted introduction to the house, and gives a souvenir soft sell. You’re free to wander around the house after the tour.
One downside to putting these old houses on show is that what were once living spaces now seem dead and museum-like, the family having sequestered itself away from visitors’ eyes. Huge tour groups can completely spoil the intimacy of the experience too, as they jostle for photo opportunities.
Despite the number of tourists who flood into Hoi An, it is still a conservative town. Visitors should dress modestly, especially since some of the old houses are still private homes.