Hoi An is one of the most atmospheric towns in Vietnam boasting Unesco World Heritage status with beautifully preserved Japanese Merchant Houses and Chinese temples. I started out the mornings here in their open air market, one of the best ways to experience true local culture. There was the usual fresh produce and live birds and fish for sale as well as lots of flowers ready to brighten up homes for the upcoming Lunar New Year celebrations. Down by the river some men let me look in on their Buddhist puja, a prayer ceremony to celebrate the past year’s many blessings and good fortune. Right beside them the local ladies that offer boat rides were working tourists for fares. You may think it’s a little touristy but it’s a great way to experience Hoi An from a different perspective and to appreciate the Thu Bon river still very much a regular place for transit. Hoi An was once one of the busiest ports and Vietnam’s most important trade center in the 16 and 17th centuries. Had the river not silted up in the late 19th century making it impossible for large ships to dock Hoi An would be a very different place today. What was left behind was the legacy of a rich trade center and port with money that was spent on mansions, merchant houses and temples with varying but complimentary styles of architecture. Meanwhile back at the market. And the ingredients are either super fresh or still alive! There are so many wonderful dishes to try in Hoi An, amazing salads featuring herbs, seafood and chilies, the local specialty white rose, a delicate wonton filled with prawns, this is a paradise for people who love and appreciate great food. Excerpts from "