Hoi An is a small city located in Quang Nam province and is home to approximately 120,000 inhabitants. In 1999, the old town was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO as a well-preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading port of the 15th to 19th centuries, with buildings that display a unique blend of local and foreign influences.
Hoi An was founded as a trading port by the Nguyen Lord Nguyen Hoang sometime around 1595. The Nguyen Lords were far more interested in commercial activity than the Trinh Lords who ruled the north. As a result, Hoi An flourished as a trading port and became one of the most important trade ports on the South China Sea. Captain William Adams, the famous English sailor and confidant of Tokugawa Ieyasu, is known to have made at least one trading mission to Hoi An (around 1619).
In the 1700s, Hoi An was considered by some Chinese merchants to be the best destination for trading in all of Southeast Asia. However, the importance of Hoi An declined sharply at the end of the 1700s because of the collapse of Nguyen rule (thanks to the Tay Son Rebellion - which was opposed to foreign trade). Then, with the triumph of Emperor Gia Long, he repaid the French for their aid by giving them exclusive trade rights to the nearby port town of Da Nang. Da Nang became the new center of trade (and later French influence) in central Vietnam while Hoi An was a forgotten backwater. Local historians also say that Hoi An lost its status as a desirable trade port due to silting up of the river mouth.
The result was that Hoi An remained almost untouched by the changes to Vietnam over the next 200 years (somewhat reminiscent to the famous walled city of Carcassonne in southern France).
As of 2009, Hoi An is still a small city, but it attracts a fair number of tourists, also being a well-established place on the backpacker trail. Many visit for the numerous art and craft shops and tailors, who produce made-to-measure clothes for a fraction of the Western price. Several Internet cafes, bars and restaurants have opened along the riverfront. Hoi An is famed for its centuries old Cao Lau noodle, which can only be uniquely served here.The town is also famed for its unique lanterns.