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Hoi An

From the lantern-strewn streets of Old Town to the farmers shouldering their harvest in balanced baskets, the scenes of Hoi An capture what every traveler imagines Vietnam to be. It is the country's "must-see" destination, delivering culture, cuisine, history, and charm with the added bonus of a beach just minutes from the town center. The moment you arrive in Hoi An, you can't help but exhale, realizing that this quaint town has an endearing quality that spans from the colorful food markets to the friendly locals who somehow work their way into your heart without even trying.

This enchanting town defies the insidious pace of modernization. Preserved in pristine condition are its 18th-century houses, pagodas, and assembly halls built by early Fujian, Canton, Chaozhou, and Hainan-Chinese communities. The many galleries selling the works of local artists and artisans and the numerous cafés lend a strong bohemian feel. Hoi An has great cuisine and is probably the most tourist-friendly town in the country, with English being widely spoken. The whole town can easily be navigated on foot in a half a day, but plan to spend more time in Hoi An than you think you'll need, because it's easy to fall in love with the place. Just outside of town is the pleasant An Bang Beach, which you reach by taking a 5-km (3-mile) ride through a picturesque slice of rural Vietnam. Also nearby are the My Son Cham ruins, which evoke the ancient history of this region and the coral-encircled Cham Islands that provide spectacular diving alongside some of the most under-developed beaches in Vietnam.

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