A traditional Hoian style shophouse in Vietnam

I've been meaning to write this post for the last few months, I just never dedicated time for it. Today, I finally decided to do it. I recently changed jobs, and now, save an hour a day on commute. I reach home before sunset, and I think this has had a significant impact on my energy levels.

We went to Vietnam (Hanoi and Hoi-An) in November of '22. We decided to go back at least one more time, but I think that number will increase every time we go back.

In Hoi-An, we saw a well-preserved town, one that dates back to the 17th century. The town, at least the part of the town that tourists frequented, had a few streets dotted with shophouses, and I got really curious about them. The front part of the shophouse had a shop, facing the street, and through a small back door, the shop owners, typically families, would go back and forth, and every once in a while, when the door opens or the curtains are parted, you can get a glimpse of the life behind.

Hoi An has several shops selling leather goods, dresses, bags - everything a tourist would find appealing. The front of the shops was generally quite narrow (houses tended to be narrow in order to pay lesser tax).

The shop part of the 'shop-house', facing the street.

This was behind the doors/curtains. Compared to the clean attractive shop front, the realness of the house part of the 'shop-house' was incredible. I believe that between the streets where tourists could stroll, cycle and shop, there were parallel smaller lanes, that opened to the back of the shophouses, creating a maze, and sort of like a parallel Hoi-An.

As part of the traditional Hoian homes, there was a central open courtyard, allowing natural light and rain to enter the home.

Just another photo with their poodle.

After coming back, I wanted to learn more about this kind of architecture; I really liked the concept of shop houses, a joint family, children being taken care of by the grandparents, parents out front making a living, but never far from their children, and the general concept of living and working together. I came across this website, Oriental Architecture, which explained the shophouse very well.

An excerpt, "It is a typical Hoian style shophouse with a long, narrow floor plan with a shop in front, a courtyard at center, a workspace in the rear, and living quarters on the upper level. The house may have been built as early as the 17th century."


I found the design resonating with what we had seen. In fact, a similar shophouse, by the name of Duc-An, is open for visitors, and you can get a guided tour of the property. I enjoyed my time in Hoi-An, walking in both the tourist filled and non-tourist filled areas, and hope to visit it again.

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