“ Buddhist Pagoda and Assembly Hall „
One of the more interesting cultural attractions in Hoi An, Central Vietnam is the The Phuoc Kien Assembly Hall which is located at 46 Tran Phu street, about a third of the way down the Old Town street heading toward the Japanese Bridge. It was originally a Buddhist pagoda (temple) built in the late 17th Century. Unfortunately due to miss-hearing our guide, this building got a slightly ruder nickname in our party (The Ph is pronounced like an 'F'). The Phuoc Kien name came from the Chinese (supposedly from the Fujian Province) traders who bought the pagoda in 1759. It became known as the Phuoc Kien Assembly Halls then, but was still a Buddhist temple, as well as a meeting place for the Phuoc Kien people. Many people still refer to it as a pagoda though, so I would guess this is correct also. You enter the Hall's grounds through a modest but well maintained gate and hand your ticket to one of the ladies on the left.
Tickets need to be purchased in advance and there are a number of places they sell them around the old town. The old town is now a UNESCO World Heritage site (since 1999) due to it being an authentic example of a traditional South East Asian trading port. To visit any of the dozen or so small ancient sites you will need a ticket which costs VND 75000 (US$4/UK£2.50) and with that you are allowed to visit five of the old sites in the town, which includes the Japanese Bridge, various Assembly Halls/Pagodas and a few small museums. In the unlikely event that you feel you want to visit more than five you would have to buy another ticket.
The gardens of the Assembly Hall are very attractive and well maintained, and you go through these to a much nicer gate, which leads you into the open sided pagoda. Here, above you, amongst lots of Chinese lanterns, are loads of incense coils, looking like giant mosquito coils, hanging from the ceiling. The temple part, whilst not large, is of a good size and there are a few statues and pictures to look at as you wander around. There is also a small ornamental fish pond and fountain around the back.
As you leave, before you get to the final gate there are some small buildings over to your right - in one of these there is a collection of Vietnamese photographs for sale. If you like photographic art then this is worth a look. My partner made a purchase here, it seemed that haggling was not the done things and prices were fixed. They were probably slightly more expensive than you may pay elsewhere, but only by two or three dollars, and to be honest, we never saw a photo quite like the one we got anywhere else.
If you want a cultural break from your shopping in Hoi An then the Phuoc Kien Assembly Halls are worth a visit, and one of your five tickets. You would probably be hard pressed to spend more than twenty minutes here, but it is an impressive and well looked after pagoda set right on the main street so easy to locate.