Pages Navigation Menu

Hoi An, an Illusion of a Traditional Vietnamese Town

Hoi An is beautiful, there is no question about that Hoi An is beautiful, there is no question about that

When I went to Hoi An, I was expecting a beautiful old Vietnamese town. I was expecting something very traditional, with houses from an era long since gone; something that had frozen in time; something I could see in a historical movie. And that’s what I got.

When you go to Hoi An and especially once you enter the old town, you cannot but admire the old traditional feeling the place evokes. The wooden buildings are all from a time long since gone; they all have paper lanterns and plants decorating their façade. There are plenty of cafés, restaurants and art galleries lending the place an aura of tranquility. There are no cars on the alleys and narrow roads, only primitive vehicles (!) and pedestrians, so it feels very peaceful, unhurried.

It is just so, well, idyllic It is just so, well, idyllic

Even the river is beautiful in Hoi An Even the river is beautiful in Hoi An

There are loads of art galleries and shops in Hoi An There are loads of art galleries and shops in Hoi An

Only walking and primitive vehicles, makes me think of the car from Flintstones Only walking and primitive vehicles, makes me think of the car from Flintstones

There is an old Japanese bridge that crosses a river just a few meters in width. It is too complex for the simple task that could be done more easily this day and age. It is something that would have been built few hundred years ago; and while the bridge is illuminated by modern means in the evenings, it is still traditional and fitting.

There is a larger, more modern bridge that that crosses over the big river to the other side where the town has expanded, but the bridge is completely illuminated by paper lamps giving it an aura of tradition, so it doesn’t stand out from the environment.

There are traditional boats on the river There are traditional boats on the river

Cao Lau, a local noodlle dish Cao Lau, a local noodlle dish

Even the street signs are pretty Even the street signs are pretty

In the evenings you have small street kitchens on the river front, each stall usually selling one or two local dishes very cheaply. They are in almost complete darkness, lit up only by a few candles and a few paper lamps in the trees. You need a flashlight to read the menu if they have one.

Shop for selling paper lanterns and other traditional lamps Shop for selling paper lanterns and other traditional lamps

The old Japanese bridge The old Japanese bridge

View of Hoi An from the other side of the river View of Hoi An from the other side of the river

You have kids lowering floating candles to the river in the dark. You see them floating gently on the easy current. The candles mix with the illuminated colourful statues of dragons and fish on the river, creating an image from a movie.

Kid lowering a paper candle to the river Kid lowering a paper candle to the river

The bridge over the river, illuminated by the paper lights The bridge over the river, illuminated by the paper lights

Food by the river front Food by the river front

There are no proper street lights, all the light comes from candles or various paper lights, and it looks magical. It looks like an ancient Vietnamese city, but something is wrong, it’s like an illusion breaking. And if you look at it too hard, the illusion does break, and you understand what it is.

The town and the setting is traditional and very pretty, but the illusion is broken by all the tourists who seem to outnumber the locals. When you look at it, you start to realize the old town doesn’t work a town center for the local people. It works as an image of a traditional town, but everything in the old town is aimed for the tourists, including the million tailor shops for which the city is famous for these days. And yes I got myself some trousers made and I am very happy with them thank you.

The coast is only a few kilometers away and offers beautiful beaches The coast is only a few kilometers away and offers beautiful beaches

Children doing martial arts Children doing martial arts

Some of the more advanced students even had swords Some of the more advanced students even had swords

It’s almost like a theme park for tourists. There are even ticket booths at the edges of the old town for people entering the city, selling tickets to go on for some rides, err, buildings.

That is not to say it isn’t pretty, it most certainly is as I said.

With the mountains and the rivers, the evenings can be really beautiful With the mountains and the rivers, the evenings can be really beautiful

I am happy that I went there, it’s a beautiful city, well worth the visit, it gives you an idea what it must have been a few hundred years ago in Vietnam, but if you look too hard, the illusion breaks. So best to tread softly, for you tread on an illusion.

6 Comments

  1. I was there last week and loved Hoi An as well. It’s the sort of place you can easily spend a long time and not be bored…
    Raymond @ Man On The Lam recently posted..The Sounds of VietnamMy Profile

    • It is a lovely city, definitely one of the prettiest cities I saw in Vietnam. It’s just nice to go strolling around the town in the evenings

  2. Great pictures. I wish I could be there.
    Marcin recently posted..where is the Amber Room?My Profile

    • Thanks; you should go, Hoi An is definitely worth the visit!

  3. Fantastic article. I’ll definitely consider Hoi An for my proposed trip to Vietnam.
    Amer @TendToTravel recently posted..Between Dreams and Practicality – My first year of blogging have been a huge Success and Flop at the same timeMy Profile

    • I would recommend dropping by in Hoi An, it is really pretty. And it will surely be on your route if you are planning on doing the whole country.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge