Hoi An, an Illusion of a Traditional Vietnamese Town
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
Even the river is beautiful 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
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
Cao Lau, a local noodlle dish
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
The old Japanese bridge
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
The bridge over the river, illuminated by the paper lights
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
Children doing martial arts
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
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.