Travel blog Hoi An — I have mixed feelings about Hoi An.
Despite being initially disconcerted by his arrival in Hoi An, Michael was eventually captivated by its moving beauty.
Michael Turtle worked in broadcast journalism in Australia for over a decade before leaving to begin his indefinite journey around the world. When he arrived in Vietnam, Hoi An was the first name on his list of must-see destinations in this beautiful country.
Hoi An was originally intended to be a trading hub, and it did so admirably between the 15th and 19th centuries. It was a river-side port city that aided the flow of commerce through Asia, Europe, and even further afield. It was a place where people from all over the region and the world came to buy, sell, haggle, rip off and be ripped off.
However, Michael’s first impression in Hoi An was not favorable. “Please buy something!” the woman yelled as he passed her shop. “You get that a lot as you walk through the streets of Hoi An’s historic center,” he explained.
“Everything here is about business. Almost every structure houses a store, a restaurant, a hotel, a bar, or a tour agency. There are also a lot of rickshaw drivers. They frequently approached me and asked, “Do you want a ride?”
Then all of Michael’s confusion was washed away as he had opportunities to immerse himself in the true beauty of Hoi An. “In the nineteenth century, trade through this region declined, and businessmen began to leave the city.” Unlike other Asian ports that have been modernized and expanded on a large scale, Hoi An has been abandoned commercially. It meant that no original houses were demolished to make way for larger warehouses, and suburbs were not reclaimed for high-tech port equipment. “The beautiful buildings were effectively preserved,” Michael said.
These structures are now responsible for the city’s economic recovery. They are crammed together on both sides of narrow streets that intersect in a grid pattern. They are timber-framed structures with brick or wood walls. Many of the designs, particularly the roofs, clearly have Chinese and Japanese influences. However, there are traces of the cultural symbols that European traders brought with them over time.
Hoi An gives visitors the impression of being in a heavenly, magical, and lyrical place. The consistency of the architecture, the motifs, even the color – it’s as if someone designed the city’s core as a theme park. But it’s genuine, authentic, and historic. The town has 1,107 buildings that have been designated as heritage. “And that is why tourists come here, and why businesses come here as well.” Michael divulged.
Michael hopes that Hoi An will never lose its enthralling beauty and historic culture, or that it will maintain its original tradition in which locals will never regard financial gain as the most important thing.