I have been to Hoi An, an ancient fishing village in central Vietnam, three times now and have consequently witnessed it go from a burgeoning stop on the backpacker path in 1998 to a full-on tourist Mecca in 2013. Despite the relatively recent influx of foreign influence and the money that comes with it, Hoi An retains a distinct charm quickly disappearing throughout the rest of the country. It’s designation as a world heritage site perhaps aids its preservation, especially in terms of the fascinating combination of Chinese, Japanese, and European architecture. Aspects such as signage and traffic are highly regulated, so the old town is truly a feast for the eyes and not a pedestrian death trap like Saigon. Nonetheless, by becoming a WHS, the Hoi An’s culture and people have inevitably been affected. The road slightly outside of the old town where I stayed in 2004 is hardly recognizable with all the buildings crammed in with no thought for planning or aesthetics. Tailoring and shoes did well before, so now a million copy-cat stores have popped up, replacing fisherman’s homes with shops and restaurants all selling the same thing. I did find a place that will do an ear clean for you, though.
What I liked about Hoi An, is that the people seem proud and so kind at the same time. They have a genteel manner which is not lost on us when occasionally accosted by over enthusiastic folks from places no so used to blonde kids.
Hoi An is so picturesque, it is impossible to not take a million pictures, so I am condensing it into a little gallery here. Some of our highlights include a little boat ride in which both Merle and Mathilda got the chance to drive (Mathilda of course sometimes with no hands) and releasing candlelit paper lanterns into the river.