Hoi An supposed to be the most charming town in Vietnam, at least that is what everyone kept telling me. The fact that all tourists mentioned it left me with the certainty of a dense crowd. Ian was in this heritage city a few years before, and even he couldn’t stop talking about it. “I can’t wait for you to see the place, you’ll love it!” he kept repeating. Indeed I loved it even before I entered it, due to old architecture and heartwarming colors, plus Hoi An has sandy seaside and river. So how was the reality of this UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019?
Indulge Hoi An
Timing is everything and our day couldn’t have a better start. While the sun was shining softly on the empty streets we got to enjoy the peacefulness you only get early in the morning. Both of us were ready to stretch our legs and Ian couldn’t wait to show me how well he can navigate without GPS.
Indeed, I was immediately in love with countless shades of yellow. Imagine those old one-story yellow houses bathing in the gentle morning sun. Rustic perfection, I tell you. Picturesque ancient streets are perfect for photography and so is the morning sun. Observing street activities felt like we were the only couple who is missing the romantic photoshoot. In fact, standing in line for the spot wasn’t a rare sight.
Hoi An tailors are another sensation that has gained worldwide fame in recent times. We have met people that visited Hoi An just to get dressed for a special occasion. Although the tradition of family tailors was established along the silk route. Here, I must express my satisfaction with the largest family tailor business in Hoi An, the BeBe Tailor. They also made sure our new clothing saw the light of the day, and that red dress is still one of my favorite. You can check our Hoi An tailor experience here.
Speaking about local people… early in the morning, they carry out a ritual consisting of prayer while burning incest. The intention is to bring spendthrift customers to their business. Countless stores and restaurants are very attractive looking and goods are known to be of high quality.
Once we reached the river, we focused on the tree-lined riverbank and the Thu Bon River itself. It didn’t take long for us to notice the poor condition of the river, mostly because of the murky dark color, floating garbage, and afoul smell. We could see the sea of floating lanterns from previous evenings waiting to be carried out to the open sea. I’m sad to say it, but that river is lifeless and a testimony of how little we humans care about natural treasures. It certainly wasn’t a view for our empty stomachs or our morning coffee so we turned back for more yellow houses, flowers, and lanterns.
Cycling Around Hoi An
Slowly we started feeling the sleepless night and finally settled for a notorious Vietnamese coffee and banh mi. The right spot for the occasion was the sidewalk cafe with an extensive street view. On that morning we even had the pleasure to see some bicycle procession. Later we found out that it is a weekly tradition before the Sunday mass, but I’m not sure if it wasn’t also a part of some celebration. Whatever it was, it gave us ideas of cycling all around the Hoi An.
In the days that followed my fairytale greeting got a more realistic touch. There is no way to avoid crowds, especially in the evening. We were there in the low season and still, it was suffocating. I really can’t imagine how it is in the high season and I don’t want to know. At times I felt bad for children growing up here with no place to play and rising pollution.
Erosion in my Heart…
Sure, they can go to Cua Dai beach, but there is one little problem too – beach erosion. More about Cua Dai beach erosion, you can read here. However, visit Hoi An is incomplete without at least a day at the beach. We had time to visit a few parts of it and every time I was impressed by the length of it. One can walk on the beach straight to Da Nang. But can you swim? Well, to us, it didn’t matter where we hit the beach. We simply didn’t feel like swimming. Of course, the sea is always tempting, but after seeing the dead fish washed ashore it lost its appeal.
Additionally, the needles and other garbage didn’t feel me with joy either. Worth mentioning are also shared stories of travelers who got skin infections after swimming there. It was impossible to imagine Vietnam’s most beautiful beach before it disappeared literally overnight. The reality is sobering with locals’ sad looks and loud invitations to buy anything or have a seat at the empty restaurants are heartbreaking.
The Great Reset?
Struggles to save what is gone are pointless and millions spent will not bring the original beauty back. I’m terribly sad to witness how no one cares about saving what is still there. Maybe a pandemic will deliver a well-deserved break to nature and people will start treating it with respect and love it deserves. I won’t go into the difficulties brought by the loss of income, because as difficult as it is all of us are part of nature. If nature is healthy, the food we eat is healthy and so are we. When we have health we can preserve and enjoy ancient sites and Hoi An certainly is a gem. and you will hear a lot about it from us.