Visiting Old Town Hoi An in Vietnam was a disappointing experience for me. And I’d say this early in this post – it’s not worth the hype. My Lonely Planet Guidebook placed this ancient town on the top of the list of places to visit in Vietnam. Pardon me if I’m mean, but I couldn’t really see the reason why this town is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ok, well, this old town was once an ancient port with a history that dates backs from the 15th to the 19th century. Historical evidence shows that the Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch, Japanese, and Indians came here for business and trade. These countries have left their marks here through the architectural influence that are still evident in a few houses.
The trouble, however, is that almost all of these historical houses with cultural values are converted into shops and restaurants. There were more shops, shops, shops – and less showing of its historical worth. I had trouble appreciating it while strolling in the afternoon I arrived. And guess what? The shops are selling the same clothes and souvenirs. You know someone went to Vietnam when he/she owns or wears a banana-printed dress or shirt. Oh, they have watermelons, too! 🙂
Because I didn’t want to leave this place with those impressions above, I decided to stroll the Old Town early morning the next day. Well, it didn’t disappoint me. I witnessed the locals went about their morning routines as I imagined it. With everything closed, I learned to appreciate the colorful buildings around me. Some may look having the same features, but with curious eyes, you’ll find they have distinct differences. It might be their roof style, doors, paneling, balustrades, and wooden columns.
In my morning stroll, yes, I found evidence of the influences of the different nations who came here eons ago. Perhaps, the most notable one here is the Japanese-covered bridge with an attached Buddhist temple on one side.
But, is it really worth the hype? Still, a no for me. Walking around Old Town Hoi An I felt like I was window shopping. It rarely occurred to me that I was a traveler discovering an unfamiliar place.
I stayed at Hoi An Love.ly Hostel. I like that it’s in the Old Town, but still a walk to the center. The room was spacious and it comes with a bathroom. There are no bunk beds (I’m not sure about the other rooms). The beds are comfortable and the hostel is clean. Breakfast was good, too. The hostel is surrounded by cafes, restaurants, shops, groceries, and tailors. You can book it via Booking, TripAdvisor, Expedia, and HostelWorld.