Derek Milroy, a Scot, expresses his disappointment at the boredom he experienced in Hội An Ancient Town, a UNESCO heritage site in central Việt Nnam, during his trip there late last month.
Milroy has lived in the Southeast Asian country for three years.
Some tourists in Hội An head to a local watering hole to shelter from the heat
How many times have I seen the romantic scenes from this serene location with no traffic, buildings shrouded in darkness with only candles to keep you from bumping into nearby buildings or falling in the canals, with couples strolling arm in the arm enjoying the ambience of literally an Ancient Town.
The famous bridge lit up thanks to expert marksmen capturing that moment everyone wants to live in and have a piece of.
In fact those very scenes excited the romantic in me as I often daydreamed that one day I could take my wife to enjoy this special place.
A last minute trip to Đà Nẵng, my first to the city, had me researching just how close Hội An was to our accommodation and as luck would have it the hotel ran a shuttle bus and it was only a few dozen kilometers away.
So off we set bright and early one morning after some buffet breakfast and a detour to drop some guests off in Đà Nẵng City, we were almost there.
I started thinking why we were the only ones going to Hội An if it was that amazing but didn’t give it another thought.
We arrived and did some shopping and walked around and we thought to ourselves, ‘eh..is this it?’, one of the world’s top locations.
Yes it had some nice bridges which come across so well in photos but it was a huge disappointment and those quaint little streets which have taken up reams of copy in local media were full of sweaty tourists wandering aimlessly looking for it.
The it being this magical place.
I checked the map, maybe this was lower Hội An and if we crossed the bridge upper Hội An and its jewels were awaiting us.
Nope, across the bridge was a road.
This was it.
A few bridges and old buildings and pagodas and shops, lots of shops cashing in on the little town’s daily tourist invasion with some lovely clothes it has to be said and some tacky souvenirs to keep the travelers happy.
I felt let-down in so many ways.
No romance was present apart from couples walking around a few feet apart clutching their plastic bags of goodies; it was too hot to even hold clammy hands together.
That is the problem with too much of a build-up, nowhere or no one will ever live up to your expectations.
So we arrived about midday and the bus left at 12.30pm and by 1.45pm it was time for Plan B – let’s get the hell out of here.
We were stuck, though, as the shuttle bus was not returning until 4.30pm, almost three hours.
If you had paid me a million dollars I wouldn’t have accepted a minute more and the heat was only a ten percent factor, we live in Sài Gòn so we know this is the tropics and I love hot weather – I just didn’t fall for Hội An’s ‘charm’.
The VND500,000 to our hotel hideaway was a bargain at half the price.
Not even the dodgy cabbie trying to rip us off for more money after the first corner could wipe the smiles off our faces as we settled in for the 40 minute journey back to our base.
In Hội An’s defence, we didn’t pick a great time to go, arriving at midday in this particularly ‘hot’ hot season.
We only stayed just over two hours but with no cloud cover and air-con at a premium with most tourists we came across quite happy to hide in watering holes to cool down with a cold drink.
That was Plan C – get drunk because frankly we couldn’t fathom what else we could do.
Now I have read a million articles about this place but they all missed one huge point.
What is there to do in Hội An?
Can anyone send in some answers via email to this page to help me out, in case I am forced at gun point to return?
I know if you go full-moon night on the 14th of the Lunar calendar the festival takes place.
So that covers 12 days a year, what about the other 353?