From Live Hoi An to Hoi An Now
It’s hard to believe that almost a decade has passed since my virginal visit to Hoi An. Especially when one considers the time continuum of the heritage town – as expat Phil Mellifont articulated once in an article he penned for my magazine, Live Hoi An – one ‘Western’ year is equal to ten Hoi An years. In my experience, I’ve found the calculation to be true. A decade is like 100 years.
I think of An Bang beach, which comprised of a few shacks operating as restaurants. Food came from the sea, cooked simply or served raw. There was no fanfare about parking. Your beer came from a crate and was served with ice. Cars were few and far between on the roads. The Full Moon night was a very “shushed” affair with ambient lighting, traditional music and old men playing chess on lantern-lit corners. One would meander through the darkened alleys in quiet reverie. There were fewer restaurants and bars and I don’t recall anything of particular interest on the An Hoi side of the river. Nightspots consisted of a pool-playing area upstairs in Tam Tam bar and the backpacker “King Kong” bar over on Cam Nam island.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not resistant to change. There have been so many wonderful developments in Hoi An since I first arrived there; I’m just taken aback as to how quickly things move in Vietnam. I’m glad, for the most part. I feel that the Vietnamese people want this change, this progression, and it is benefitting them overall. I believe there is enough local consciousness about traditional arts and crafts, that these elements will not be lost. In fact, I believe they can continue to thrive in the town, hand-in-hand with its bourgeoning tourism and development.
When I arrived, I was working for a real estate developer as a communications manager – doing marketing on upcoming resort projects. I’m a journalist by training though – a feature writer mostly – and what struck me, straight off the mark, was how breathtakingly beautiful Hoi An was. It encapsulated the romanticized thoughts I had of Vietnam before flying over (I had resided in Bangkok before taking on a position with Indochina Land). Hoi An had a special feeling, an intangible feeling that really made an impact on me. Those of you reading this will no doubt understand what I’m talking about. And back in 2007 there was no publication at all specific to the town or central coast region. Local businesses were relying on a mention in the Lonely Planet guide and this only came out every 2 years. These were pre-Trip Advisor days. So I made it my mission to set up a magazine and the publication Live Hoi An was born in 2009.
Those of you familiar with the Live Hoi An map are therefore familiar with the brand. Originally, Live Hoi An was a magazine I created – first in print, then slowly I added the website component and then later (in 2012), a fold-out map. Sadly – for many folk living in the area – the final print of the magazine was in 2014. It had a good 5 years run and many of the articles helped local businesses and charities get exposure as well as being a fantastic resource for tourists and expats alike.
Fortunately, I’ve passed on some of the timeless content of Live Hoi An to Stuart and Sharon — from Live Hoi An to Hoi An Now. I feel very positive about their online publication and am glad to have the opportunity to contribute. I am thrilled at the idea of having an ongoing relationship with the town and community I love. While I am based in Melbourne now, Hoi An is still a home to me and I will be back, time and again. In the meantime, however, there is Hoi An Now and I am grateful for it!
Updated and revised March 2018