Saturday, November 15, 2008

National Geographic: Hanoi’s Old Quarter And Hoi An In 110 Historic Places

Hoi An ancient town

Every five years, the American-reputed magazine, National Geographic, releases its ranked list of 110 historic destinations in the world. From Vietnam, Hanoi’s Old Quarter and the ancient town of Hoi An are both on the list.

This year, the number-one destinations on the list include Wachau valley and Welk monastery (Austria), Rideau Canal (Canada), Ghent City (Belgium), and Nikko (Japan). At the bottom of the list are the City of Central (USA), and Phnom Penh (Cambodia).

Vietnam’s Hanoi ranks at the 94th while Hoi An is at the 83rd position.

Here are National Geographic’s comments about Hanoi: “"The old part of Hanoi is attractive but is becoming very busy, commercial, and somewhat over-developed. Pedestrian zones are recommended."

"Hanoi is not a Hong Kong or a Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), or a Shanghai undergoing constant high-rise construction. Surprisingly, some of the back streets in the old French Quarter and the strip parks around the inner lakes retain immense charm."

"The parks and public areas are very well maintained, and the visit to Ho Chi Minh's tomb is still an exceptional experience."

"The 36 Streets area of Hanoi is lively and full of charm, but low on authenticity. The Thang Long citadel is authentic but presented without interpretation and therefore meaningless; in fact, boring to visit. Other so-called historic sites in Hanoi are all modern reconstructions. The problem in Hanoi is that while the city is beautiful and full of charm and an easy urbanity, the story told to the tourist is heavy handed and just not historically accurate."

About Hoi An, it wrote: “"A great place to be when the tourism buses have left in the afternoon."

"Authentic, accurately restored, and well-managed small town that has been brought back from sure death by culture-tourism industry. The problem is that it is just too small to accommodate all the tourists who want to visit it."

"What makes it unique is the historical blending of cultural influences."

"Beautiful architecturally, but the whole town has been 'repurposed' as a shopping opportunity for tourists; ultimately not a satisfying experience to visit."