Photographer's Note

I remain in Vietnam in November 1993. The title does not refer to the invasion of US soldiers in the 1960's but the invasion of tourists in recent years. Read all about it later in the note.

When I looked at this slide I thought it would be too dark, and the contrasts too strong, to be successfully scanned. But I gave it a try and found that I actually liked it. Parts of it are certainly very dark, but I think that enhances the effect of the light shining on the typical conical straw hats the women are wearing. I made an alternative copy where I brightened the shady areas and made many details more visible, but I thought the atmosphere was lost so I decided to keep this version.

This is from Hoi An, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Vietnam, located in the central part of the country a short distance south of the major port city Da Nang (where the first 3.500 American ground troops stepped ashore on a beach in March 1965). I took this at the entrance to the town's fish market. Another photo from inside the market, with a more even light, can be seen in a WS. A second WS shows one of the best known sights in Hoi An. All photos were scanned from Kodachrome slides.

Here is a larger version of the main photo.

If anyone cares to continue reading this note, I can describe the developments in Hoi An during the last few decades as symbolizing the tremendous changes that have taken place in Vietnam generally since the 1990's.

1993 was the first year that foreign tourists were allowed to travel freely and independently anywhere in Vietnam. I started planning my trip the very day I read a report in early spring that the Parliament in Hanoi had decided to change the policy on tourism. In the guidebook I bought, published a few years earlier, there was a small framed box in the Da Nang chapter recommending a visit to a beautiful small town called Hoi An. But travellers were warned: There was no place to stay, so the town could only be seen on a day trip from Da Nang.

Just weeks before I was to leave in the autumn I found a brand new edition of the guide book, which brought good news: There was now a hotel in Hoi An!

So I spent several days in Hoi An, staying at the new hotel in a building which had been used as an American military school during the war. I enjoyed my visit in the pleasant and very quiet town where I would occasionally meet another tourist in a street. I made some local friends whom I stayed in touch with afterwards. The only drawback of Hoi An was probably that there were very few places where I could have a proper meal.

As I was preparing my second journey to Vietnam only 17 months later, in the spring of 1995, one of these friends wrote to tell me there were now eight hotels in Hoi An and several new restaurants. I could hardly believe there had been such big changes in that short time, but when I arrived I was given a motorbike sightseeing tour so I could see with my own eyes every new hotel, and one or two more being built.

Now many years have passed, and today a major online booking site offers accommodation in 870 hotels in Hoi An. Probably nobody knows how many restaurants and cafés there are. "Quiet" Hoi An has become the probably most touristy minor town in Asia, or indeed the whole world, and I would do everything to avoid it if I were ever to return to Vietnam again.

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Additional Photos by Gert Holmertz (holmertz) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 9381 W: 507 N: 18337] (81354)
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