Hoi An Morphing to Keep up with Changing Times in Vietnam
Declared a UNESCO World heritage site in December 1999, Hoi An is definitely not a stranger to foreigners. Just recently, Vogue Australia writer Edwina Hart described the quaint town as one of “Vietnam’s dreamiest destinations”, “skirted by lush rice paddies and mere moments from the unspoilt sands of the coastline’s best beaches”.
Rumour has it that the celebrated Japanese covered bridge in Hoi An’s old town is scheduled for renovation shortly, but till that happens, the show continues on a daily basis for curious tourists. The bridge, one of the last few surviving temple bridges in the world, was built in the late 16th century to connect the Japanese and Chinese trader enclaves on adjacent ends. To combat increasing sewage flow issues in the bridge’s vicinity, a new wastewater facility with a total daily processing capacity of 2000m3 was completed after 19 months of construction. The total expenditure of approximately 1.1 billion Japanese yen came from Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) scheme. An estimated 1000 residents in five surrounding wards will benefit from this change.
Hoi An: Vietnam’s Most Livable City?
In October 2018, the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) sponsored 178,000 euros to fund a community-focused masterplan which aims to transform Hoi An into a bicycle-friendly city. The masterplan, which was born through mutual collaboration between the People’s Committee of Hoi An and Health Bridge Canada (https://healthbridge.ca/), aims to introduce bicycle lanes and bicycle sharing schemes throughout the city. The masterplan is being helmed by Health Bridge Canada and is the newest plan to enter a greater umbrella scheme known as the “Vietnam: Livable Cities” project. Other key elements of the scheme include another masterplan which aims to create 79 new playgrounds for children by 2020 and to ensure that every child has access to a playground near their home.
In an effort to promote occupational efficiency, the Hoi An Center for Cultural Heritage Management and Preservation launched an audio guide system for visitors in November 2018. The system will be available in six languages including Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, French and English and was described by vice-director Mr. Pham Phu Ngoc as the first time that modern technology is being used as a tool to educate visitors about Hoi An’s history.
Hoi An at the Forefront of Environmental Initiatives in Vietnam
Cu Lao Cham, a group of eight islands 20 km off the coast from Hoi An, has been steadfast with its efforts to keep the islands plastic-free. Ten years ago, Hoi An’s Party Chief Mr. Nguyen Su swore that he would “rescue the islands from drowning in a sea of plastic bags”, a potential disaster which might have resulted from a great influx of visitors since the early 2000s. The islands, popular with tourists as a day trip destination from Hoi An’s old town, have benefited greatly from the unexpected birth of a souvenir industry that focuses on biodegradable bags made from materials such as papyrus. In what might possibly be an attempt to mimic Cu Lao Cham’s environmentally friendly success, nearby Da Nang City launched a campaign in November 2018 to encourage residents and visitors to “Say No” to single-use plastic products in a bid to reduce pollution and waste treatment overheads.
The real estate scene in Hoi An is also receiving well-deserved attention from investors who are eyeing numerous projects sprouting in areas surrounding its scenic ancient town. Casamia Hoi An is one of the newest of recently introduced projects, sporting villas set in a Venetian-style boardwalk neighbourhood located right beside Cam Thanh commune’s beautiful Nipa Palm biosphere reserve area. A mere five minutes’ drive from Hoi An’s ancient town and An Bang beach, wealthy homeowners will also have easy access to their private yachts parked right outside their doorsteps. The property is being designed by famed architect, Mr. Vo Trong Nghia, in collaboration with MIA Design Studios which is also based in Ho Chi Minh City. Vo Trong Nghia’s work has been described as 21st century green and sustainable architecture amalgamated with local Asian materials and expression.
City Planning Changing the Face of Hoi An
Construction for one of central Vietnam’s wildest gaming projects, Hoiana, commenced on 17 August 2017 and has been proceeding as planned. The US$4 billion project will cover an area of 1000 hectares and will include retail space, restaurants and recreational facilities such as a golf course and a water park. After some initial obstacles which involved securing a loan from a local bank, Hong Kong-based Suncity Group finally acquired a 34% stake in the project on 29 August 2018 and has has thus become a major driving force and decision maker behind the project alongside VinaCapital Group and Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Ltd. from Hong Kong. Although local Vietnamese are not permitted to gamble in their home country, Hoiana is scheduled to open in 2019 and it is believed that Suncity Group’s expertise in luring high-stake punters from mainland China to its venues in Macau will make Hoiana very profitable.
Last but not least, perhaps the most stunning development pertaining to Hoi An is a recent summoning of investors by Danang City’s Department of Planning and Investment to assist in the development of a urban rail system which will connect Danang International Airport with Hoi An’s city centre. The planned 33 km line will run along the region’s sandy beaches and is estimated to cost a total of VND15 trillion (US$650 million), part of which will be funded via the Official Development Assistance (ODA) scheme as well as the Public Private Partnership (PPP) programme which serves as a channel for private investors to invest in projects helmed by government agencies.
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