Courting Hoi An

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Carl Andreason, 38, of Sweden and his wife, Nguyen Thi Hoa (of Hoi An) married in 1999 and now run a pair of seafood restaurants in the ancient town's Minh An Ward

Hoi An changed a bit after UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1999.

Big new houses went up next to the town's picturesque, century old homes. Tourists flooded into the town. And some of them stayed.

It wasn't the gorgeous town that hooked them. It was the women.

"I would like to compare Hoi An women to pho which is tasty and delicous no matter how many times you have enjoyed it," said Pascal Rousseou, 39, who lives with his Vietnamese wife and children in town.

He said his marriage was hard won - a relationship that he feels lucky to have.

According to a report on the matter issued by the People's Committee of Quang Nam Province, from 1997 to 2010, nearly 1,000 local women married foreign husbands in the province.

Hoi An led the pack - with 200 mixed couples.

Most of the husbands are businessmen and investors from Canada, Korea and France, the report said.

According to Commander Nguyen Van Tam, vice chief of Police in Minh An Ward foreign men prefer to marry Hoi An women because, unlike Western women, they are simple, gentle, strong, caring and responsible to her family and children - even after a divorce.

"As a result, for more than ten years, we haven't seen any fighting between such couples," Tam said.

After a hard working day, Rousseou, and his 33-year-old Vietnamese wife Tran Thi Thu, sit down in front of their home on the bank of the Hoai River.

Rousseou, who came to Vietnam as a successful French businessman, fondly remembers the days - two decades ago - when he and his wife fell in love and his fate was sealed.

"It is not a small thing to marry a Vietnamese woman," he said.

Rousseou and his father first came to Hoi An in 1995 as tourists. During his visit, he met Thu. The young woman spoke only pidgin English and was making a living ferrying visitors through the river that they now live on.

"I just thought of him like everyone else at first," said Thu, who wasn't bold enough to ask her husband's name. "For the whole week, he always headed straight for my boat and he didn't seem to pay much attention to the landscape."

A year later, Rousseou returned to the town to find Thu. When he returned, he asked her to be his wife.

They married the same year and returned to Pascal's hometown of Palles, in 1997. Despite their stable life in France, the couple decided to return Vietnam with their two adorable children.

In 2010, the couple established Heaven and Earth, a bicycle tour company, as "a way to promote Hoi An."

"I'm so in love with the town's ancient spirit as well as the outstanding landscape here," said Rousseou, who studies Vietnamese, regularly with his son and daughter.

Not far down the road, in Minh An Ward, Carl Andreason of Sweden and his wife, Nguyen Thi Hoa, are busy running a pair of seafood restaurants: Cava and Hoi An Seafood.

Andreason once owned and operated a restaurant in his hometown of Uppsala.

During a vacation in 1998, he traveled to Hoi An and met Hoa, a waitress at a seafood restaurant.

Andreason says it was love at first sight.

The Swede was so impressed with Hoa's slender build, fair skin and broad smile that he returned a year later to see her again. Hoa, who is 10 years his junior, drew him to her with her honesty, upon their second meeting.

The two married at a huge wedding in 1999.

Immediately after the wedding, the two opened a pair of restaurants and decked them out with fishing nets and model ships.

"They [the women] are considered culture ambassadors who contribute themselves to promote their hometown and people to the world," said Captain Duong Nam Phuong, vice chief of Police in Cam Pho Ward, which is home to more than 30 foreigners, of which ten married local ladies.

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