Hoi An failure

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Pillars in a house in the Ancient Town of Hoi An are restored with concrete materials instead of traditional wood, making it losing the traditional features.

Many old houses in Quang Nam Province's Hoi An Town have lost their original features because of changes in materials and techniques used in their restoration, officials say.

Pham Phu Ngoc of the Hoi An Center for Cultural Heritage Management and Preservation, said the kien kien timber, also known as Hopea pierrei, the main material for making house pillars in Hoi An, has become very rare, so residents are using  cheap, low-quality timber from Laos and Central Highlands Provinces.

This makes the restored pillars spoil easily and the houses are losing their originality, Ngoc said.

Tong Quoc Hung, deputy director of the Hoi An Culture and Information Department, said that a change in the lime to cement ratio in the mixture used for coating the houses' double tiles have reduced the mixture's expansion capacity and made the houses leak when it rained. 

Ngoc said the tiles themselves are easily water absorbent, contributing to the "distortion."

He also said that the number of skilled workers to repair the houses has reduced rapidly from 10 years ago, since young people were rejecting restoration work for better-paid jobs. This has resulted in a severe lack of workers who know how to keep the originality of the buildings.

Thanh Nien found that several old houses in Hoi An have had their interiors changed to display fabric or selling food and beverages. 

Many old houses have been rented out for commercial purposes over the last few decades, and they have lost their original spirit, Hung said. Many other houses have been sold to outsiders who have changed their original features, he added.

Hoi An, which was recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1999, has been described by the UN agency as "an exceptionally well-preserved example" of a trading port in the 15th-19th centuries and "an outstanding material manifestation of the fusion of cultures over time."

The town has been named by several magazines including Smart Travel Asia and Wanderlust among the world's most favorite tourism destinations.

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