Conde Nast readers love Hoi An

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Hoi An's old Chinese Inn was featured by Condé Nast Traveler recently

One of the world's leading travel magazines, Condé Nast Traveler, has ranked Hoi An as the second most popular city in Asia after Japan's Kyoto, based on a readers' poll.

It is quite a leap for the Vietnamese coastal city, given that it just entered the magazine's top ten last year and the poll this year received double the amount of votes.

"Readers fell in love with the "˜colorful houses and old mansions,' which "˜felt like walking in a movie,'" Condé Nast Traveler said in its 26th annual survey, which collected votes from nearly 80,000 international readers.

Hoi An, recognized by UNESCO in 1999 as a World Cultural Heritage Site, won a rating of 79.9 out of 100, or only 1.7 points behind Kyoto. Its culture scored 87.3, friendliness 84.3, atmosphere 90.9, restaurants 73.1, lodging 80.3 and shopping 68.4.

Siem Reap was the last of the top ten, which also included Bangkok, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Chiang Mai, Singapore, Luang Prabang (Laos), and Ubud (Indonesia).

The Huffington Post had previously listed Hoi An as one of seven must-visit places in Vietnam. The magazine called it "Vietnam's hidden gem."

Ngo Thien Phong, a guide from Vietnam's leading travel agency Saigontourist who frequents Hoi An, said it was easy to feel the excitement of the foreign tourists in the city at any time.

Phong said that one winning charm of Hoi An, which was a major Asian port and cultural exchange center between East and West from the 2nd-19th centuries, was that its houses have retained their unique old structure that carries a combination of traditional Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese characteristics.

"Foreign tourists told me they felt like walking amid the calm, peaceful 17th century scenes that they read about," he said, according to a Tuoi Tre report.

"Tourists talked to each other a lot about the allure of Hoi An, so anytime there have been floods or typhoons and I had to tell a group that they could not visit, they were unable to hide their regret."

Sivan Askayyo, a New York-based travel photographer, called Hoi An the Vietnamese version of Venice, without the gondolas on the canals.

"There was something very magical to walk along the narrow streets of this town, with its yellow-colored walls of the old buildings and the colorful lanterns, which are the trademark of this town," Askayyo wrote in The Huffington Post after her visit during the full moon festival after Tet 2012.

River cruises, visits to trade craft villages, and spending time with local people are the main tourist draws in Hoi An. 

From Hoi An, people can make a day trip to the Champa kingdom ruins in My Son and Hue, the former imperial capital of Vietnam where the last ruling family of Vietnam was based until 1945.

Hoi An was also honored by UN Habitat as a scenic city of 2013 on Friday for its sustainable development, unpolluted air and peaceful life. The official recognition ceremony will be held in Japan next month, according to the town's Party leader Nguyen Su.

Louk Lennaerts, who has been working on hospitality projects in Hoi An for 18 years as a director of Ho Chi Minh City-based consultancy firm Serenity Holding, said Hoi An attracts tourists thanks to its pace of life.

Lennaerts called the town a sleeping beauty and that its slow changes made people feel like they were walking into an oasis, just steps from the busy, noisy world.

He expressed his concern that the typical atmosphere could be lost when the more tourists come to enjoy it, gradually transforming old houses into restaurants, bars, café.

There must be recreational places, but their number must be controlled, he told Tuoi Tre.

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