Considering himself a “countryman,” Mr. Nguyen Su, 55, has been living with and has been exerting efforts to maintain the soul of Hoi An ancient town for 30 years. Mr. Nguyen Su has recently received the “Phan Chu Trinh cultural award” for his contribution to preserve and develop Hoi An, a world cultural heritage site.
Mr. Nguyen Su (middle) introduces the Cu Lao Cham Isle to visitors.
Su was born and grew up in Hoi An. The little boy studied at school in the morning and worked on the alum field on the afternoon.
Graduating from a teacher training college, he became a math-physics teacher at a secondary school in the central province of Quang Nam. Working as a teacher for less than one year, the southwestern border war broke out. The young teacher joined the army and went to Cambodia for nearly three years.
In 1980, Su returned home with great enthusiasm to build his hometown. He went through many positions in the local government, from a youth union leader to a chairman of a commune, financial manager, etc. He was appointed as the chair of Hoi An town twice. He is now in his second term as the Party Secretary of the town.
In the time of urbanization, while some locations are turning rice fields into residential areas, in Hoi An, Su is trying to maintain the peaceful and green environment of the countryside in order to create the special charm for Hoi An and to develop agriculture-based tourism.
“My policy is assisting my people to earn income from culture. Coming to Hoi An, local and international visitors will not only live in the low living rhythm of the ancient town, but will also be feel the hospitality of Hoi An residents,” Mr. Su says.
Thanks to Su’s policies, Hoi An has restored the Tra Que vegetable village, the Thanh Ha pottery village, etc. which are now tourist attractions. Unique tours to Tra Que village to practice as farmers or coming to Thanh Ha village to make pottery have contributed to raising income to local people.
“Since the vegetable village was restored, many families have built villages and earned high incomes. Mr. Su deserves credit to restoring the village,” says Mr. Tran Van Tra, a farmer in Tra Que village.
For many years being a leader of Hoi An, Mr. Su’s biggest concern has been how to develop while preserve Hoi An’s unique culture. He always wishes that each Hoi An resident can become a “cultural ambassador” to develop the ancient town through the tourism industry.
Mr. Su believes that Hoi An’s specialty is not only its ancient relics but the people, who are simple, close and civilized.
Asking any Hoi An’s resident about Mr. Su, all of them would show their respect to him. Mr. Nguyen Van Ly, who owns a shop on Tran Phu road, Hoi An town, recalled: “Several years ago, Mr. Su banned vehicles from getting into ancient streets and asked all households to turn off the lights on the night of a full moon. We protested his decisions because we though that they would affect our revenue. But in recent years we have realized that the streets for pedestrians and the full moon nights have become Hoi An’s attraction and they have brought about high revenue for us.”
Mr. Su says that in 1998, he accidentally discovered the fanciful beauty of Hoi An in a full moon night. The idea of creating special full moon nights in the ancient town flashed in his mind. He asked local people to turn of the light on the full moon night. Local residents strongly protested the decision but they began turning to support him since the fourth time. Thanks to Mr. Su’s decision, Hoi An’s tourism revenue has soared, to VND40 billion ($2 million) a year.
“Without Mr. Nguyen Su, we would have been unable to maintain a Hoi An as it is today. Mr. Nguyen Su represents the essence of Hoi An people: intelligence, enthusiasm but suppleness and honesty. He can do many good things for the ancient town because he wins local people’s heart. There are not many officials like him, who is honest, loves the people, respects and understands the value of cultural preservation,” comments writer Nguyen Ngoc.
Mr. Nguyen Su has recently received the “Phan Chu Trinh cultural award” for his contribution to preserve and develop Hoi An, a world cultural heritage site.
The Phan Chau Trinh Culture Foundation, run by the Viet Nam Union of Science and Technology Associations, instituted the awards in 2008.
The awards honor the national hero, poet and cultural expert Phan Chu Trinh, a native of central Quang Nam Province. Born in 1872, Chinh was a reformer who fought in the resistance movement against the French when he was very young. He devoted all of his life to the country’s modernization cause.
In 2005, Mr. Su was presented the Labor Hero title for his achievement in maintaining and preserving Hoi An.