Hoi An

Hoi An

Friday, Nov 28th (continued)

We arrived in Hoi An just before 2:00 pm and checked into the beautiful Anantara hotel. After a small late lunch overlooking the wide delta of the Thu Bon River in front of the hotel, we were picked up again by our guide Phoac for an afternoon walk through the old town of Hoi An.

Hoi An is an amazingly well preserved city, which looks like it has not changed much in the last 400 years. Most of the buildings date from the 17th century. Hoi An was the commercial capital and principal port of the Cham Kingdom, and became a major international trading port in the 16th and 17th century. Trading ships often got stuck here for weeks or months during monsoon seasons. As a result many of the traders built residences and trading houses along the river. The architecture thus has Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, French, Portuguese as well as Cham and Vietnamese influences. The city was awarded World Heritage status by Unesco in 1999. Nowadays the ground floors of most of the buildings have been turned into gift shops, tailor shops, restaurants and art galleries, but many are still occupied by the same families, that have been living here for seven or more generations.

We walked over the beautiful covered Japanese bridge, which has a little Buddhist shrine built into it. And we stopped at several Chinese temples in the city. The Chinese were the main traders here, and there are still many ethnic Chinese living here.

The city gets flooded on a fairly regular basis. We see marks on the ground floor walls in some of the houses indicating the high water levels during major floods. There were at least six or seven of those marks at about my height just in the last 15 years.

We also walked through the very busy market here, where women are selling every imaginable produce (while the men seem to spend most of their day smoking and playing dominoes).

We finished the day with lovely dinner in the hotel restaurant.

Saturday, Nov 29th
This morning we went on a bike ride through the country side around Hoi An. Our guide was waiting for us at 9:00 am with the bikes in front of the hotel. We rode for a couple of kilometers through town, and then put our bikes on a small ferry. The ferry was cramped full with people, mopeds and bikes. At least we thought is was completely full, but they kept putting more and more mopeds and people on board before finally taking off across the river. The ferry took us upriver for a little while, before we got off on the other side.

It was another beautiful sunny day today. We were extremely lucky with the weather here. It actually was the middle of the monsoon season, and every guidebook tells you not to visit Vietnam in November, because of the torrential downpours (and that is exactly what the weather forecast predicted for the next five days.).

Our bike ride took us through a very rural area. We stopped a few times along the way to see how local people live here. Our first stop was in a small house where they make rice noodles. They have a small mill that grinds the rice into a milky paste. The mill they have now is electric, but the lady showed us the old manual mill as well. They then put the liquid rice paste on a hot stove and spread it around like a pancake. This turns it into a soft and thin sheet, which they then cut into strips to make rice noodles.

We also stopped and took pictures of some ladies attending to their sweet potato fields and cutting up some sort of leaves. They seemed very amused by us taking pictures of them. Next we saw how they make carpets out of straw here. The lady (yes, like in most developing countries around the world, it is mainly the women who seem to be working) cut each piece of long grass skillfully in half lengthwise. Then they dry it, dye it and weave it into colorful straw mats.

We passed a small fishing village watching people fix their nets. We saw lots of tiny canoes each with one or two fishermen in it throwing nets into the river. There are also large constructions with hanging nets, which are lowered into the river and lifted up again using a stationary bicycle like contraption.

At the end of our little bike tour a small boat was waiting for us which took us back to town. We got back to the hotel just after noon and had the rest of the day to ourselves. After lunch and some R&R by the pool we went on another afternoon walk through town. While Hoi An is absolutely beautiful during day light, it turns really spectacular after dark. The entire city is lit up with thousands of colorful lantern, and the children here sell little paper candle lights, which are then floated down the river.

We concluded another gorgeous day with a nice Vietnamese dinner at the Cargo Club restaurant, which has a balcony overlooking the river. The next morning we were picked up from the hotel early for the 30 min drive to the Da Nang airport for our flight to Hong Kong.

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