Vietnam was never on our travel list until many friends told us of their wonderful experiences there. Being American, we had some misgivings about going there. But when we needed a restful holiday with a little culture mixed in, we decided to try it out. We are so glad we did!
We traveled in March so we had some rainy weather; that only added to the peacefulness we wanted. We flew from Singapore to Da Nang on Vietnam Airlines, a very pleasant experience on a new plane. We were picked up by a car and got to Hoi An (passing China Beach on the way) around 8 PM. On the advice of our friends, we stayed right in the Old Quarter of Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage site. From the UNESCO website:
Hoi An, an exceptionally well-preserved example of a traditional Asian trading port, is an outstanding material manifestation of the fusion of cultures over time in an international maritime commercial centre.
The town is a special example of a traditional trading port in South-East Asia which has been completely and assiduously preserved: it is the only town in Viet Nam that has survived intact in this way. Most of the buildings are in the traditional architectural style of the 19th and 20th centuries. They are aligned along narrow lanes of traditional type. They include many religious buildings, such as pagodas, temples, meeting houses, etc., which relate to the development of a port community. The traditional lifestyle, religion, customs and cooking have been preserved and many festivals still take place annually.
Our hotel, the Ha An:
Everything is so pretty, with fresh roses everywhere:
On Sunday morning we headed out on bikes, looking for the Catholic church. We got there just as Mass was starting, so we enjoyed hearing the liturgy in Vietnamese, in addition to smiling at how the congregation sat: women on left, men on right!
We spent relaxing 4 days in this lovely town, riding bikes, site-seeing, reading, shopping, eating and enjoying $1 beers. Although the major industry here is tourism and we were surrounded by visitors from all over the world, it never felt cheap or staged. Hoi An is nicknamed "The Lantern City."
The local people really wear those cone-shaped bamboo hats - perfect sunshade that lets the breeze go through - and traditional pajama-style clothes. They ride bicycles and scooters; they only shop at the wet market and usually eat from vendors on the street.
This lady is selling little tiny seashell creatures cooked with hot chillis; you eat them with a toothpick:
Choosing wood to burn as incense:
Drying noodles and selling fresh fish:
Some baby chickens?
And making lanterns
We stopped for a rest at "Reaching Out," a coffee shop run by deaf/mute servers. Outside is a typical delivery person. Across the street is a wood-carver's shop:
A some newer monuments:
Enjoy the photos!
Broken China Mosaics!
And how about this power pole?
Trademark (?) bar and cafe:
The 15th Century Japanese Bridge
Another pretty temple (with mosaics)
Two happy guys:
And relaxing in our favorite ways:
The "Cyclo" drivers
And a tour
Shopping for some local art:
We got a collection of brush paintings of the 4 seasons (price = the cheapest bottle of wine in S'pore...)
A few parting nighttime shots:
From Hoi An, we took a one day tour to Hue, the last Imperial Capital. Next report coming soon!!