It was pouring again this morning, but we were determined to see the Hoi An old quarter during the day.
Here is a brief description from the UNESCO site, then my own observations:
Hoi An Ancient town is located in Viet Nam’s central Quang Nam Province, on the north bank near the mouth of the Thu… It is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a small-scale trading port active the 15th to 19th centuries which traded widely, both with the countries of Southeast and East Asia and with the rest of the world…
The town reflects a fusion of indigenous and foreign cultures (principally Chinese and Japanese with later European influences) that combined to produce this unique survival.
The town comprises a well-preserved complex of 1,107 timber frame buildings, with brick or wooden walls, which include architectural monuments, commercial and domestic structures, an open market and a ferry quay, pagodas and family cult houses. The houses are tiled and the wooden components are carved with traditional motifs. They are arranged side-by-side in tight, unbroken rows along narrow pedestrian streets… The original street plan, which developed as the town became a port, remains… Typically, the buildings front the streets for convenient customer access while the backs of the buildings open to the river allowing easy loading and off-loading of goods from boats.
The surviving wooden structures and street plan are original, intact and present a traditional townscape of the 17th and 18th centuries, unique in the region.
And we love it. We started off our morning looking for better rain gear. I graduated from the pale-green, thin plastic to a thicker, deep blue plastic – a very stylish poncho. Thanks to Linh at our homestay, we had huge umbrellas. Totally prepared, we stood on a corner and watched a community, local business-sponsored parade, then on to an Australian-run fresh juice cafe. A chocolate-chai latte and a beet-ginger juice later, we set out in the rain. We made it as far as across the street and were forced to stop in Avana, a Western-style clothing boutique. Chris was working and with infinite patience, she and Rachelle dressed me. Rachelle also found some pieces she loved and Chris arranged for a local tailor to adjust hems for her. A new wardrobe and hours later we emerged and found that the rain had stopped.
Attn: Elan and Adam – Rachelle promised to go through my closet with me and do a major purge.
We went to the Morning Glory for lunch, probably the best restaurant in town (thank you Rachel Kahn). We had such a good lunch, green mango salad, shrimp in young coconut, and a paper thin, translucent vegetable-filled rice crepe. Then across the street to a dessert place (same owner) for creme brûlée and Vietnamese coffee, all that shopping was tough work…
We went up and down alleys, did a bit of bargaining and fell in love with an 8-week old puppy. Thinking of bringing him home instead of the usual tchotchkes.
we happily ran into Valentina and Dina, our Russian friends from Switzerland. We had not seen them since our Hanoi city tour so it was fun to catch up. They were with a lovely Australian woman, and we all went out for a beer.
Walking back to the center of town, all the lights went off, something about International Earth Hour? Most of the shops and restaurants closed and it got very dark, almost frighteningly dark. We ducked back into the juice bar, they were closing…
Eventually, we found a restaurant down an alley and in a courtyard. It was a beautiful place with tables surrounding a lily pond. The lights were on, they were staying open, so we ate a light dinner there. It was late, this time we took a taxi back to our place.