Exploring the beautiful old city in Hoi An

Trip Start Jul 05, 2012
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Trip End Jun 19, 2013


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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Highlights

Hoi An, The Old City.
We arrived in Hoi An by sleeper bus from Nha Trang which took around 12 hours and involved very little sleep. The bus was better than others we've been in, but when your 6ft and the chair bed is 5 and there's no where for your legs to go it starts to hurt. It then took us ages to find a decent accomodation as we excelled ourselves in finding mouldy and dirty guesthouses. Eventually we found a nice one for 8 a night and spent the rest of the day checking out Hoi An, even though we were knackered! Hoi An is incredibly beautiful, probably the best looking town we've visited on our travels. All the buildings ooze charm and character and it's as if the whole place has been decorated by one person. All painted yellow with dark wooden doors and windows with pretty lanterns hanging from anywhere possible. There are hundreds of historical buildings that have been preserved and they look what they did centuries ago. We didn't have time to see everything so we chose 5 places and paid about 4. We visited 2houses, 2 assembly halls and a family chapel. The halls are now used as temples but not to pray to gods but to their ancestors. They are beautifully painted in deep reds and brights golds and we could have easily spent hours photographing them. We spent some time walking around the local market, as always a very hectic but exciting place. In terms of shopping Hoi An is famous for its tailors, every 5 minutes we would have someone ask us where were from, how long were here (24h+ and they can make you a suit) and if you wanted to take a look in their shop. I tried to explain numerous times I do not need a suit, backpacking in a suit does not work haha. We managed to buy a new backpack which seems decent quality (time will tell) for 300,000 dong (9). In the evening we enjoyed a sugar cane juice drink by the river which flows through the old city. At night Hoi An is at its most beautiful with all the lanterns lit up and a great atmosphere around town.

Meeting Mr Phoung.
During our dinner one evening an old man came over to our table and gave us a rather used book to look at. Before saying what he wanted he told us to read his comments book, after reading about 400 reviews thanking him and his family we started to get confused as to what he was offering. 10 minutes later after we finished our starters he told us that he takes tourists to his village for a tour and to find out all about Vietnamese life and also his wife throws a huge lunch. We were sold as soon as food was mentioned (we are loving Vietnamese cuisine). So for $15 each we were picked up from our hotel by Mr Phuong and his ancient friend and met another swedish couple and headed off 15km to his village. The journey was somewhat pleasant for myself but when we got there I learnt that Mark had to hold on for dear life, as his 80year old driver decided to get the most out of his moped. When we arrived we were introduced to Mr Phuongs family including his incredibly cute grandson and invited to sit down in his dining room. He showed us all his books tourists have sent him from around the world and then told us his life story and Vietnams history. It was incredibly interesting, Mr Phuong fought in the American war for the South Vietnam army with the help from the Americans. After the Communists regained power and Vietnam became a whole country again he spent a year in prison to re educate his mind and follow the communist regime. The communist party have banned religion in Vietnam so Mr Phuong prays to his ancestors and gods of his house/garden/ghosts. We got a tour of his village and was shown where people make rice wine and the market too. In the afternoon we were welcomed home with a big feast. Fish in tomato and garlic sauce, morning glory, fried veg, rice crackers with crab, prawn soup, tofu in a spicy sauce and of course steamed rice. We were truly stuffed and very happy we met Mr Phuong as we had such a lovely day. We promised him we would post a book of the tales of robin hood when we got back home lol.

Food.
It's official I can now use chopsticks and I'm even better than Jade!!! It literally took me under 1 hour to eat a bowl of noodles! Anyway we tried some of Hoi An's specialities they were Banh Xeo (mini shrimp omelette wrapped in a rice crepe with lettuce and fresh herbs dumped into chili sauce), Cao Lau (thick noodles with stewed pork, croutons and greens), White Rose (steamed minced shrimp dumpling served with dipping sauce), Fried Hoanh Thanh (crispy wontons). All the food we ate tasted incredible and mum, you will be getting a Vietnamese cookbook sent home for your Christmas present, plenty of time to practice before we're home. By the way did I mention I'm better at using chopsticks than Jade??

My Son
We took another tour to see the ruins of My Son about 30miles from Hoi An. For $7 we got a bus ride there, a boat trip back including a small lunch. The guide was much better on this tour, his english was great and you could hear him a mile away so it didn't feel like we were with 40 other people. The ruins are temples that's we're constructed before the time of Angkor Wat. Most our now ruins because the Americans bombed the area when the communist were hiding out here in the war. It was hard to take pictures because there was loads of people in a small place (even worse that at Angkor) but we enjoyed the day out none the less.
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