Falling deeper in love with Vietnam
Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
142Trip End Jun 18, 2011
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Our next destination is the UNESCO world heritage town of Hoi An, located about half way up Vietnam and about 4 kilometers away from the beach. Our guidebook describes Hoi An as the cultural heart of Vietnam and one of the country’s most beautiful locations; it was made UNESCO in 1999 to help protect its old character and incredible architecture. While we are here we have booked ourselves into a really nice hotel and although we arrived two and a half hours late on the bus, a guy from our hotel was there to meet us with a little board saying “Welcome to Hoi An, Mr Tom ”. We have only ever been met by our accommodation once before in Phuket so we felt like royalty to have a board with our name on! The hotel we are staying at is well known for the excellent customer service it offers and as soon as we arrived we were treated to a lovely welcome drink, fruit salad and home-made coconut macaroons! Our room is so sweet; it is full of quaint old furniture, there are little trinkets everywhere, we have our own bathroom and tv, the staff had made swans out of towels for us and best of all this room has something which we’ve not had since we left home…drum roll please…it has a bathtub!! This one of the main reasons we booked this place; before we caught Dengue Fever I had asked Tom if we could stay in a guesthouse with a bathtub as my birthday present but unfortunately it never happened, so I was doing cartwheels when I saw the tub at this hotel. I haven’t had a bath in over 10 months (I know, I smell very bad J) so before Tom had even taken his backpack off I was running my very first bubble bath since last September
Even though Vietnamese sleeper buses are very comfortable we were still really tired after our long journey and we slept most of our first day away. In the evening we ventured down into town to get some food. We don’t really like looking around a new town for the first time at night because it is difficult to get your bearings and easy to get lost. However experiencing Hoi An for the first time at night was the best thing we could have done! It is quite simply one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The old part of town runs alongside a river and at night the town in littered with Chinese lanterns hanging from the trees and buildings. Because Hoi An is a UNESCO site the town has to be decorated in a way which is sympathetic to a traditional way of life so cars are not allowed to drive into the old town, there are very few street-lights, no fast-food vendors, no convenience stores; everywhere is very romantically lit with glowing, old lanterns and there is traditional Chinese music played from a few speakers dotted around town. The whole town is very peaceful and serene. Along the river are statues of Asian mythological characters which are lit up softly at night and across the water cafes and restaurants are only lit by Chinese lanterns and candles: everything has a glow and softness that makes you feel warm inside. In the middle of town is an ancient Japanese bridge that is lit by dozens of red lanterns and next to it is a small stone platform which is used as a stage by local singers and musicians. As we wandered through the streets feeling more and more overwhelmed by it all we turned the corner and saw for the first time the Japanese bridge lit softly and next to it a lady singing and playing a traditional Asian guitar and for the first time in quite a while I cried out of happiness
There are three mains things to do in Hoi An: visit the temples and sights in the UNESCO old town, take a day tour to see some old ruins in the jungle called My Son and get some custom-made clothing made
Our hotel is turning out to be a real gem; every time we return to the hotel after a long day of wandering the streets they always have a 'present’ ready for us such as a fruit salad or smoothie and the staff are real charmers. And with each passing day we simply fall deeper and deeper in love with Hoi An and Vietnam as a whole. The Vietnamese people are some of the most hospitable, kind, funny and smiley people we have met so far, even if we can’t communicate with them very well just being in their company is a joy because they are so thoughtful. We have become good friends with the noodle lady over the past few days, so much so that every time we go she also gives us a free cup of tea from her own tea-flask which she brings to work with her. We’ve also been visiting a local café after we found that they serve mugs of freshly brewed beer at 9p a pop and have become friends with the lady that owns that one too. In all honesty since we have started to feel better our appetites have come back with a vengeance and for quite a few days we have been eating two evening meals: one from the noodle lady and then one from the cheap-beer lady! We’ve met some lovely people here and even in the short amount of time we’ve been here we’ve made quite a few friends and acquaintances, it’s nice when you feel so comfortable and happy in a place.