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Published: December 21st 2009
An hours flight and a 45 minute taxi ride took us to Hoi An, a very pretty riverside town. Hoi An is firmly on the tourist trail and has changed a lot since we were there last. (We still loved it though!) On the drive from the airport it was very noticeable - the road was now 4 lanes and was edged with large resorts, a golf course and many signs advertising future developments. We visited Hoi An to spend some time (and my birthday) with my cousin Ros and her husband Michael. Ros was spending 3 months in Hoi An doing voluntary work with a charity working with handicapped people. They had booked us into the small hotel they were staying in - it was very comfortable at 10 Aussie dollars a night - and situated ten minutes walk from the restaurants which edged the river bank. A grin from Michael greeted us before we met Ros at a nearby cafe - we were to have many meals there (great food and cheap draught beer with very friendly owners) during our time in Hoi An. A great night followed - lots of chat and laughs. It was great to see
Next morning we crossed the river with Ros and Michael where Jerry helped Michael and some of the Vietnamese people involved with Ros's organisation move some furniture from a building they had been using as a school which the government was pulling down due to flood damage. Hoi An has had 2 very bad floods this year. The government had given the organisation another building to house their school in whilst their original premises were rebuilt. All the existing furniture was loaded onto a hand cart and pulled down the street to its new temporary home. It seemed to be a challenge to the young Vietnamese men to load and balance as much onto the hand carts as possible each trip!
After Ros went to work we had an enjoyable day wandering and exploring the streets of the town. It's still a very pretty town, lovely old Chinese style houses, mostly painted in shades of yellow. The river had been lined with fishing nets hanging from bamboo poles last visit - they have now gone and new restaurants and guest houses have sprung up along the river bank. The streets were quite busy with lots of tourists wandering
the shops. The shops were lovely - literally dozens of tailor shops, jewelers and shops with rows of brightly coloured leather shoes. Hoi An is renowned for it's tailor shops - in 24 hours and for a few hundred dollars you can get a complete made to measure wardrobe. The shoes are also made to measure. It's a big industry here!
Another fun night followed, my birthday was celebrated over another lovely meal, before Ros and I left the men and headed into town for yet another glass of wine. Mike and Jerry did some male bonding over a few (!) draught beers..... And a great night was had by all. It was raining the next day - quite heavily at times - and Jerry and I decided to get measured for some clothes. It's hard not to in Hoi An - unfortunately once we started we found it hard to stop. The quality of the tailoring is very good and the prices make the whole process quite addictive. I was still getting clothes made the morning we left! We ended up with a big box of clothes to post home by the time we left the city.
day was a repeat of the previous - lots of laughter and fun, a touch of sight seeing and some more tailor shops. Mike and Jerry left Ros and I at the local market and went off to find a cafe on the river to watch the passing traffic. Ros and I got a touch of the giggles when a lady in the market was determined to sell Ros a pair of shoes despite the fact they were 2 sizes too small. We were waiting for the knife to come out so she could do a touch of surgery on Ros's toes. I doubt they've recovered yet! We found the men well into a few beers and doing a bit of selling them selves. They decided the more the merrier at the cafe and started a 'friendship circle' - encouraging all the passing tourists to stop and sample the beer. They did very well - at one stage there was quite a crowd of nationalities drinking with us - great for the restaurant owner but it caused a few problems with the cafes on either side. They thought the men were stealing their trade and ended up having a bit
of a fight with the lady who owned our drinking establishment. No blood was lost thankfully....
Later that evening we wandered along the riverbank and to the other side of the river - it was very pretty, particularly the row of shops which sold silk lanterns. They glowed with beautiful jewel tone sin the dark. Hoi An also is famous for making these lanterns, with bent bamboo frames upon which vivid silk fabric is glued. The lanterns actually fold down which make them very easy to carry so they make great souvenirs. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with Ros and Michael - they're great fun to be around and it was certainly good for Jerry to have some male contact after the months spent only with me. I thought that the shops were fabulous - they certainly are a highlight of any visit to the city. We didn't spend much time in any of the temples etc but we had seen them all before. The streets are lovely to walk throughas the inner city area has retained it's historical feel despite large tourist numbers. The large tourist hotels are well away from the centre so don't spoil the atmosphere. The
only downside was that it rained regularly whilst we were there. We had a flight booked to Ho Chi Minh City but had checked to see whether we could refund it as we debated about hiring a taxi and driver to take us to HCMC via the Central Highlands. It was possible but we decided not to due to the rainy weather. It was sad to say goodbye to my lovely relations - but we'll see them again in Toowoomba - but our visa expiry date was drawing closer and we still had a few places we wished to visit in Vietnam.
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