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Published: December 3rd 2011
Comical, conical hats balanced above aged and weather-worn faces. A wealth of colour and light; lanterns of irregular shapes reflected in puddles, decorating cobbled streets. Tailors, sweet-treat sellers and smart suited taxi drivers lining the streets, come day or night. Buildings old and intricate; showing their age in patches of damp, flaking paint. A candle floating on a paper lotus; carrying a single wish toward the Japanese bridge, past a hoard of tourists and travellers, photographing and being photographed. Hoi An is an elegant town which provides its’ guests with an insight into vintage Vietnam, the way things used to be.
We arrived in the rain after a long night bus I’d rather forget. We taxied to our hotel whilst outside in the damp air a woman, passenger on the moto with which we were parallel, chatted to us casually... and then came the big sell. Weary but not wanting to waste the day we showered, changed into fresh clothes and headed out for breakfast and general wanderings around town. We came across the market where a brassy woman wearing scarlet lipstick and an emerald coloured, traditional dress grabbed Dad and requested a photograph, after which she requested a dollar.
Not likely, love! The market itself was ankle deep in murky water. The recent rain had caused the river to burst its’ banks, as happens frequently each year. Later in our stay we ate (the most delicious pumpkin soup) in a riverfront restaurant which, two weeks earlier, had been submerged. The water level was proudly marked on the wall, including the date, standing on a par with my own height. In 2009 the restaurant was completely underwater and the owner told us that this year (with December still yet to go) he has been closed for a total of 16 days as a result.
That day, hours were spent strolling through the alleyways, perusing in clothing and curiosity shops (a dangerous game for the budget traveller), and picking up souvenirs for the family which Dad will take home, in case they should forget about us after all this time! The rain persisted but did not deter us, we’re British after all, and speaking on behalf of Chris and I, it was a pleasant relief following the three scorching months spent in Phnom Penh. On account of the relative wintry temperatures we welcomed the deep filled bowls of noodle soup
at lunch time after which I gave in to my bus-bruised and weary body and returned to the hotel to nap, Dad checked his emails and Chris went stalking the streets for rewarding photo opportunities.
Later that evening, in search of food we inspected some menus. A plump-faced woman told us that her food was the best in town, and we were sold. Sitting on a second story balcony with a great view of the street below I ate fresh spring rolls and a Hoi An local dish, the name of which I forget but can be simply depicted as a kind of egg pancake filled with vegetables. Dad and Chris, however, went all out ordering a hotpot each! Those growing lads inhaled the hearty portions and raved about the quality of the meal for many days to follow. Although they professed earlier the next day that they were still full from the night before and couldn’t manage the same again, we found ourselves the next night sat at the very same table with a further two hotpots. As we sat eating and enjoying the company we listened to a choir of children singing, unseen but nearby.
Hoi An’s charm lies in this ethereal, oriental atmosphere.
The final few hours of the evening passed with a number of card games and a number of beers. The exact number of beers I couldn’t tell you, as Dad is commendably working his way through every Vietnamese beer available, but as for the triumphs I can happily tell you I had six wins under my belt and that the losers were far from gracious in defeat... Not surprisingly they haven’t wanted to play since.
Being with Dad in Vietnam makes the trip all the more enjoyable. We have been away from home for a while now, and I really miss him when I’m away, and being from a family orientated clan (on both my paternal and maternal sides) it can be hard going at times to be away from them. Dad and I are two peas in a pod: the Vietnamese keep telling us that we have the same face, need I be reminded! He reads all of our blogs, so here’s a message for you Stevie, “You’re the best, Papa!”
Thus far in our Vietnamese adventures we have been through the city and the seaside, so
now it was time for a bit of culture. We took an hour long bus journey to the Cham holy land, “My Son”, similar in architecture to Angkor Wat but on a much smaller scale and much less impressive after having been to Angkor
only a few week previous. My Son is similar in many respects to Phnom Chiso
only it is less tranquil, with more tourists, and therefore less appealing for me. Nonetheless, the sun was shining, the temples pretty and it was a new experience for Dad, although he does not profess to be a great temple lover. We returned by boat, passing farmers working the land and fishermen in their frail-looking wicker boats.
Back on dry land Dad and I sat having a drink on the riverfront once again whilst Chris was busy talking on the phone with his own parents. We enjoyed the last light of the day, the most beautiful time when the sun is hazy and ochre. Then it was dinner time and an evening stroll which found us caught out in a sudden rain shower. We opted for a reasonably prompt bedtime as next morning in the early hours yet another bus would
be taking us north towards Hue, then onwards to Hanoi.
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