Monday, 19 December 2011

HHHHH - Hanoi to Hoi An

We are getting rather comfortable spending the night on trains so we arrived back in Hanoi from Sapa unscathed and in time for breakfast at our favourite hotel of all time the Calypso.  After breakfast we set off for a quick and painless flight to Hoi An, a relatively small city in central Vietnam close to the infamous China Beach.   Hoi An is a UNESCO world heritage site and is very much a tourist destination.  We enjoyed it (when we were not too sick to do so) but we thought it seemed to lack a bit of the local life that was a big part of Hanoi and Sapa.

The charming city is an ancient trading port that at one point had a very significant Japanese and Chinese presence and you can see both of these influences in the architecture.   Hoi An is loaded with beautifully preserved wooden structures that line a lovely riverfront.  One of the best things about Hoi An (in our humble opinion) is that the riverfront area does not allow vehicles – wow – no horns and in Vietnam!    We had a nice evening strolling through the motor bike free alleyways and marvelling at the architectural delights as well as at all of the well merchandised “stuff” for sale.  The art galleries were awesome as were the crafts and clothing.  The streets were adorned with colourful paper lanterns which added to the pretty picture.  There were also an abundance of  great restaurants.  We even found a place with some of the best deserts so far on the trip.

Unfortunately on day 2 in Hoi An things took a turn for the worse.  Rob was the first to fall ill and Eric followed.   They were both miserable with significant stomach issues.  Fearon and I looked after them as best as we could but there was not much we could do.  We left them to fend for themselves for a little while and strolled through the riverfront area checking out shops and temples along the way.

On day 3 Fearon was down and I soon followed.  We all felt close to death. We did recover but Eric spent his birthday still a little under the weather.  He was, however,  well enough to have some of the cake we managed to pull together.   The women at the hotel were ever so helpful and were delighted to help us celebrate. 

Rob came around and on day 4 he was well enough to meet up with the Australian friends we had originally met in Sapa.  They had a wonderful time together whilst the rest of us continued to roll around in agony at the hotel.  It took a while for us all to recover so our time in Hoi An was not a highlight of our trip.  When we all got back on our feet we did manage to get on some bikes and ride to China Beach and a few other places but we did not enjoy things as we would have had we been 100 percent.  To add insult to injury, the weather was not the best.  It was pretty gloomy and grey which added to our own darkness.

All was not by any means lost in Hoi An…….Hoi An is famous for its tailors and fabrics and when in Hoi An you have to have a lot of resolve to leave with nothing made to fit. With shop keepers approaching you every five seconds it becomes hard to resist.  We decided to bite the bullet and do a little shopping.  Four months and we haven’t really shopped yet.  Rob started things rolling as I was still not feeling up to tackling anything as demanding as making decisions about things like fabrics and styles.  He found a fellow with whom he connected and had quite a lot of fun picking out fabrics and styles for a few things that he would not likely get in Victoria, at a fraction of the price.  I went with him the next day and before I knew it I was on the back of a motorbike being scooted around Hoi An looking for just the right fabric for what I wanted.   It was quite a process but after lots of discussion and a number of fittings we were happy.  The people we worked with were awesome and it was fun to get to know them. We had a number of things made and sent back to Canada.  We just hope they fit when we get there!

We have found it interesting throughout the trip to see how people deal the bombardment of water that they face on a relatively routine basis during the wet season.  Hoi An is subject to frequent flooding and although it was not flooded when we were there it was interesting to find out from shop keepers and restaurant owners how they manage when the water seeps in and fills their establishments.  Apparently they usually know when it is going to happen and they have things set up so that everything on the first floor can easily be moved to higher ground.  All of the wiring and electrical outlets are also placed high enough to ensure electrical things remain problem free.  Although it was not flooding when we were there the river was overflowing its banks and a large section of the road would be underwater for a part of each day.  A little bit of water did not stop the school girls below.

The lady above would not have a lot to move if the waters entered her restaurant.

We left Hoi An and caught the train from nearby Danang to Nha Trang, a beach area further down the coast.  On the way to the train station we stopped at Marble Mountain, a tourist destination well known for its caves, Buddhist sanctuaries and stone carvings.  Had we been well we would have visited Marble Mountain earlier on in our stay in Hoi An.  It was really beautiful and we enjoyed the short time we had there.

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