Hoi An, Vietnam
Mar 22, 2007
|From Nha Trang, we caught 'The Reunification Express',
an 11 hour overnight journey to Da Nang. Sharing our cabin with a Vietnamese mother and her squawking one-year old, we thought we'd get little sleep as we settled down in our respective narrow bunks (designed for little people)
. Fortunately, some serious rocking and several gentle lullabies later, and baby clonked out for the night, leaving the noise-making to Alan whose snoring competed vigorously with the frequent clanking and de-coupling of the train. Come morning and it was a scenic journey
through verdant countryside and increasingly rolling hills until arriving at Da Nang from where we shared a cab to Hoi An, a bustling seaside port and trading centre since the 16th century, and since 1999, a World Heritage site.
We had been chatting to a Dutch woman in Nha Trang who'd recommended a 'homestay' called Betel Garden,
just outside Hoi An itself so we made our way there and have since spent five days here, partly because there has been a serious decline in the weather all over SE Asia, and partly because we couldn't decide where to go next. However, it's actually a very nice little town, famous for its quality tailoring, art and a fusion of Chinese,
Japanese, Vietnamese and European influences due to its strategic importance as a former trading port. With little to do except shop, eat and sightsee, we have taken more advantage of the former two than the latter.
Our homestay is luxurious and the sizeable family whose home it is has built a beautiful garden and the numerous family members are continually busy doing things around the place. On arrival, we were invited to join in a sumptuous feast to celebrate their ancestors, clearly of considerable importance given that much of the ground floor of their main house is given over to an ancestor shrine. The family is incredibly friendly with the exception of 'granny' who views Alan and I with a staring curiosity.
The inclement weather
has 'forced' us to take refuge in the many beautiful shops and even Alan has got into the spirit of shopping, having had nine (yes, nine) shirts handmade to his very own design
. In fact, he was such a good customer that the Vinh Thinh tailoring family presented him with a bouquet of flowers for his birthday
(or possibly, the cynic might say, because we are not hard bargainers!)
The inclement weather has put somewhat of a 'hold' on sightseeing activities as Marble Mountain, and My Son - a Champa Kingdom ancient ruin, have been shrouded in heavy mist and drizzle most of the day. instead, we got up very early one morning to stroll through the local market which was, in itself, a feast for the eyes.