|We left Nha Trang and headed north up Route 1A for an eleven hour journey overnight. Going overnight had its pluses and minuses. The plus is that we got to "sleep" during a good part of the eleven hours and we didn't have to pay for a hotel. The minus was that we missed some gorgeous scenery to be sure. But we also missed seeing the sheer cliffs that fell to the sea from the side of the road. Route 1A is just like Route 1 in the US, it goes straight up the coast on the water. The road was very windy and rolled through the hills of Central Vietnam. From the window I could see homes that looked so peaceful with their Tet tree lights lit all night. Hard to imagine that in this beautiful stretch of Vietnam was where much of the fighting occurred and that it had been decimated only years before. When we arrived to our destination we fell in love with it. Hoi An must be one of the quaintest towns of all Vietnam. We settled into a great hotel for $7/night and decided to stay for a while. The whole town of Hoi An is itself a Unesco World Heritage Site. This riverside town was an important port on trading routes for the Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese and Japanese. Much of the architecture is of Chinese influence and the town is dotted with wooden houses from the 19th century. The old part of the town is closed off to cars although motorbikes and cyclos are allowed in but overall its very pedestrian friendly which is so unusual here. Now the town is most famous for its silk crafts. There must be literally hundreds of tailor shops and silk lantern shops. You can have absolutely anything made here for dirt cheap. A cute Ann Taylor type dress would go for $18, made to fit! And a business suit between $20-25. I'm sure I'll regret it when I return to my dismal wardrobe but all I got made was a pair of quick-dry travel capris with geckos embroidered on them. Brad also picked up a gecko shirt. But mostly we just walked around and soaked up the scene. The market was a great place to wander and take photographs. (In case you're wondering, we have seen very few chickens, none in the marketplace.) The food was also noteworthy and we enjoyed eating alfresco by the riverside. Hoi An is much more relaxed than other places we've visited in Vietnam and besides the tailor shops that try to get you to come in and look, very few people bothered us. In fact, we even made friends. The Vietnamese have this odd addiction to cooked watermelon seeds. They roast them and somehow die them red (for Tet) then they crack open the seed between their two front teeth and eat the inner seed. Who knew that there was an inner seed to a watermelon seed?! This seed cracking occurs everywhere and you can find red watermelon seeds all over keyboards at Internet cafes and all over sidewalks and streets. They are literally everywhere! (Oddly, the hundreds of watermelons that would account for all of these seeds, seem to be missing.) I tried very unsuccessfully to crack these seeds without destroying the inner seed -and my two front teeth. (Of course, Brad was gaining proficiency with every seed.) When some locals saw my unsucessful attempts they set about instructing me. When it appeared that I was never going to learn the art of watermelon cracking they decided to start cracking them for me. We sat with them for a while and they cracked seed upon seed for me. They had a whole coffee can full of seeds so I decided we had better cut out before we were there all night. We almost decided not to leave Hoi An. Brad was offered a job afterall. We may not have made it in Bollywood, but Brad almost made it in Vollywood. While we were having dinner on our last night Brad was approached by a very cool looking man who introduced himself to us as a casting director. Luckily for us we had seen them filming in an old house near our hotel so we knew he was for real. Turns out that a Vietnamese-American production company is filming a period piece that takes place in Indochina. They were looking for extras to be French soldiers and the casting director was, like everyone else, impressed with Brad's goatee and scruff and told him he could pass for a French soldier! He would have been paid $20US/day but they needed him for three days. So unfortunately we turned down the lucrative offer and the chance for Brad to become a Vietnamese film star. By the way, the movie is called The Rebel and should hit Vietnam by the end of this year and the US by the end of next. It will be in Vietnamese though with subtitles, so look in your foreign section. On our way back to our hotel we did stop again to watch the filming. It really was comical because they need absolute silence to tape even a small scene. But of course all the neighbors were seated outside their homes with their small children and barking dogs. And if the crew (and security and police) were successful in quieting the neighbors, all of a sudden a motorbike would fire up the engine and roar off. It took forever to film even a few exchanges, probably better that Brad didn't commit to 3 days of retakes! So if we hadn't already been in love with Vietnam, the quiet lazy town of Hoi An charmed us and will certainly be our favorite!