A little bit of down time in Hoi An during the rainy season, a note book and a pencil.
An hour’s drive from Hoi An is the ancient World Heritage Hindu site of My Son (pronounced Me Sohn). Seventy Cham temples were built between the 4th and 13th century. The twenty remaining temples are being restored under difficult circumstances given the area’s heat, humidity and propensity to flooding. In the 1930s, French archaeologists identified all of the periods represented at the site and began the first restoration work. In its original state, the site was comparable to temple complexes at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Borobodur in Indonesia and Bagan in Myanmar.
Around fifty of the temples were destroyed in August 1969 when My Son, known to be a base for North Vietnamese guerrilla fighters, was carpet bombed by American B52s. Bomb craters are evident across the site. Unexploded ordnances are known to exist in the surrounding areas.
Lanterns in the river : Lights out on the bridge : Wishes and hopes let loose under a full moon.
We loved the food and the atmosphere of Rosie’s Cafe so much that we returned there for breakfast this morning. The French Toast with jackfruit, strawberries, pineapple and banana was delicious.
As the sun was shining, we took an hour long boat ride up the river. It was a largely uneventful trip with minimal birdlife. Some local fisherman were doing anything but fishing, as we discovered, when they cast their net and suggested that they would do it again for a small fee.
There are a number of not-for-profit organisations working to promote the training of youth in the hospitality industry. Today we had lunch at Streets and enjoyed summer rolls, Cao Lau and a Banh Mi.
The Chua Phap Bao Pagoda was our next stop.
To assist with the conservation of the Old Town of Hoi An and to gain access to some of the historic buildings, the purchase of an Old Town ticket is required. This afternoon we used one of the five tabs on that ticket to visit the Tan Ky House, a two hundred year old building that has housed nine generations of the same family. It’s a mix of Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese design.
The family still lives in the house that is regularly subjected to flooding from the river. They have a pulley system installed to raise the ground floor furniture each time the river breaches its banks.
Last night after dinner in the company of a Canadian woman, we watched, from our “fresh beer” drinking vantage point, young couples participating in the Pot Breaking Game. Blindfolded and armed with a stick to smash a small clay pot, they competed for prizes of lanterns and purses amidst much hilarity when the target was missed. The position of the pot was adjusted to match the height of the contestant.
This place has a way of slowing down your pace when you stay for more than a few days. The rainy season also dictates whether a stroll is in or out of the question. This morning we ate breakfast at Rosie’s Cafe, a business venture started by two young Vietnamese women. They specialise in coffee, cold-pressed juices and all-day (until 3 pm) breakfasts.
Here are some of the highlights from this morning’s walk in the weather break, which included a wander through the food markets.
There are no surprises that it’s raining again today, so we venture out in what appears to be a break in the weather and take our chances.
At the Fukian Assembly Hall, lantern-like structures hang with blessings inside them, all of them burning at once. It is only when you look closely that you realise they are mosquito coils.
The rain returns and rushes down the roof tiles into the open spaces of the hall.
A damp walk to find some refreshments under cover before another opportunity arises to walk without becoming saturated.
We visit the Hoi An Folkore House down near the river and get a few more insights into the trading port that operated between the 15th and 19th centuries.
It may be raining here in Old Hoi An (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), but there’s still enough to keep you entranced in between the heavy showers. The vendors selling raincoats are doing a big trade today, as well as cafe and restaurant owners, as visitors take shelter and enjoy some of the finest Vietnamese food and beverages around. See below for more details.
Lunch today included this tuna wrapped in nori and rice paper served crispy with passionfruit, mint and yogurt sauce. followed by a mango salad with vermicelli noodles, crispy rolls, grilled pork with mango. The Vietnamese are experts at using fresh herbs to highlight flavours. And it’s always good to end a meal with a dense earthy coffee that benefits from the inclusion of condensed milk and ice.
We arrived in Hoi An this afternoon after a flight from Hanoi to Da Nang. The weather is hot and humid and we were grateful for a late afternoon breeze as we familiarised ourselves with the Old Town again after 13 years since our first visit. We fell across a couple of wedding photo shoots as the evening wore on. Dinner at the Rice Drum capped off a good day. And we’re looking forward to the Moon Festival on Friday night when more tiny water lanterns will be on display.
On the weekends, the roads around Lake Hoan Kien are closed to traffic, making it easier for people to enjoy the weekend activities in and around Hanoi.
We visited the Vietnamese Women’s Museum, had a chicken pho for lunch in a street cafe near St Joseph Cathedral and wandered up to the French Quarter before dinner at the Chim Soa Restaurant.
Legend Beer is one of the best viewpoints to watch the late afternoon traffic in Hanoi as five roads converge. Vendors, pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and car drivers jostle gently for position. Great entertainment.
After the five-ways, the roads around the Old Quarter seem quite tame.