Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Day Eight - Hoi An - Vietnam

We woke up today in our beautiful hotel the Vinh Hung Emerald Resort in Hoi An. I set the alarm early so that we could get out and see the sights before the midday heat. We hired some bikes from a stall opposite our hotel and made our way off the island and into Hoi An's old town. We purchased a ticket just over the bridge that allowed us to visit five of Hoi An's main points of interest.

We cycled alongside the river passing people walking with baskets full of vegetables to sell at the town's market a bit further up the road. Fishing boats followed us along the river crossing over with ferries transporting people and mopeds over the river to one of the other islands that's busy with people making clothing, jewellery, boats and other goods. We cycled through the busy market selling everything from vegetables for the locals to watches and and handmade jewellery for the tourists.

Our first stop was the Hoi An Craft and Manufacturing Workshop which is based in a traditional building just off one of the narrow side streets. Hoi An's famous for making things and here you get to see some of the products the towns famous for being made by locals. The first thing that catches your eye is a vast variety of lanterns hanging from the ceiling in all different shapes and colours. A girl sat underneath them making one from local bamboo and embroidered silks.

We carried on through the workshop passing colourful bamboo sculptures, pearl and other hand made jewellery, hand painted crockery and small marble sculptures. I could have bought everything here but resisted as our bags are already too heavy!

We got back on our bikes and proceeded down the narrow streets of Hoi An. The streets are lined with brightly coloured buildings and beautiful vines of flowers connecting each side of the street together making it feel like a tunnel in places. Women sit in the street burning money (mainly American dollars!) and other things their dead relatives may need in the afterlife. Incense sticks trails drift across the street and the aroma from them becomes heavy whenever you pass one of the many temples of Hoi An.

We next stopped at The Japanese Covered Bridge that dates back to the 17th Century. This is probably one of the most photographed and well known of Hoi An's historic highlights.

We then cycled round the corner to Quang Trieu which was an assembly hall of the Cantonese Chinese congregation founded in 1976. It has a big airy entrance that takes you through a small archway and into an area that opens out and hosts a massive mosaic sculpture of a dragon and carp. Beyond this there is an altar dedicated to Quan Cong which has locals around offering prayer.

We then cycled further down the road stopping to look in jewellery stores and gift shops along the way. The next stop was Phuc Kien a Chinese all-community assembly hall used since 1773. The huge temple at the back has large spiralling incense sticks hanging down from the ceiling above a variety of beautiful sculptures including a horse and traditional Chinese wooden boat. All of this is dedicated to Thien Hau.

Our last stop was the Museum of Hoi An's History and Culture a small but informative museum outlining the main historical events in this little towns history. We learned that Hoi An - the town of Quang Nam province has 121,000 inhabitants dwelling in an area of sixty square kilometres consisting of nine small islands, two mainland villages and one main island village. Records and archeological excavation date the town back to the Champa's in the 2nd and 15th century as well as the Dai Viet later in the 15th to 19th century. Domestic and foreign traders flocked to the town for trading in the Dai Viet time making Hoi An become an important trading town.
Hoi An is now one of Vietnams oldest towns and remains largely in tact (hence the world heritage status) There are more than 1000 precious monuments in both the urban and rural area of the town as well as a vast collection of treasures and artefacts of the town and country to be found in its temples and museums.
The heat started to intensify and we had another fitting at the tailors. We both had our coats and suits first fitted in less than 12 hours after our first measurements were taken the evening before. The pieces looked great and only a few amendments were taken down. We returned to our hotel for some lunch and to laze by the pool before we returned for our final fitting after lunch.
We returned to Kimmy's tailors for our final fitting where everything was perfect. We would have our pieces finished by the evening with just button holes etc to be added. The whole process took less than twenty four hours and I can't rate the team highly enough.

We decided to go for a bike ride to the famous beaches of Hoi An in the afternoon which took us along side the river to the coastline. The road navigated through rice fields and smaller settlements with the usual bars and shops dotted along side. We stopped at one of the beach resorts for a drink before returning to the town on our bikes - it was too hot to bathe in the sun! After a couple more hours relaxing in our hotel we returned to pick up our clothing form the tailors and post it via DHL - we should arrive in the UK a week before our clothing does!

In the evening we went in search of somewhere to eat (your spoilt for choice here). We ended up stumbling upon a place called Morning Glory which you enter on the street and go into a huge open room with three floors above. The edge of the square at the bottom is lined with various different stalls each cooking a different speciality. Some had woks and cooked noodle stir fries others made seafood and traditional soups - there must have been over a dozen of them. Upstairs there is also a seafood restaurant again with its own market. During the day this place hosts a cookery class which you collect all your ingredients from the market stalls before going upstairs for lessons in how to cook Vietnamese style. I wish we were here longer as I would have loved to do this course as well as eat here another few times! The food was amazing and Jamie and I tried to get through as much of the menu as possible! There wasn't one thing on the extensive menu that I wouldn't have said no to (apart front the duck egg embryo perhaps!). I can't recommend this restaurant enough we both agreed its the best and most interesting place we have eaten.

We returned to our hotel after and sat and watched the river traffic die down for the night before getting some sleep. The following day we will be flying from Danang to Saigon or Hoi Chi Ming City if you prefer as we make our journey slowly over the next few days into Cambodia.

Location:Đường Ngô Quyền,,Vietnam

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