Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Romance of Hoi An

The World Heritage town of Hoi An is a lovely place to visit with your sweetie. There is little to do here but wander the tiny museums, peruse the many adorable shops, and lounge in the many cafes and restaurants. If you're sticking around for a few days and are so inclined, this is also a fantastic place to have custom clothes sewn for you. There are many, many, MANY tailors in town with floor to ceiling selections of fabric, and they're eager to get you into their shop. You can bring photos of anything you want made or work with them to design something new and a few days later you'll walk away with an outfit (or ten) made just for you at a fraction of the cost something like this would cost you back home. You can even have shoes made for you, if you're feeling ambitious. One seamstress who was trying really hard to sell me on some clothes even said that she can keep my measurements on file and I could place future orders with her via mail as many times as I wished, but with backpack real estate being at a premium for me, I had to turn her offer down.

I arrived in town early in the morning after a fairly hellish overnight train from Nha Trang where my small cabin was filled with screaming children who refused to sleep all night, a drippy AC on hyper-drive and the beginnings of a cold. Romance of any sort was the farthest thing from my mind, but the homestay I'd found could not have been nicer and the hosts friendlier, so I took a shower and a nap and headed out to explore. Since the entire town is a World Heritage site, you have to buy a day pass to visit any of the museums, but it's not expensive and it does look like a good amount of restoration is happening so the money is going into the right hands. I visited a few of the museums, but none left a really big impression on me and I liked walking the alleyways and people watching more than moseying along dark and dusty corridors with a few relics sprinkled in. 

The many trishaws with sun covers are ready to take you where you want to go
should you grow tired of walking in the heat

Of course there had to be a lovely market in town for fresh fruit and local produce

Aside from tailors, this town is full of lantern makers and you can find 
lanterns in any size, shape or form. If after perusing all the shops you still
can't find what you like, there are several shops that will help you make your own.

A quiet temple without any tourists buried deep within the alleyways of town

Wooden frames wait to be turned into more lanterns

The locals will happily pose for pictures for you, even if you don't ask, 
but then you'll have to buy lots and lots of fruit.

Large fishing nets are set up all along the waterways. These get lowered into the
water an then lifted after some time with whatever was swimming past caught up inside

A specialty found only in Hoi An, the White Rose Dumplings or Bahn Bao Vac, 
make for a wonderfully light and yet filling afternoon snack.

I don't know how these things are made, but these fried shrimp spring rolls
tasted like they were wrapped in delicious lace and melted in your mouth

At night, as with most places in SE Asia, the city truly comes alive. The air is cooler, all the lanterns are lit and vendors sell floating wishing candles along the river. For a few dollars you can buy several, light them, make your wishes and set them afloat on the water using specially designed scoops. You can also rent a little boat and launch your wishes by hand, floating lazily along the water among them. Couples pose for pictures in the many picturesque niches in town and friends meet for drinks and raucous laughter at plastic tables in front of homey restaurants. Steadily getting sicker by the hour, this was the first time in a while that I really wished I had a friend or someone there with me.

It doesn't matter who you buy your wishes from, 
but the locals always have their favorites

Lovely photo op with the many glowing lanterns all around

Yep, this restaurant was called Dung. Yep, I'm immature.

Cool nylon sculptures lined the river sidewalks

And of course there's no limit to the lanterns this city can contain

City view from the balcony of my homestay

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