Saturday, February 11, 2012

Hoi An

Hoi An was magical!  I had high hopes for both our seaside resort and the nearby historic town of Hoi An, which we were to see during the monthly lantern celebration of the full moon.  We were definitely not disappointed.

First though we took a 14 hour overnight train to Danang.  We had a 4 person second class private compartment which was not terribly uncomfortable with a sheet, pillow and duvet per person.  Unlike European trains the bunks don't fold up, so during daytime hours we still lounged in them.  The worst part was that the windows were so grimy that it was hard to enjoy the fabulous view.  My only clear pictures were taken out the bathroom window (standing over the toilet and holding my breath.)

View through dirty window

While driving half an hour south from the train station in Danang to our (slightly faded) resort our driver pointed out the old American military base.  It turns out it was where my father was stationed during the war, missing my birth back home in Arkansas.

During our week in Hoi An we spent too much for a 2 story one bedroom on the beach in what was supposedly a 4 star resort.  Our suite had three really hard beds but gorgeous bathrooms.  The best part was it really was right on the beach and included our own private little backyard complete with private pool.  One day when I was sitting on a sun lounger, a 3 foot snake slithered into our pool, across it and disappeared on the other side.  We were lucky to get rare good weather for winter and so enjoyed several days at the big pool as well.  All in all a good choice for a special week.

 Hotel Lobby

Our first night we in town happened to be the lunar celebration.  We all thought it qualified as one of the best experiences of our entire trip.  Everywhere there were colorful lanterns, and the streets were packed full of Vietnamese celebrating and going about acts of worship, like burning flowers and fruit and incense, and setting paper lanterns lit by candles into the river.  It was fabulously festive and beautiful and felt very authentic; we saw few other western faces.  We bought and set our own candles to float but worried as we did so about the environmental consequences.  We also took a boat ride up and down the river floating along with the lanterns, lying down when we passed under the people packed bridge.  It was a very special night and an amazing introduction to Hoi An.  Sadly I failed to capture the magic in my pictures.

The other thing the area is famous for is inexpensive custom tailored clothing.  We decided to break our no purchases rule and let Peyton design her own dress and ordered up a suit and shirt for Wilder.  Because we read lots of horror stories about clothes that turned out poorly, we opted for the biggest most reputable shops in town; so the clothing didn't turn out to be all that cheap ($150 for suit and $80 for the dress.)  Still the process was fun and after multiple fittings we were happy with the results.  Not so certain though how they will survive 3 months in backpacks.

At first fitting - Peyton isn't so sure . . .

Final result!

Wilder was very happy with the shirt he designed.

 and here is his suit

One morning Mark and Wilder went on a tasting tour of Hoi An where they got to eat four hours of street food.  They loved this outing, especially Wilder.  We teased him because he has always been a strictly hot dogs and pizza kind of guy, but is now definitely a big Vietnemese food aficionado.  He even bought a bottle of chili sauce he is determined to make it home with.

In general we really enjoyed the food in Hoi An.  There wasn't a fast food restaurant anywhere to be found and most everything we ate was tasty.  The architecture was also lovely, with preserved old buildings everywhere you looked.  The town is just all around charming.

Now we have to leave our lovely resort and fascinating Hoi An.  Tonight we board yet another 14 some odd hour overnight train, this time to Hanoi where we will stay a couple of days before taking our "Junk" cruise on Halong Bay.

PS for those that don't know, Vietnam blocks face book.  So we aren't ignoring you - just can't get on!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing the experience although we are not going to cover Vietnam this time. Might do it next time.
    I do agree you need a better camera to capture those low light conditional magic moments.