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Hoi An

October 24 continued ...
The hour flight from Hanoi to Da Nang allowed us to sort out pictures on the camera and learn two more Vietnamese words from the lady sitting beside us.

We were met at the Da Nang Airport by our new Trails of Indochina guide, Binh, and taken out to the car to meet Tap. They are both from Hue and have worked together a great deal.

Our first stop, at the Cham Museum, came soon after we left the airport. Binh explained some of the history of the region and the legends of the statues he was pointing out. The way he built up the story and made it entertaining was a reflection of his days as a teacher of literature.
On to Hoi An.

In the 16th century, Hoi An grew from a small fishing village into a flourishing sea port which attracted merchants as far away as Japan, India, Indonesia and Europe who purchased the area's silk, spices and porcelain. 
A Japanese district and a Chinese quarter were built, to later be joined by a French district. By the late 19th century, the bay had silted up enough to stop the big ships from easily loading their cargos. Hoi An once again became quiet. Bad news for the then residents and their offspring ... but good news for the families who stayed until a road was put through from Da Nang and the forgotten treasure became valued for its seaside beauty and heritage buildings.

Today Hoi An with its old tile roofed shops/houses, shady pagodas and colourful communal hall is a World Heritage Site and therefore a living museum.

After getting settled into our room at the Hoi An Hotel, we went out into the streets of this charming town. We visited a small temple in honour of a deity which watches over those who go to sea and a merchant's shop/home which could easily be traded with one from Europe of the same era - Colmar, France comes to mind.

Old meets new when one of the shops housed in an ancient building sells the latest in TVs.

One shop that held our attention made silks and then tailored them into garments which can be sewn overnight.
They showed us silkworms which must be fed every three hours; except for one day a week when they do not eat. They showed us the framework where some of the worms build their cocoons. The cocoon is the silk.
To harvest the silk the cocoons are placed in hot water, a fine thread is pulled from the cocoon. Along with around 20 other silk threads they are pulled from the floating cocoons, through a small ring that stops the cocoons from coming up too high, and into a spinner. Much like spinning wool.

Under the circumstances it was only natural that Sherrie would have a silk garment made.

The traditional costume (pronounced "ow-ya") is worn by most women in the tourist industry.
It consists of a pair of full length pants with a wide straight leg. On top is worn a "dress" with a mandarin style collar, long tight sleeves and a very tight fitted bodice that flows down into a "skirt" which has side slits up just past the waist line. Most attractive since most girls we have seen are tiny, very tiny, and slim ... with delicate hands and beautiful facial features.  

We continued our walking tour of Hoi An which included witnessing the river water creep up the street.  It would not be the first time Hoi An experienced flood waters.  Even the old merchant's house/shop was designed to protect the merchandise from flood waters.  Entrepreneurs brought their boats to busy intersections and offered dry rides for a fee.

 It was getting dark when Binh took us to see a 400 year old covered bridge - built from the Japanese side of the town’s small river to the Chinese side of town -  which was recently restored upon the original foundations.
 We invited Binh (Tap was elsewhere) to join us for dinner (since he and Tap were also staying over night in Hoi An). He suggested a restaurant where the food is good and the prices inexpensive. Dinner for the three of us was under $10 US (including drinks).

Hoi An, Vietnam. From the enclosed porch of our room we could see into a school yard. The children started arriving at 6:30am. While we prepared for the day, we kept watch as a class did their outside exercises.

After negotiating a fare price with the drivers, we took cyclos  into town to pick up the silk garments which had been sewn, for us, through the night. 

The cyclo drivers let Terry have a go  driving Sherrie, then asked for double their fee for letting us have the photo opportunity.  Still it was a fair price for a ride there and back and a great memory.
 Today would be mostly a driving day between Hoi An and Hue (pronounced Whey). On the way we passed many beautiful Vietnamese girls riding bicycles. The girls were dressed in the traditional Vietnamese costume  all in white. The white is worn by young ladies in high school or university.  

We stopped in a small village which specializes in marble sculptures and were led through a large display which could accommodate tour bus crowds and cater to their buying sprees. We were the only ones there at the time and left the two sales people who shadowed us through the shop disappointed.


We whizzed through the countryside and although we let it be known we would like to stop along the way to take pictures, the car sped on as though the main goal was to get Tap and Binh back to their homes in Hue earlier than expected. After they took us to another tourist stop where we were encouraged to shop, we restated our preferences in stopping spots. No shopping. No tourist coffee shops. We came to Vietnam to experience it and meet its people ... not other tourists. Our wishes seemed to fall on deaf ears.


 We reminded them of our itinerary which stated we were going to see a fishing village (we had passed some round boats used for fishing and wanted to get up close and take pictures) and they told us, looking around at the buildings lining the highway, this was the village and kept going. They were clearly not listening to us until Terry told Tap to stop the car and told Sherrie she could now get out of the car to photograph a water buffalo up close.

Other than stopping for the buffalo, the countryside blurred passed the windows even through a new tunnel (at 6.3 km, the longest in South East Asia) cut the time and mileage dramatically from what was in the original itinerary.

click here to continue October 25 and to Hue ... 

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