Hoi An : 'Heritage is rather rich and multi-sided'

Hoi An Travel Blog

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Day two of falling in love with teeny-tiny, pretty little Hoi An.  I just adore days when I know there’s nothing more complicated or physically demanding to do than just amble with camera slung over shoulder through beautiful Old Town streets and architecture.  A slow start to the day.  Trying not to fall head over heels for the girl at Hop Yen Guesthouse who takes an excruciating “but-I-don’t-mind” length of time to make  me Vietnamese sweet coffees whose name translates she tells me as “Lilly Flower” and possesses one of the prettiest most genuine smiles I’ve seen in my life (she of course does not agree).  When I move on tomorrow morning to Hue it’s this smile, as well as all of the other varying beauties and charms of Hoi An that will make me deeply regret my restless travel velocity at present through Southeast Asia.

'Fish Wives'
  A smile to make me stop; to stay still, but move on too soon sadly I will.

I have spread my ‘paid activities’ over my two here so have a few stubs left on my Old Town culture ticket.  I visit the Folklore Heritage Museum to learn a little of the historical and cultural past of the region.  It’s composed with a fair care and attention to detail although not always expanding on items on display as much as one might like.  In homage to some of the ‘pretty’ and sometimes amusing translatory language to be found in such museums for the foreign visitor I reproduce the Introduction here.  Not the funniest I’ve read, but cute nonetheless :

‘The folklore heritage in Hoi An are creamed from labour, fight and activities of many inhabitants living in this area from the Pre-protohistory period till now.

'Girl & Ice'
  They look like pure springs that originated from the daily life of many generations to make the soul and the quintessence of culture, making Hoi An be itself with its unique identity. […] Due to many reasons and fortune, this part of heritage is rather rich and multi-sided.  Together with the tangible relics it contributed to creating the characteristic values of Hoi An World Heritage and deepening the images of Hoi An culture on people over the country and far and near friends.’

I stroll some more.  I could stroll here, west to east and back again over and over and over.  A little attractive pagoda temple that is free to enter on top of those I have seen on my 75,000VND ($4.30) ticket already.  Another walk along the river side.

'The Negotiation' part 1
  Constantly you will be implored to enter any one of an infinite number of tailor shops that seem to thrive despite over-competition here in Hoi An.  Tailor made shoes too can be found on certain streets on the east side of the Old Town.  Sometimes young girls will be ridden around on mopeds my mothers, brothers or whom ever more often than not with more access to the English language and physical charms than their conveyors they will attempt to get you to visit their particular tailoring establishment.  One girl in particular Linn, whom I bump into any number of times never ceases to ask me to drop in to her mother’s shop despite the fact I truthfully state I’ve shopped out on new linen clothes at another tailor’s already.  She seems to consider the fact I’m polite enough to engage with her conversation as some kind of binding verbal contract that stipulates I must visit her shop and spend Dollarage.
  Consequently on the occasion of my third meeting and polite rejection her smile turns so quickly and violently to such a cutting Asiatic scowl that I mildly fear for my life for about 2.3 seconds.

I continue on my way to Viet Phi Tailors and lovely, happy smiling Lina whom I actually have given my business to.  It’s fabulous stuff.  Perfect fit.  A stitch-perfect pair of linen trousers (that pants to y’all Americans out there) and two linen shirts for $43 in total.  Another happy customer.  To ‘Pay Forward’ the recommendation that I received for Viet Phi and Lina that I had received in Saigon I’ll pop her details at the bottom of this entry should you ever find yourself in Hoi An and in need of a perfect ‘right first time’ new suit.

Market baskets.

Rolling on from midday I aimlessly continue to walk about time and find myself plunged into the midday madness of the central market area, down by the river dock here in Hoi An.  This is a fabulously chaotic and cramped market.  One of my favourite in Vietnam so far as although there is some tourist stalls on the periphery the heart of it is noisy, crowded, aromatic madness.  Stepping through puddles of fish-water, ice melt and discarded produce.  A sea of conical hats bobbing and rising like flotsam on a high tide as the ladies (always the ladies) get on with the hard, messy business of chopping and dispensing the meat and veg and fruit that is the life force of the fabulous food regime that exists in Hoi An.  Incredibly narrow little slippery walkways under netting and canvas shading still pulsate with mopeds and bikes as much as anywhere else in town it seems.

Market siesta 1

I return to the market after a delicious lunch of another of the town’s traditional dishes Cau Lau (Heo / Pork).  A kind of thicker noodle version of the ‘Pho’ noodle soup dishes to be found the length and breadth of Vietnam.  Super cheap (12- 15,000VND / $0.75 - 0.85) and very, very nice.  Knock yourself out at the price and have a couple of bowls if you wish!  It’s about 14.00 now and two sides to the market are in full swing.  Closer to the river edge, a ’bridge’ of boats are all moored up together, and a hive of other smaller trading boats buzz around their bows.  Produce; predominantly fresh fish being unloaded en masse in the shallow reed-woven baskets that exist in large quantity for the purpose here.  Inside, back under the canvas awnings it’s obviously time for full swing siesta time.

  The market ladies exhausted from their mornings exertions lie like so many discarded items of produce themselves, prone and asleep amidst their vegetables and tools.

In the evening I have been moved rooms by Hop Yen for reasons that are beyond me, but don't particularly care although it means a fair old hike right to the top floor of the guesthouse.  Here I will be sharing a room for one night with Doug from Canada, a man who started travelling at 21 years of age 20 years ago and has rarely stopped doing so since.  I had planned for nothing more than writing and a photographic tour of the lantern-lit town by night tonight but as is constantly the case with travelling the enactment of such ’scheduled’ private plans is often rendered impossible by the infinite ’getting to know you’ obligations of travel and FMFs.

Vietnam.
  He’s a fascinating guy though.  A greatly travelled lad and superb raconteur and guitarist.  He’s thinking of starting to draft his travel memoirs soon.  Will this be me in 20 years time?  Who knows.

I have to scratch my night photo pleasures (so sorry no pretty snaps!) in favour of riverside beer and chat with Doug but this is fine.  Par for the course when backpacking.  One beautiful activity replaced by another interesting personality collected.  We hit the south bank of the river and sink 7 beers and 2 bowls of Cau Lau each for under $3...ridiculously cheap!  Proving once again that you meet the strangest and most ‘interesting’ of people whilst on the road; Doug’s day job on the rare occasions he’s back home in Canada?  He’s the body parts double (specifically the hands) of some character Guyas Baltar (???) from the TV show Battlestar Galactica.

  $400 a day!  It’s a curious life my friends.  But not a bad one!

[ Appendix : 'Top Tailor' ]

The fabulously friendly Lina and family can be found at Viet Phi tailors.  Pleasingly they're away from the main hustle of town by virtue of being on the south side of the river.  Cross the bridge just south and east along the promenade from the Japanese Bridge on to the An Hoi Peninsula.  As you come off the bridge briefly walk right and take the first road on your left.  This is Ngo Quyen street.  Viet Phi are about 300 yards down on the left.  Number 82.  You can't miss its big open front crowded with finely dressed manequins.  Tel : 05106.279 234 or e-mail : lina_trang_2000@yahoo.

com.

Stevie_Wes says:
Cheers Laurence, much appreciated mate. Yeah, I was a 'happy writer' for Hoi An. Depends on the level of inspiration. Hue next...hmm? A relative chore zzzz...
Posted on: Apr 08, 2009
globalodyssey says:
wonderful evocative narrative, great photos too
Posted on: Apr 07, 2009
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Fish Wives
'Fish Wives'
Girl & Ice
'Girl & Ice'
The Negotiation part 1
'The Negotiation' part 1
Market baskets.
Market baskets.
Market siesta 1
Market siesta 1
Vietnam.
Vietnam.
The wonderful Lina outside her tai…
The wonderful Lina outside her ta…
Market mayhem at midday.
Market mayhem at midday.
The Negotiation part 2
'The Negotiation' part 2
Market floor after the madness has…
Market floor after the madness ha…
Market siesta 2
Market siesta 2
Market siesta 3
Market siesta 3
Can I have a pound of smelly foot…
"Can I have a pound of smelly foo…
The traditional Vietnamese Unicorn…
The traditional Vietnamese Unicor…
Market in pink.
Market in pink.
If any one brand probably defines …
If any one brand probably defines…
Another traditional Hoi An dish : …
Another traditional Hoi An dish :…
Viet Phi Tailors.
Viet Phi Tailors.
Hoi An