December 31st, 2008 – by: kristine_hardy
I had a few days before I was due to go back home and having seen all I wanted to see of Saigon, and having heard so much about Hoi An I thought I'd spend them there. I caught the overnight train up from Tuy Hoa to Da Nang. The intelligent thing would have been to just spend the money and catch a taxi to Hoi An but no, I was a proper traveller so I had to catch a taxi to the Da Nang volunteer house to drop off my main luggage (getting the taxi lost in the water filled roads in the process) and then walk through the pouring rain to the bus station to catch the local bus to Hoi An to catch a motor cycle taxi to the hotel I'd booked.
The bus was interesting (just in terms of seeing how local people really travel) but I was soaking wet and while I don't mind getting wet I hate sitting around in wet clothes. With all this one of my bags was soaked and I hadn't brought as many clothes as I thought I had so I spent the next few days wearing the only things I had that would dry easily. But I could feel vindicated that I had done it the cheap local way, if that was any concilation.
I quickly fell into may favourite pasttimes of sitting in cafes and reading, and book shopping (lots of bookshops, wonderful). I especially loved eating by the river and watching elderly people in their little boats drifting under the bridge. The Hoi An specialty white rose dumplings were my favourite closely followed by citronella squid.
I went and bought the 5 tickets for the sight seeing of the old town. Many places didn't ask to see the tickets (you are meant to see one museum, one old house, one assembly hall, one event and one "other") so you may get away without buying them but I like to think I'm supporting the local tourist/museum industry and promoting the good effects of tourism to decrease some of the guilt I always feel about burdening other countries and their resources with my presence.
I wasn't that fond of the assembly halls that I saw (although again very interesting, especially seeing how cultures like the Chinese looked after their fellow country men who were visiting) but I loved the old houses, with their balconies, courtyards in the middle of the house, all the old wood and the low ceilings.
In Hoi An you really see the Chinese influence yet I guess I liked it because it seemed more distinctly Vietnamese than the other places I'd been which seemed similar to Cambodia, Laos and other east-asian places. I did alot of shopping, mainly scarves and bags and even got something made (I sort of felt I had to with so many tailors about, and me running out of dry clothes). I went to the folk show (singing and some opera dancing, I love that so much is conveyed by how the dancer strokes his beard) and won a little lantern which caused me so much trouble trying to keep dry and then coming home through Australian customs where you have to stand in a separate line if you have food or wood.