There is an old Asian saying may you live in interesting times – well it was an interesting day… The food markets in Hoi An were at their height in the morning as Carol and I wandered through the centre of the city. While Carol was getting some clothes made by one of the thousands of local tailors, I had a photographers dream hour and shot over a thousand photos in the market. We were due to meet some group members down the main thoroughfare for coffee and had a chance to look around a little more before that and walked along the waterfront.
Hoi An became a UNESCO heritage site in 1999. The old town is a very well preserved example of an 14-19th century Southeast Asia trading port. Hoi An lost its economic importance in the 19th century when the French developed Danang as the major port which it remains to this day. Hoi An has been rediscovered by tourists. Walks along the water front are lovely and sections in the city are motor vehicle free which is a nice change from the din of horns and obligatory scooter dodging.
After coffee the tour leader and I didn’t feel very good – to make a long story short we ended up in the local hospital with acute food poisoning. Riding on the back of a motorbike through Hoi An to the hospital holding on for dear life and trying not to throw up on my tour leader was quite the experience. She was probably trying not to throw up all over me. Another group member was there with a suspected broken rib after falling off a bicycle – so quite an evening. In any case good news – her rib was not broken and both the tour leader and I will be fine.
Onwards and upwards 🙂
Now we are traveling on the slowest bus in the world. The South China Sea is on our left and we are meandering south towards Hoi An. Lots of opportunities to take photos outside the window. Just as red is the colour of Africa – Green is the colour of Vietnam – a thousand variations of it are everywhere. Small piles of maize are burnt in piles along side the road – once the husks are burnt off the corn is eaten. The smell of the smoke is like incense – evocative of this country.
The trip was spectacular along the coast of the China sea. Our final approach to Hoi An was across what was the demilitarized zone between north and south Vietnam during the war and then on through Danang. Danang was the point of entry for American troops in the Vietnam war. Very little remains of their presence here except some huge concrete Air Force bunkers built to house military planes. Danang was the busiest airport in the world at times during the war. Large open modern highways which seem barely used link the coastal communities. Driving through this area was unsettling. Growing up in the sixties and seventies the war was very much a part of our culture – older sons of friends went to war, some went to Canada. Some never came home. The thoughts of a US small town boy of 18 landing here and going into the tropical meat grinder that lay ahead are not hard to imagine.
Hoi An itself is a lovely vibrant city. Our afternoon was spent eating an excellent lunch by the waterfront, doing some window shopping and enjoying a massage, facial, pedicure and manicure. The entire spa experience was $20 – that works 🙂 The spa itself was an interesting experience. The massage area is essentially coed as a thin semi transparent curtain separates areas – the masseuse was a tiny little girl – 90 lbs soaking wet – who got up on the table and sat on my rear when she was working on my back. A new approach but it worked. We had a lot of laughs as she attempted to teach me some Vietnamese (I just don’t do languages :-))) She also asked us to dinner at her home which unfortunately we couldn’t do as we had made previous commitments. An awesome day – looking forward to tomorrow.