Travel Notes – Hoi An, Vietnam

Monday, April 17th, 2006

And so I’m back. From a magical trip to Hoi An in Central Vietnam. The pictures below serve only as a glimpse into what I did during this escapade. I took a total of 658 photos and no matter how many I put up here, they will never do the place justice. In one word, it was amazing.

I did so many things, went to so many places and met so many new people. I ate dishes that I don’t even know how to pronounce and made friends with a bike-taxi driver and his wife. I ordered a traditional silk Vietnamese outfit that was done and delivered to my hotel in five hours, had the local cobbler on Cua Dai make me a pair of cute flatheel shoes in just two hours. I went to the central market, ate breakfast at the corner of Hoang Dieu and sailed on Thu Bon River on a small wooden fish boat. I took a rickshaw on the way back from the marketplace and shot videos along the way.

I had dinner on Bach Dang’s riverfront and felt the breeze play with my hair on one fine windy evening. I ate fish soaked in tomatoes, shallots and lemongrass, grilled in a traditional wooden oven for a full hour before the delicious dish was served in front of me. I chatted with strangers, sat under a big shady tree on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai and drank a glass of sweetened soybeans with shaved ice. I browsed through all the beautiful art galleries on Nguyen Thai Hoc and had a Vietnamese photographer take pictures of me while I took pictures of him in his gallery.

I bought soft silk pyjamas on Tran Phu and ate white rose on Nguyen Hue. I spoke in sign language with the locals and burst into laughter when I realised they didn’t understand a word I was saying. I took a bike ride to Cua Dai Beach and found myself stranded on one of the prettiest beaches I’ve ever seen. I saw kangkung fields in the morning and smiled at young girls waving at me from their bikes on their way to school. I bought a classic Hoi An painting, watched people make bright coloured lanterns on Le Loi and learned how to make ca phe sua using a traditional coffee strainer.

I nibbled on banana pancakes with thick chocolate sauce on Phan Chu Trinh while flipping through my Lonely Planet guide and strolled on Tran Hung Dao and Nguyen Duy Hieu at night without fear or worry. I ignored all text messages and cried when reading an intensely emotional book on my last night in Hoi An. I didn’t have insomnia and my shoulder pains went away while I was there. I went to Cam Nam Bridge at night just a few hours after I arrived and captured the night’s silence with my camera.

As I looked out the window and saw Vietnam from above yesterday, I heard Michael Caine’s voice in my head that pretty much summarised my feelings about this country, as quoted from this movie,

I can’t say what made me fall in love with Vietnam – that a woman’s voice can drug you; that everything is so intense. The colours, the taste, even the rain. Nothing like the filthy rain in London. They say whatever you’re looking for, you will find here. They say you come to Vietnam and you understand a lot in a few minutes, but the rest has got to be lived.

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