Hello, Hoi An

For our spring break travel, we have come to the old port city of Hoi An, located about midway up the Vietnamese coast. The town’s Old Quarter, a mix of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and French influences (with a few Portuguese and English touches thrown in for good measure), has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s easy to see why — the buildings and the venue are both quaint and elegant.

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The town itself has been ceded fully to the tourist trade. People come here to have clothes made, to sit in cafes and drink freshly roasted coffee, to shop until they drop, and to eat wonderful food. It can get terribly crowded. But before the hordes rush in after their days at the beach, it’s pretty lovely. I’ve enjoyed just walking around the Old Quarter and looking at the storefronts …

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… the detailing on the buildings …

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… and the streets and tiny alleyways:

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The Old Quarter is nice because they have mostly managed to restrict it to pedestrians and cyclists (though the occasional motor scooter does appear to wreak havoc every once in a while). This is in stark contrast to the rest of Hoi An’s streets — which, as is true all over Vietnam, are dominated by motorcycles that do not appear to follow a single traffic law.

There are great temples here…

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… but even the temples have people on scooters!

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The most famous architectural feature in Hoi An is the Japanese bridge, a structure that dates to the late 16th century.

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According to Wikipedia, the source of all things true, this is the only known covered bridge to have a Buddhist temple at one end. It is smaller than I’d expected, but still impressive.

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Hoi An is also famous for its lanterns. They make lanterns…

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…they sell lanterns…

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… and they string lanterns across every possible air space.

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There’s also a full moon lantern festival, which we are looking forward to seeing tonight. Last night we took a sampan ride on the river. Every boat had its own lantern, and there were paper lanterns lit by candles floating alongside us.

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We also spent a cloudy afternoon at the beach. A thirty-kilometer stretch of sandy shoreline runs south of Hoi An, and today it is chock-a-block with resorts and beach restaurants (it also includes the area where US soldiers were sent for R&R during the Vietnam — here called “the American” — War).

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This is where we sat for lunch:

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I was fascinated by my first sighting of a basket boat, an unusual type of boat used for fishing. It’s amazing that these stay upright — and are still in use today.

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We are enjoying ourselves in Hoi An, though I can’t quite get over the number of tourists — it’s like being in Venice, and when night hits, you feel like you’re on the boardwalk in Ocean City. That’s not really my scene. But so far, we have found enough wonderful things to offset the busy-ness.

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