Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Hoi An

We arrived in Hoi An about lunchtime, after an extended flight which landed first in hill country at Plei Ku and then Da Nang. There was a direst flight to Da Nang leaving HCMC at the same time as ours, so I think that the girl at Sinh Cafe must have made some mistake. Anyway, when we arrived, it was lovely! Da Nang is situated near the sea and the air was clear, the sky was blue and everything smelt fresh, as it often does by the sea.

It was a short drive down to Hoi An, with a stop at Marble Mountain, which in fact turned out to be a shoip which sold very large marble and jade statues of the Happy Budha, the Mountain Mother, Pan and other deities. I was offered the lion which almost but my head off for 6,000 dollars, including shipping anywhere in the world (so the lady said). I am sure Fred would be very happy.

The driver brought us past paddy fields and a low lying river to Hoi An and dropped us off at the Thanh Xuan Hotel. It is a lovely place, upmarket, with large rooms, traditional furniture and fittings and a balcony with views down and across a wet field of water spinach, across which wandered a small herd of cows, a little stream, with herons, bamboo plants and paddy fields. A place to stay and unwind, but we had business to do in terms of having a look around town.

We had seen paintings and sketches in Saigon of quaint old houses and streets and found that they were of Hoi An, so we were looking forward to having a look around to find such scenes. Well, Hoi An can be added to the list of places like San Gimignano, Elburg, Mont St Michel, Bourton-on-the-Water where the presence of tourists is so overwhelming that you can hardly see the place you had come to visit. Certainly, the place has its charms and it IS high season for tourists, but the number of shops, art galleries, bars and tailors is absolutely astounding and at times there were quite large groups of tourists ambling around.

Still, the weather was fantastic and the colours were wonderful and it was hard not to fall in love with the place.

At the end of the day came the time to look for who would take us out on motorbikes into the countryside and across to the Cham ruins in My Son. We found a couple of likely lads - Bon and Binh (I think) and they took us down to the beach (in the dark) so we could eat some cheap seafood down there. We meet them again at 6 tomorrow morning and hopefully we can enjoy a day like those days we had around Battambang in Cambodia. If that works, we will probably ask them to make a day of driving us up the coast to Hue, as there are some mountains and waterfalls and nice beaches along the way there.



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