Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hoi An

Some new geography.

Hoi An in some ways is a paradox, I loved the part designated for tourists (the 'old town' of Hoi An is blocked off from cars and has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site), but I hated that there was nothing but tourism. No matter how far I wandered, to the beach, through the local market, across winding roads as I (naturally) got lost, everything was still catered to the tourist.

All the old yellow buildings, red flags hanging from every shop, and that rare bit of quiet I don't often find. I think Hoi An is in many respects like a Western ghost town. There weren't any people dressed up from earlier times, but between the souvenir shops, the lack of any buildings being used for their original purposes, and the constant milling about and picture taking of tourists I guess I was waiting for the Vietnam version of a cowboy to come out and stage a reenactment.

The regional cuisine was fantastic though. Shrimp steamed in rice paper, and crispy fried wontons piled with vegetables. (I promise to do a whole post of delicious things I've eaten) There were some pork noodles too, but I suppose being pescetarian means I don't experience as many aspects of food culture as I could. I like to think I just experience different aspects.

We arrived in Hoi An, spent the afternoon at a quiet and pretty beach, and spent the next day perusing old town. By nightfall we knew we wouldn't last another day and picked our bus ticket to Hue. I'm sure I could have explored Hoi An more in depth, or maybe just spent the day sipping wine and looking onto the river, but we had only a week and wanted to see as much as possible. As a final goodbye we looped through the town after a late dinner, had a beer with new friends, and watched people set candles floating to the river, small pinpricks of light against the black night. (Which thanks to Blogspot's confusing picture uploading, is actually the fourth picture)

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