Hoi An

Well Hoi An was pretty nice. As you can see from the pictures, the old town was mainly crumbly yellow buildings lining narrow streets close to the river. The settlement was originally founded by the Champa empire, and was their main port. After the Cham people were absorbed into a greater Vietnamese Empire, Hoi An remained a trading town, and was inhabited by merchants from all over the world. The importance of the town began to decline for reasons geographic and political in the 18th century, and nearby Danang became the centre of trade for the region. As a forgotten backwater, Hoi An preserved a lot of its old architecture and traditional crafts, which now makes it a popular tourist destination.

A little too popular for its own good really. It reminds me of most of the water towns surrounding Shanghai, and also of Dali and Lijiang in Yunnan. Most of the charm and atmosphere of the place is lost, as every single old house has become a shop, restaurant or bar in order to cash in on the many tourists here to enjoy the charm and atmosphere. Luang Prabang just about managed the delicate balance between exploiting the visiting wallets and retaining the charm, but Hoi An doesn’t quite. Still it was pleasant enough, especially when sitting in one of the many bars or restaurants by the river in the evening, and walking home after many of the shops had closed.

It’s a good job it was a pleasant place to just sit about in, because Matthew was struck down by illness again, and we got to visit another SE Asian hospital. Yet again a throat infection was diagnosed, and yet again antibiotics and paracetamol were prescribed. So poor Matt spent most of our four days in Hoi An in bed. By Saturday he was feeling a bit better, so we decided to go on a day trip to nearby My Son, site of some Champa ruins. Most of the stuff we saw in the museum in Danang had been excavated from this site, and we were keen to see where it all came from.

We booked ourselves onto a tour bus to visit My Son, which at 50+ km outside of town was a little too far for a relaxing day trip on a bike. The bus was almost full, but air-conditioned and comfortable enough for the hour and a half it took to get there. The ruins themselves were an interesting and unique sight for both of us. A pleasant change of pace from the Chinese Buddhist temples, the ancient Champa temple ruins (10th-ish century) were more akin to something out of India (or Indiana Jones). Only a few buildings remain standing, or have been painstakingly reconstructed from their scattered bricks, while others were just large piles of half-eroded bricks. Most of the stuff we saw in the museum had been carved out of sandstone, but here we also saw figures on the outsides of the buildings carved out of bricks, which was interesting and different. We were only given and hour and a half to wander around until the bus left, but it was sufficient time and the entire trip a worthwhile visit.

We are now on something of a deadline to get to Nha Trang (530 km south) by Christmas Eve, and all that time in Hoi An meant things were looking a bit tight. So we decided to again hop on a bus. We took a night bus that was going all the way from Hoi An to Nha Trang (about 11 hours), and hopped off after 135 km in the town of Quang Ngai. Well. It’s hard to hop off a bus with 7 bags and two bikes, but anyway, we got off at Quang Ngai, and found a hotel and a late night bowl of noodles. Tomorrow we’re back on the bikes, and again heading south.


Photos from this post can be found here and here

~ by Elephants on December 21, 2010.

3 Responses to “Hoi An”

  1. Hope Matt is fully recovered and feeling fit and strong. Love and best wishes for Christmas to you both xxx

  2. Happy Christmas! Hope you get to Nha Trang safely for Christmas Eve!

  3. Got lazy about reading for awhile…Just caught up on the last two months. Sounds like you’re having an amazing adventure. Hope you both are doing well, and have Merry Christmas!

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