Hoi An

29 Apr

In keeping with our recent trend of visiting ridiculously charming locales, we spent our last four-day weekend in the Vietnamese town of Hoi An. The small town was once a major trading port due to its location along the Thu Bon River, and easy access to the coast. Merchants of all persuasions sailed through trading spices, and each group left their cultural mark on the town. The result is an interesting mix of Chinese temples, Japanese houses, Vietnamese shops, and French cafes. The Old Town is a protected UNESCO site, and over 800 of the buildings have been preserved; some date back to the 16th century. There are blocks and blocks of yellow adobe buildings, mingled with dark teakwood houses, and brightly colored temples. Paper lanterns are strung everywhere, and flowering bushes fill every nook and cranny. As in Luang Prabang, it felt like every corner we turned brought another gorgeous view: a glimpse over the canal, a pleasant little alleyway, a particularly pretty lantern. I used what Orestes has taken to calling the “c word” (cute) a lot.

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IMG_4832Present-day Hoi An, in addition to being adorable, is also known for the ridiculous number of tailor shops that can be found there. If you have a day or two, the talented tailors can whip up copies of your favorite dresses,IMG_1092 stylish winter coats, and custom-made leather boots for a shockingly low price. I had several dresses made, along with a bag and boots, while Orestes got several snazzy dress shirts. Mo, in her own words, “acted out” and went to town with the purchasing. It felt a little like Christmas, picking out a dress from a mannequin, having measurements taken, and then appearing the next day to a fun surprise. All of the stuff came out really well! Here I am modeling my new boots.

The little guesthouse we stayed at provided bicycles, so we did quite a bit of peddling about. I spent two solo mornings meandering around, stopping at some of the houses and temples that are officially open for tourists. Many of the buildings are incredibly detailed with intricate wood carvings and painted murals covering every available inch of space. As usual, I went a little crazy with the photography. Check out some of my favorites below. Aside from the Old Town, Mo and I got to see some of the rural countryside surrounding Hoi An on a hot but scenic bike ride out to the local beach. Other activities included eating amazing Vietnamese food (pho, fresh spring rolls, bahn xeo, yum!), and drinking shockingly large quantities of delicious Vietnamese-style iced coffee. Hoi An is a wonderful town in which to be low-key, and the April heat encouraged frequent breaks for rest and relaxation. We managed to spend several afternoons and evenings sitting on a balcony, beverage in hand, and admiring the vista. All in all, an excellent way to spend four days!

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