Sunday, 17 February 2013

Through the darkness to Hoi An

So I arrived at Da Nang airport  late at night after my delayed flight from Hanoi.

(Folks of my generation will remember the place Da Nang from the Vietnam War, it is now a thriving resort City with beaches on the South China Sea).

My tour guide met me, together with a driver. She explained that she would not be with me on the drive to my final destination that day as she needed to be with her young child.  My driver was surly as he drove me the 50/60 minutes it took to get to Hoi An  (on the coast of the South China Sea in the South Central Coast of Vietnam.)

The side street where my Hotel was located was in complete darkness. In front of the Hotel was an expandable wire fence (rather like a giant slinky). A sleepy watchman opened the fence, and an even sleepier night clerk took me to my room. It all felt rather erie.

Next morning I discovered that the Hotel was on a pleasant street  (the fence had been there to prevent parking by non guests); and that the Hotel was quite lovely – built as it was by the French in (I guessed) the 1920’s.

After a very good breakfast my tour guide and driver (now very friendly!) arrived to take me out to the My Son Temples – built by the leaders of the Champa Empire which ruled this part of Vietnam from the 3rd to the 18th Centuries A.D.

When that empire fell, the Champa people abandoned the area, and their temples were left to be overwhelmed by the forest.  They were rediscovered by a Frenchman in the late 19th Century. The Temples are a UNESCO “World Heritage Site”  -  which is all very nice except that UNESCO doesn't pony up a dime for their preservation.

Then it was back to the very nice old town in Hoi An.  Hoi An was an important trading port in the 18th Century – a regional centre for traders from China, Japan, Holland and India.  In due course the harbour silted up, and when the French arrived they built a new harbour up-coast at Da Nang.  That was to Hoi An’s good fortune for it remained as a sleepy backwater with many of the ancient buildings left intact.  The narrow streets are “pedestrianised” during the day time (yeah no motor-bikes!).

Somewhat sadly many of the old houses are now gift shops and cafes (just like almost every other “historic centre” throughout the world).

I was taken to a silk factory where I could see the whole process from silk worms munching on mulberry leaves, though spinning and weaving, to the finished products.  I resisted every blandishment to buy something, even though I could have had a suit hand made!

The tour guide and I sat down after this visit for a cold drink. She began to weep, and told me the sad story of her marriage to a brute of a man who left her when she became pregnant, and whose parents hated her.
She was giving birth as her own mother was dying in the same hospital.  The babe’s dad, (and his parents), have never seen the little girl -  who is now at the teething stage.

“What should she tell the child? was her question.  I advised her to say nothing until the little girl began to ask questions, and then to start by saying something simple such as “your Daddy and I could not get along, so we separated”.  “Only when”, I added, 'the child asks more questions – probably when she starts school – should you tell her more.  But always tell her the truth for is she does not hear it from you, she will most certainly hear it from other people”.

I was glad to hear from my tour guide that an older Australian woman had given her the same advice.

Lunch was good in a delightful little outdoor cafe down a side alley.  Of course I ate alone.  I was the only lunch customer. I was a bit disconcerted that the waitress stood about 3 yards away and watched with keen interest as I ate.  I wondered “is she critiquing my chop-stick skills!”  Of course not, she was there just in case I needed something.

After lunch the owner/chef, his wife, and the kitchen boy came to my table.  My job was to tell them that this was the finest restaurant in all Vietnam, and to promote it by word of mouth.I am glad to so do.  The next time you are in Vietnam, you must have lunch at the Blue Gecko Restaurant on Nguyen Duy Hieu Street.

Later that evening and back at the Hotel the very cute young desk clerk (yes he was very cute!) was singing.  I pretended to block my ears.  He grinned, and then asked me if I knew about the British singer “Adele”.  I did, thanks to my brother Martyn who just a few weeks previously had recommended a You Tube Adele song.

This young Vietnamese man learns every Adele song by heart (from You Tube) and then sings them in English.  He sings very well!  He was sound asleep at the desk next morning when I checked out, got my boxed breakfast, and was driven back to Da Nang Airport.

Hotel in Hoi An - the Thuy Dong 3 Hotel

My nice room. Architecturally  unchanged for many years, but in great decorative order.

View from the little balcony off my room

Mountain on the road to the My Son Temples

Ruins of the My Son Hindu Temples, most of which were built by locally kilned brick in the 10th Century A.D., and assembled without mortar. There were originally at least four complexes but some were destroyed by U.S. carpet bombing. Then the U.S. Congress, (to its credit) cognizant of the historical significance of the Temples voted to ban any bombing in this area.  Thus the district became a safe haven for the Viet-Cong. History has its ironies.

Temples from a distance

Japanese Bridge  built in the 1600's to link the Japanese and Chinese trading areas.

Dog symbol at one end of the bridge.
Japanese Bridge (1600's AD)  Not my photo' but one taddled from the Web

Hoi An Street with lanterns made from silk

Riverside in Hoi An

Fancy "Mother of Pearl" furniture in Hoi An home which has been owned by eight  generations

Lazy (?) tourists in Hoi An

18th c Hoi An building

Chinese Temple in Hoi An

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic and beautiful! What a trip. thank you for sharing, Michael. J