January 19 – 25
Hoi An, a preserved old historic town & designated UNESCO World Heritage site, is in the central part of Vietnam. The city’s architecture reflects the influences & history as a busy trading port that was once the heart of the spice & silk trade. Situated between China & the sea route to India, the Chinese & Japanese settled in Hoi An making it a thriving riverside town for hundreds of years. The most famous landmark is the Japanese or Temple bridge. The bridge is dedicated to the god of the north who controls the weather & also to Kashima, the Japanese thunder god who has the power to quell Nazuma, the earthquake Catfish Monster whose tail is in India & head in Japan. Superstitions abound, the many wooden boats on the Thu Bon river that runs through the town all have a pair of eyes painted on the bow in black & white, omens to protect the fishermen.
This town boasts well over 200 tailors, shoemakers, many art galleries & great food. This is THE place to have made-to-measure clothes or shoes made in a matter of hours. Just bring in a picture or pick a design from the floor models & your wish is their desire! Needless to say I felt like a kid in a candy store & yes we both splurged on some new made tailor made duds that are now on on their way to Canada.
Nightfall transcends the town into a silk lantern wonderland with hundreds strung across the streets & off almost tree. Old women & children peddle small floating candles that float along the river walkway. The riot of colours is breathtaking & magical.
A must see site about an hour out of town is the My Son Holyland, one of the most significant archeological sites in Vietnam. Once home to the Champa people, this sacred site has many temples, with Cambodian, Indian & Chinese influences &were once the country’s chief place of worship. Unfortunately many were severely damages or destroyed in the ‘American’ war (as referenced by the Vietnamese people). The remnants of war can also be seen in the pocked marked landscape, a result of the US missiles. The vegetation is very thick & we couldn’t help but reflect on the horrific jungle conditions the soldiers had to contend with.
Hoi An is a must see spot on the Ho Chi Min Trail & we were constantly running into people we had met previously, including Marlow & Lesley, the couple from Saskatoon. Through email we were able to arrange to meet for dinner on their first night & our last night in Hoi An. The laid back pace prompted us to stay an extra day. We loved this town, it’s gentle people & beautiful scenery, but it was time to move on & we when we left a little piece of our heart was left behind