Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hoi An, Vietnam

A typical street in Hoi An's ancient town.

A 'cafe' we stopped at to have an iced coffee.
The covered market in Hoi An.
Lanterns hang in a shop.
One of the Chinese communal houses.
Chinese script made up of strokes of birds.

Dusk on the Thu Bon river.
An old house (now a restaurant) in old town.
The Japanese covered bridge.
Matt getting fitted for a suit.
Hoi An is almost too pretty. By that I mean, it almost feels like a section in Epcot Center. Flowering plants dangle from balconies, red and other colorful lanterns adorn every entrance, and all the old buildings feature terracotta roof tiles and a yellow ochre paint job. The ancient town of Hoi An has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. During most of the day, cars and scooters are prohibited, which adds to the slow pace of life here.

At one time Hoi An was a major center for trade through Asia. The traders from China, Japan, India and the Netherlands influenced the culture and architecture. And many small groups of Chinese settled here after being oppressed at home. But then the river silted up making it undesirable as a trading port. So for the next 200 or so years, Hoi An didn't really change much.

Until the tourists started coming. Now, most buildings in the old town feature shops, and most of those shops are custom-tailored clothing shops. The tailoring biz has really taken off in Hoi An and now it seems that most locals are involved in it some way or another. Interspersed between the tailor shops and other souvenir shops are heritage buildings that have been restored to a time when the building's use was at it's height.

We went around town, trying to be good tourists and see all the heritage houses. It was fun, but most buildings are small and when a stampede of a Chinese tour group comes in, all you can think is 'where is the nearest exit'. Let me just note here: I like Chinese people. When we were in China, we met a lot of really nice people and didn't have one bad experience (aside from the spitting). But a "Chinese Tour Group" is another thing all together. I don't dislike them, but I don't want to be crammed in a small, albiet beautiful, museum room as the tour guide waves his little flag in my face.

We did give in and decided to get some tailor-made clothing. I got a suit and a pair of jeans, Bree got a dress, a shirt, and 2 pairs of shoes. All of these items completely made from scratch in about 24 hours. And at lower prices than anywhere in New York.

- Matt