Hoi An

It’s 11:48am on Thursday, and I finally feel almost relaxed. We checked into Vinh Hung 2 Hotel last night at around 4pm (I think).

Now with fewer prices! Thanks to Hannah’s whitenening, brightening powder o’ perspective. I have no problem with changing the content of my posts retrospectively; I’ve been reading Nineteen Eighty Four. This is what I like to call doubleholiday.

Diary entry for yesterday morning:

Our last day in Saigon, and we’re in the cab on the way to the airport. To our left, a six year old girl takes her four year old sister by the hand and they nonchalantly stride into the sea of darting motorcycles. We pass yet another David Fucking Beckham billboard, with the familiar steely-eyed gaze telling us to buy Caltex motor oil. Last time it was Pepsi (carbonated motor oil, so I suppose there’s a link), before that probably a motorbike.
“When I’m going for goal, my legs never sieze up, thanks to Caltex motor oil.”
“When I’m bending over for advertising executives, my anus never chafes or blisters, thanks to Caltex motor oil.”

The flight from Saigon to DaNang was uneventful. We went up, a completely un-Vietnamese snack (ham and cheese roll, orange juice) was served, and then we went down. Any horizontal flying couldn’t have lasted more than a few seconds, given that the flight was less than an hour.

Apparently, Da Nang was once quite charming and historic, with a history of trade extending back 1200 years. Today, it’s difficult to tell whether it’s half-built or half-demolished, and the motorcycles seem even more suicidal here than in Saigon, if that’s possible. The roads are dug-up and pitted, so driving is slow. The weather is absolutely amazing, however, so we resolve to try one of the China Beach resorts.

China Beach is a major disappointment. A vast and glorious beach with no one on it, large and formerly glorious hotels now empty and run-down. It would make a great setting for a Stephen King novel. It’s quite expensive and the rooms are a mess. We decide to skip it and pay our taxi drivers to take us straight to Hoi An, one hour’s drive away. In their haste to turn Da Nang into another Saigon, the Vietnamese have made it repugnant to foreigners.

On the way to Hoi An we pass several incredibly unlikely looking “trucks” going in the opposite direction. They appeared to have been cobbled together from old war parts, and the result is vicious and organic, as if H.R. Giger designed a Hummer. The engined are huge and exposed, and the cabins are a giant flapping mess of steel and canvas.

Our taxi drivers clearly have very little desire to continue living, and repeatedly demonstrate this fact by driving straight into oncoming traffic. There does seem to be some order to the chaos. If you’re a bicycle, you give way to everyone (even if that means darting off into a ditch). If you’re a motorbike, you give way to everyone except bicycles. Cars only give way to trucks, unless the truck looks a little rusty. Trucks give way to no-one, nor do they even slow down. They just lean on the horn at every opportunity and barrel flatulantly through what would otherwise be peaceful and beautiful countryside.

We made it to Hoi An in one piece. It’s is a very different town from Da Nang, small and charming, with plenty of shade, and we quickly found our chosen Hotel, Vinh Hung 2. It has a pool in the central courtyard, so the first order of business after checking in is having a swim – fantastic.

I went for a walk by myself down to a bridge near the town’s marketplace, and got some great photos of the sunset. On the way back I was cajoled into entering a woman’s clothing factory.

Hoi An is famous for its fabrics and clothing, so I got measured for a long-sleeved shirt, as a test. Manufacture takes less than a day – if they measure you in the morning, it’s done by the afternoon; if at night, then by 10am the next morning. The fabric was top-quality cotton, and when I collected it this morning (Thursday), it fit perfectly.

Suits are between AU$30 and $50, for the best quality fabrics, and that includes lining. All the clothes are hand-made to your requirements. It’s going to be hard not to spend serious cash here. I met one Australian family at stall 7 who had come back to the same seamstress three times in six years. I shall be heading back to her later on. So, if any other Australian readers have their measurements on hand and would like something, let me know!

They also make shoes to your measurements here too, so I’ll be investing in at least two pairs.

Many of the buildings here are very old, a mixture of French and Chinese architecture. It’s great to walk around and explore the narrow tree-lined streets, and even down the most obscure and hidden alleyways you’ll find a pool hall, bar or cafe.

Now I’m going to head back out into the sun, with my new Vietnam hat.

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