The 16th century Japanese bridge which leads to the ancient section of Hoi An.
First, I should point out that I am back in Colorado. I returned from Vietnam on March 26th. Frankly, I haven’t posted because all hell broke loose insofar as my health going totally south. At one point, I had the flu, pink eye, severe athlete’s foot, cold sores on my lips and my usually mild psoriasis broke out to epic proportions. I suspect some of my maladies were caused by someone sitting next to me during the Hong Kong to San Francisco leg of the trip home to Denver (as this person had a chronic cough). Yuck! The rest of my health issues were probably attributable to my immune system being very vulnerable, as well as the dry Colorado climate. Currently, only the pink eye persists, but that is clearing up, after 3 trips to my physician. Last, but not least, upon my return home, I found out my long time companion and pet, Shasta had passed away . . . sigh. Shit happens . . . then life moves on. In any event, it isn’t exaggeration when I tell you that I haven’t wanted to be seen, much less write a blog post for the past month. However, I am feeling a bit better (smiles) and today I will tell you about my trip to Hoi An, the “Ancient City” I visited in mid-March.
The same bridge during the day. The bridge was constructed in the early 1600’s by the Japanese community, roughly 40 years before they left the city to return to Japan under the strict policy of sakoku enforced by the Tokugawa Shogunate, and renovated in 1986. Today, it’s the symbol of Hoi An. Entry is one coupon, but it’s possible to cross back and forth several times without meeting a ticket-checker. If your scruples are bothering you, feel free to leave tribute for the pig statue or the dog statue who stand guard at opposite ends of the bridge. LOL.
The best way to visit Hoi An is by taking a “puddle jumper” flight to Da Nang from Ho Chi Minh city, then rent a private car to Hoi An. The flight, although cramp – unbelievably less leg room then I have ever seen on any flight I’ve ever taken – is thankfully only 45-60 minutes in length. Once you arrive in Da Nang, it is a half hour ride by private car to Hoi An. By the by, Da Nang is a very modern city and although I didn’t get a chance to explore the city, it was readily apparent to me, this city is much more “liveable” than Ho Chi Mnh city is. For example, the traffic isn’t congested; a new sports stadium complex has a prominent place in the city; and, modern retail shops, hotels, beach resorts and residential properties dot the city and immediate surrounding area. I would imagine that much of this urban renewal is directed or catering to foreigners.
Ralph, our new friend from France. His travel guide book recommended this restaurant on the river. The meal was outstanding!
Another photo of the meal we enjoyed during our first night in Hoi An.
Thao accompanied me on this trip and I am so glad she did, as she has visited Hoi An before and knew quite a bit about the historical back ground of the city. Equally important, as was the case in Mui Ne and Vung Tau, where she also accompanied me, she was invaluable insofar as negotiating prices for hotels and taxis and generally, being my interpreter, e.g., menus, museums, tourist gift shops, etc. Hoi An is located on the banks of the poetic Thu Bon River, in central Quang Nam province, 30 kilometers south of Da Nang. With the strategic location on the banks of the great river, with one seaside border (East), it used to be one of the major trading centers in Southeast Asia during the 16th century due to the early western trader occupying period.
The Quang Trieu (Cantonese) Assembly Hall, is one of the most famous historical buildings in Hoi An, Vietnam. Along with the historical significance, the hall is also a popular tourist attraction in Hoi An.
The Assembly Hall holds an amazing fountain that features a dragon. The dragon is a beautiful creation made out of pottery. Various Cantonese statues are spread out all over the hall. Some of these statues reflect the musical dramas of the Cantonese culture.
I should also mention a new friend, Ralph De Marteau, whom we met at Da Nang Airport. Ralph is from Paris, France and he was investigating a private car hire to Hoi An, along with us, at the Da Nang Information Counter. Thao and I asked Ralph if he would like to split the costs and he agreed. During the ride to Hoi An, we all hit it off wonderfully, and decided to stay at the same hotel together, as well as going out to dinner later that evening at a restaurant Ralph said was highly recommended. The restaurant overlooked the riverfront and the view was gorgeous with the small city lit up. The meal also was delicious! The next day and evening we also hung out together, deciding to tour the city center using the hotel bicycles provided free to guests.
Wood dragon carving inside the Quang Trieu (Cantonese) Assembly Hall.
This colorful Quang Trieu (Cantonese) Assembly Hall was established in the year 1885. Records say that the Chinese Cantonese merchants built this hall. The different parts of the building are separately made in China. After finishing the work, those parts were transferred here and joined together to build the The Quang Trieu (Cantonese) Assembly Hall in Hoi An.
I found riding a bicycle a very relaxing way to explore the town. All three of us had a blast motoring along on these “one speed” bikes. After we parted company with Ralph on our 3rd day in Hoi An, Thao and I even took our bikes to the ocean beach which was a few miles away. Honestly, I would not have gotten on one if the traffic was anything like the treacherous vehicle congestion in Ho Chi Minh city. That being said, I was crazy enough to get on the back of a motor scooter numerous times in Ho Chi Minh and even ride my own scooter in Vung Tau, a seaside resort located a few hours outside Ho Chi Minh city. Living life on the edge . . . What can I say?
Part of the dragon water fountain.
Ralph trying out a gong we found in Quang Trieu (Cantonese) Assembly Hall.
I had to try my hand at a gong as well.
“Look Ma no hands!”
I was impressed with the art scene in Hoi An. Numerous art galleries were located in the old section of the town, as well as many craft shops. The art work, especially paintings and wood carvings were quite good. Unfortunately, traveling with a back pack means certain trade offs, such as not being able to bring back a painting or any large art piece. However, At a cobbler shop we visited, Ralph bought a pair of sandals that had been made at the shop. Of course, I couldn’t be outdone and I had a mandarin style shirt custom made for me (which I picked up the next day). No problemo fitting another shirt in my back pack. Grin.
According to Wikipedia, Hoi An possessed the largest harbour in Southeast Asia in the 1st century and was known as Lâm Ấp Phố (Champa City). Between the seventh and 10th centuries, the Cham (people of Champa) controlled the strategic spice trade and with this came tremendous wealth. The former harbour town of the Cham at the estuary of the Thu Bồn River was an important Vietnamese trading center in the 16th and 17th centuries, where Chinese from various provinces as well as Japanese, Dutch and Indians settled. During this period of the China trade, the town was called Hai Pho (Seaside Town) in Vietnamese. Originally, Hai Pho was a divided town with the Japanese settlement across the “Japanese Bridge” (16th-17th century). The bridge (Chùa cầu) is a unique covered structure built by the Japanese, the only known covered bridge with a Buddhist temple attached to one side. OK, now I am going to shut up and let the photos tell the story (albeit, I think most of the photos have captions). Enjoy . . .
Artisan shaping wood head carvings.
Finished wood carvings.
This is the shoe cobbler that made Ralph’s sandals.
Cutting out the sandal sole that he just outlined previously.
Damn, I wanted to take that painting (Flowers in the background) back to the States. Sigh.
A young Vietnamese seamstress embroidering a beautiful pattern in the cloth.
This was at the Quang Trieu (Cantonese) Assembly Hall.
This is called the “Old House Of Tan Ky.” The design of the house shows how local architecture incorporated Japanese and Chinese influences. Japanese elements include the crab shell-shaped ceiling supported by three beams in the living room. Chinese poems written in mother-of-pearl are hanging from a number of the columns that hold up the roof.
Inside the Tan Ky house.
Another room of the house.
Courtyard of Tan Ky house. That is the house well.
Another part of the Tan Ky residence.
Entrance to the Museum of Trade Ceramics, which is actually a home. The entire neighborhood has been designated a World Heritage site. The residents still occupy this house, but it’s also open to the public. Quite strange traipsing through their home as they were preparing their mid-day meal.
Thao and Ralph in the courtyard of one of the old residences.
In the same residence, a family was just about ready for their afternoon meal and Ralph couldn’t resist seeing what they were having. LOL . . .
Same house with these displays of earthenware and crockery.
Wash basin in the courtyard.
The gentleman to the right, is the tailor who made my Mandarin style shirt, eating lunch with relatives (that also work in the shop).
Ralph posing with the tailor’s wife.
Ta Da! My new shirt.
Besides me, probably the only San Francisco Giant fan in all of Vietnam.
We took our bikes to the beach, but it was quite hot out and took a break near a pond, under a tree. Actually, Hoi An has a mild climate compared to Ho Chi Minh. Nevertheless, you should cover all parts of your skin as the Vietnamese do. You will rarely see them go out without long sleeves and a head cover.
The beach which is located about 3-4 miles from Hoi An. Ahhhhh . . .
Another shot of the beach. Hardly a soul around.
A lady selling “floating” candles which you place in the river.
Riverfront at night. Water bodies in general are an important part of Vietnam as a whole. More so for this shore town of Hoi An. The Thu Bon River in Hoi An plays an important role in the geography, culture as well as the history of Hoi An. The town which was better known as Fai Fo in the days of antiquity, is situated on the banks of this river. Located at a distance of 30Km away form Vietnam’s 4th largest city, Danang, this small town is positioned in the estuary of the Thu Bon River in Hoi An. Moreover, the Thu Bon River in Hoi An is not just the chief culminating point for most festivals and events that are held at Hoi An but also the chief source of livelihood for many residents of the town.
River and town in the background.
This was a show for children, who participated with the entertainers. I have no idea what the cards signify.
These women were performing some kind of dance and/or ceremony. I wasn’t certain.
Ralph in front of a shop we had just visited.
Old bell in a pagoda we visited.
What? Me worry? The Thu Bon River in Hoi An is the largest of its kind in the Quang Nam Province of Vietnam. The Thu Bon River in Hoi An is also famous by another name among the people of Vietnam: “Kuadai”. The river is responsible in a big way for the traditional and historical heritage of the town of Hoi An. The now fishing town of Hoi An was a popular international trade destination and also a convenient stopover for many merchant ships bound to and for China and other countries. This was chiefly because of the simple reason that the Thu Bon River in Hoi An flowed into the East China Sea. Trade in the town via the Thu Bon River in Hoi An thrived from the 16th to the 18th centuries. In fact, most of the current populations of the town are descendents of traders and merchants who chose to settle down in the town. It is believed that in those days the Thu Bon River in Hoi An had a larger estuary area that facilitated trade and communication.
In a shop, posing near a hand made miniature clipper ship. Man, it looks like I haven’t slept in days (hahaha . . . true).
A cool looking building that I took a shot of while biking around the town.
Soccer game we saw.
Night life around the town.
A restaurant we ate at the night before. The food was very delicious. They are setting up for lunch.
Hoi An down town area during the early morning.
Another shot of the riverfront.
Me acting goofy. Notice my sandals. I had no idea that the fasteners were luminescent.
Ralph at the Japanese bridge entrance to the ancient city.