Hoi An is an ancient coastal city that's been an international trading center for centuries. The architecture is a mix of Vietnamese, Japanese, and Chinese influences with a little European thrown in for good measure. It's a Unesco World Heritage Site and much preservation has been done to the buildings in the old town. It is truly beautiful. To make it more amazing, the town was under 6 feet of water two weeks ago from Typhoon Ketsana, and there's no sign it even happened! Hoi An is known for its tailors, it seems like every other storefront is a tailor shop offering customized suits, dresses, and even shoes. Give 'em a picture, you can have one like it in your size tomorrow! They also make Chinese silk lanterns several places here, and many businesses hang them in their storefronts along the water. At night, it makes for a spectacular sight.
Hoi An is also known throughtout Vietnam for some of its culinary specialties, including Cau Lao, fried wontons (not anything like you'd find at home), and wonderfully fresh seafood. I am officially addicted to squid, having had it for both lunch and dinner on Tuesday. Everything we have eaten here, from restaurants and street vendors, has been delicious, and I could happily stay here just to eat. And to drink- many small restaurants that cater to the locals have bia hoi (fresh beer) on the menu. It's brewed daily, is extremely light in flavor and alcohol...and is roughly 17 cents per 12 oz mug. It's easy to have several with dinner, especially considering the heat and humidity.
Fortunately, our hotel, the Phuoc An, has a pool. We have taken to returning to the hotel in the late afternoon for a soak in the pool before cleaning up for dinner. This is a lovely hotel: helpful and friendly staff, great breakfast including cooked to order omelets and banana pancakes (different from Colin's but good nonetheless), laundry for 50 cents/kilogram, and comfy, air conditioned rooms all for the low low price of.... 25 bucks a night. They also lend bicycles to their guests, and even though Colin said he'd never ride AND enjoy riding a bicycle, he did...TWICE. One day, we rode to the local beach, rented beach chairs, and had a great surfside lunch of squid and spring rolls. The waves were huge and rough, but the water was warm. On the return ride, Colin had a flat tire and pulled over to a scooter repair stand for air. The elderly man didn't speak any English, but he did speak French fluently (I don't), but we were able to get the tire fixed and I got to practice my French a little.
Today we took a trip to My Son, another holy place of the Cham. Much of it was destroyed during the American War, which is how the Vietnamese refer to the Vietnam War. There are brick towers that were built between the 7th and 14th century. It's amazing to me that any brick structure made without using any kind of mortar still exists. They were monuments to the Cham deities and obviously meant to stand the test of time. For part of the return trip, we traveled by boat past rice paddies and small villages. It was a great day!
Tomorrow we leave for Hue. We have posted photos of Nha Trang on the smugmug site and will upload Hoi An when we get a chance.