We took a quick flight to Da Nang, in Central Vietnam, and a cab to Hoi An. There’s a huge change in the weather from Saigon to Hoi An — Saigon is kind of sweltering and humid, and Hoi An is chilly and rainy, like Oregon would be right now. It rains every day all day right now — I think more so than usual. We saw some flooding on the river. Some unfortunate boat passengers had to wade ashore.
Despite the weather, Hoi An is a gorgeous little town. It was a major international seaport from the 17th to 19th centuries, where Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese and others made stops. Hoi An has wonderful old wooden buildings including homes, shops, warehouses, and pagodas. Many of the homes and warehouses have a really nice sort of muscular structure with thick beams, aged colored walls and wooden shutters.
We see lots of heavy curving roof tiles, called "yin yang" tiles for their under/over positioning.
This beautiful old Japanese bridge shows some of the international influence.
We saw some beautiful old pagodas and temples in town. And of course, I found the graphic ceiling and view through the incense coils more interesting than the dragon sculptures.
On our second evening here, we hung out with two nice Australian women. We were looking for the monthly "lantern festival" but were unable to find anything but a few lantern shops with their lanterns lit. "This is the festival," was the answer to our queries. In addition to tailoring, the town does specialize in lantern-making and wood carving.
The old part of town is small and pedestrian friendly with lots of touts trying to sell you umbrellas or ponchos. The big business here is custom tailoring. There are over two hundred tailors in town, and everyone is trying to pull you into their store. Most stores have similar designs to one another, and there seem to be sort of micro-trends here as far as what sells (loose-fitting pants and military style jackets right now).
And, (supposedly) they make the silk that’s used in the clothing here. Here I am, making a new friend — a silk worm.
We tried out a tailor, with mixed results. Jason’s clothes are turning out great. I was probably too ambitious in choosing a couture dress from a picture in Vogue and experimenting with fabrics and colors. The result was not exactly what I’d had in mind. Today’s strategy is to choose from various tailors’ existing designs. I was just talked into three pairs of pants, a shirt, a pair of shorts and a coat, after walking into a shop intending to buy one pair of pants.
Some culinary specialties of the region include White Rose, shrimp in delicate, white, rose-shaped dumplings; and Cao Lao, a bowl of really great doughy noodles, croutons savory pork slices, beansprouts and lettuce.
While exploring the shops, I met a really interesting elderly man. He was friendly with kind eyes. I didn’t understand everything he was saying, but he’s had a very interesting and difficult life. He was a chief of police, in or near Saigon, when he was young. He showed me a handsome picture of himself in the South Vietnamese army. He was apparently sent to a "reeducation camp" after the war, and that must have been a harrowing experience. Recent reading about the war has told me he’s probably had a very difficult time since the war, as a veteran of the south. He’s wanted to come to the US since then, and has never figured out how. He showed us some documents from the US government from 2004 or 2005, which indicated that certain veterans of the South Vietnamese army may emigrate to the US. The paper had various stipulations about who can come, and the man was trying to get our help reading it. He only partially understood the government-speak of the document, and frankly it was confusing us too. It seemed as though there’s a possibility he could come, but he really needs to talk to a bilingual person at the embassy, and we told him that. After all he’s been through, it would be great if he and his family could come, but we suspect he may fall through the cracks.