What to do in Hoi An
Days 809 – 812
Knowing my sister Jac would love Hoi An, we had to revisit. I have a feeling this won't be our last. What to do in Hoi An? Wander around the Hoi An alleyways, visit Museums, make crafts, see the amazing Bamboo Show. But what was Tim up to while Jac and I were having outfits made?
What a sensory delight Hoi An is: colourful lanterns hang across streets, the slightly musty overtones of yellow chrysanthemums adorn kerbs after Tet celebrations and the cacophony of constant hooting of traffic and calls of cart-owners selling their wares. We loved wandering down the lovely alleyways weaving towards the Old Town, admiring glorious orange Dahlia pompoms in people's gardens.
We noticed that the Old Town wasn't as busy as when we were here in December. The coronavirus has sadly kept visitors away.
Jac and I got so carried away getting outfits made, that we still haven't visited the Pottery Village, floated up the river in a coracle or make full use of the Hoi An ticket system. This gave us access to five different heritage attractions and we only used one each! We offered our spare tickets to Robert and Pam, lovely Canadians we met at our delightful B&B, Moon Villa. The ticket we used was to visit:
Museum of Trade Ceramics
This quaint museum housed over 400 ceramics, mainly from Vietnam, China and Japan dating as far back as the 7th century. In the early days when Hoi An was called Fai Fo, the town was a key trading hub, selling and importing ceramics. Many of the artefacts from those times have been discovered from nearby shipwrecks and local archaeological digs.
But for us, the highlight was the beautifully restored 1858 house. We loved the traditional wooden Vietnamese architectural style with its sun-drenched courtyard, cool balconies and intricate latticework.
Our host, Moon goes down to the beach every morning. One time, her husband was with her and pulled up an incredible statute from the sand. They believe this came from a Japanese boat, and it's now in a glass case in their foyer.
Precious Heritage Museum
We had to take Jac to the Precious Heritage Museum, a permanent exhibition of French photographer Réhahn's incredible photos. We were so taken with them last time, I wrote a whole blog on the place (See Day 766).
Jac said "I loved the way that Réhahn created a story of Vietnam by producing beautiful photographs telling peoples stories, showcasing their traditional costumes and drawing attention specifically to the lives of older women. It echoed a great Jamie Oliver programme where he cooked with the Italian Nonnas as he travelled through Italy featuring their unique cooking specialities (you may even have the book)".
And we both love his quote: "Our days are happier when we give people a bit of our heart rather than a piece of our mind."
The Vietnamese Bamboo Circus
One evening we went to the Vietnamese Bamboo Circus. Oh my! What a show! It's in a purpose-built dome like an upturned coracle on the edge of the riverside.
Wow! The whole show evoked a mix of emotions, from zen-like calmness to gasping with delight on the edge of our seats.
The young acrobats were fabulous; skilfully juggling, dancing, balancing and doing daring acrobatics using towering bamboo poles and coracles, simple yet effective props. There was such a joy and camaraderie about them, showing the spirit of the Vietnamese people. Even when things occasionally went wrong, a dropped juggling baton or example it didn't matter.
This mesmerising show took us through the "Ordinary rhythms of simple country life" in Vietnam, with beautifully choreographed storytelling of traditional life on the river, including duck-herding and fishing to the contrast of city-life, with builders collaborating on scaffolding, lovers living in tiny apartments and pedestrians dodging the traffic.
Jac was so impressed with the show that she generously wanted to purchase a ticket for Tuyen, our lovely tailor from Sam Sam. When we visited the tourist office, the young assistant informed Jac that she needed to go with her to pick up the ticket from around the corner…by scooter. The look on Jac's face as she donned her helmet and climbed onto the bike was priceless!
On our last day, we had planned to go to the Pottery Village, until Jac came across:
We arrived to join three young American ladies who were all on Semester at Sea (What an incredible experience!) and what fun we had!
Hoi An Handicraft Tours is a family run business who have made lanterns for the past twenty years and running lessons for the last eight. Len and his younger sister ran the course brilliantly, helping us to thread, bend and tie the bamboo frames, choose our silk, glue the structure and stick and stretch the material. With fingers and thumbs getting in a muddle, and some instructions not always being followed, it was far from easy. It was so hypnotic, perhaps that's where we went wrong!
After three enjoyable hours, our lanterns were complete. Thrilled is an understatement. They all looked glorious. Now we have the issue of how to bring our works of art back to the UK! Hey ho!
Huy Bui Barbers Shop
While Jac and I were busy trying on outfits for the umpteenth time, Tim had a reprieve from us. As he was looking a bit hairy, he went for a haircut at Huy Bui Barbers. Interestingly the barber didn't have different guard sizes and just used a comb and razor. Next was a cut-throat shave.
Tim had read on a review that someone had their ear-hair trimmed here, so decided to go for the full works. What he didn't realise was that this included having his ears cleaned! Apparently, in Vietnam, ear cleaning is a traditional way to pamper yourself! Not only was a ton of wax extracted from his right ear but it looked like some creature had crawled in and died. This did remind us all of Father Ted episode"The Passion of St Tibulus" when Father Jack had his ears waxed which was made into a candle!
The downside for Tim now is that he can clearly hear Jac and I wittering on!