The UNESCO World Heritage town of Hoi An, located on the South China Sea, is a snapshot to another era. It’s location made it an ideal trading port for much of the last millennium, but political changes and changes in river conditions in the late 17th century turned Hoi An into a ghost town.
As a result of its loss in status, it became a forgotten part of Vietnam’s evolution and remained untouched for much of the next two centuries. Thanks to this preservation, the city now draws tourists from all around the globe looking for a glimpse of life in old Vietnam.
We knew our tour group would be making the trip from Hue to Hoi An on a public bus, but we were all surprised when a luxury coach showed up. Complete with reclining lounge seats and a complimentary bottle of water, it was a far cry from the #17 city bus from the airport in Hanoi. Sure enough, we picked up and dropped off passengers all the along the four-plus hour route.
The bus route passed through several small towns, offering a glimpse of the daily workday. Several people were raking out rice on the sidewalks and even into the streets to separate it from the stalks. I’ve read that the rice stalks are placed in the streets to allow passing cars to act as a grain thresher, separating the rice from the stalks.
The non la (conical hats) and carrying poles are still everyday tools for street vendors in Vietnam. Three ladies in Hoi An’s old town were selling fruit and thought I needed to try the gear on for size. I overpaid for some mangos and lychee afterward, figuring the extra amount was for the fun memory.
The Thu Bon River is still an important part of Hoi An. Fish are cleaned and sold at the public market on the rivers edge, but the river is mostly packed with tourist boats. We met an old boatsman named Captain Dan who promised to show us pictures of all of his American friends if we came back for a boat trip the next day.
The Hoi An Market Water Well is among the many tourist sights in the city, but we were more amused by the blatant disregard for the posted rules sign which clearly states both “Please do not sit on the well” and “Please do not park your motorcycle.”
Many of the old buildings have been repurposed for restaurants and shops, but still maintain the original architecture and external wear unique to coastal towns. Like Hanoi’s tube houses, the buildings in Hoi An have layouts unique to the city. The shop fronts the street with living quarters sandwiched between two courtyards behind it. The back of the building has a storage room facing the river, making it easy to load products out of the boats directly into the shops.
When we returned from exploring the old town area, these three little girls were riding their bikes in the parking area of our hotel. When we asked to photograph them, the girl on the left jumped into action. Clearly the ringleader, she got them all into position for the photo. The girl on the right followed along, but the girl in the middle didn’t quite trust us…
More Photo of the Day posts from Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and Vietnam