2019, Personal, Travel

Riley Goes to Vietnam Day 9: Hoi An Sunday September 29, 2019

If I didn’t mention it, our hotel in Cambodia was one of only two we stayed at which didn’t have a breakfast buffet, though I just ate up that congee. Well this hotel had a pretty large buffet and it was once again quite good. One of the things we appreciated about the hotel breakfast buffets in Vietnam is the mixture of western and Vietnamese food. Too many high end hotels in too many countries cater their breakfasts solely to tourists and ignore local cuisine and it was nice to be able to choose Vietnamese food if we wanted to, even if that food was perhaps not as good as that on the street.

After breakfast we wandered down to the Old Town. We declined to stay in the Old Town because it was relatively expensive for Vietnam and staying a 15-20 minute or so walk outside of it cut the price by something like 50% (while we still managed to stay at an extremely nice hotel). Moreover, staying outside of the Old Town meant we had a pool and pools had become pretty much essential to our daily routine given the humidity and heat, something we didn’t think about when we booked the hotels.

The Old Town is regularly described as “ancient” in translation but it is only a few hundred years old, so if you do ever go to Hoi An don’t get bent out of shape that it’s not actually “ancient”, it’s still utterly unique in our experience of Vietnam. Hoi An is a port city on a river, a river which floods annually. The houses are a few hundred years old and made out of wood. The Old Town is one of the many UNESCO sites we visited on this trip (along with Angkor Wat and a number of others) but the way it is handled in Hoi An is quite unique. Tourists are supposed to buy a ticket for the Old Town but it’s easy to get away with not buying one. (It’s not expensive.) If you do by one it gives you access to 5 sites out of the 15-20 sites in the Old Town. If you want to go to more you just buy more tickets. The tickets are ostensibly for one day but we had no trouble using it over two days.

First thing we did was head to the most famous site in the city and the busiest, the “Japanese Covered Bridge”. It’s extremely popular so we actually didn’t go on it until the next day when it was considerably less busy.

The Japanese Covered Bridge

After the bridge, we sought to get away from the relative crowds, and crossed the main river (not the one pictured above) and walked on the south side for a while before coming back across to roam around the Old Town more. When we were in a mountain resort town in Montenegro, Jenn made the point that all mountain resort towns sort of resemble each other. And in Hoi An we started to feel the same way about port towns. The architecture is different, but at times we could sort of convince ourselves we were in a smaller Cartagena without city walls – the streets are narrow, there are balconies on the second floor, etc.

One of the features of Hoi An are the Chinese meeting halls, one each for the different regions of China which provided immigrants to Hoi An. We chose one which definitely felt like the most elaborate:

Fujian Meeting Hall gate
The meeting hall

After the meeting hall we went to one of the “ancient houses”. This one is particularly neat because it shows off features of the old houses presumably unique to Hoi An. Every October and November the river floods. And when it floods, it really, really floods.

The above video doesn’t capture the worst of it. The house we saw marked the floods on the walls.

I am about 193cm tall. (Yes, my glasses are falling off. It’s a constant problem.)

So, how does this house deal with the floods? Well, it has holes in the second floor and there are elevators to lift the furniture up to the second floor whenever the flooding gets bad. This is apparently common in the houses in Hoi An.

After this “ancient house” we headed to a different meeting house to look around. At this point we were very hot so we headed out of the Old Town and back to the hotel for a swim. On our way we had drinks at a place near our hotel; I had a mango smoothie and I believe Jenn had a coffee.

The pool at this hotel was quite large in comparison to the last one. It was also a little fancier, with a bench and jets at one end (as it if was a hot tub or something) and outdoor showers to rinse off the chlorine.

After our swim we found a place to try the local Hoi An cuisine. As I have mentioned or alluded to before, the food in Vietnam changes from city to city. In Hoi An there are special noodles made with water from one specific well. So we had those noodles as well as some other local food.

Then we headed back to the Old Town to go to a museum. However, by the time we got down there we realized we would have trouble seeing the museum before the race. So we turned around and headed back to the hotel. One the way home we went to a pharmacy where I received drugs from the pharmacist who did a whole show as if he was a doctor diagnosing me. He sold me codeine and amoxicillin among other things. Over the counter. He overcharged us but it was worth it for the hilarious show he put on.

For the race we went to an “Irish Pub” just by the hotel. I use quotes because this wasn’t your typical Irish Pub. It was run by Russians and appeared to be a bizarre attempt at creating an Irish Pub by someone who had never been to one. Additionally, certain features (such as the bathroom design) made it feel more like an attempt to create a hipster bar. It was a surreal experience but we were the only people there and they put the race on for us so that was nice of them.

As I said before, I don’t have memories of the race the week before, but this one was shitty. Haas did pretty poorly and the Evil Empire did well.

After the race we walked around looking for food and ended up eating at a place next to our hotel we had rejected the night before. It was sort of like Chinese Vietnamese (Vietnamese Chinese?)

They're not pirate ghosts, Jonathan, they're ghost pirates.

Hoi An has some of the deepest Chinese cultural roots of any community in Vietnam so it’s entirely possible this is a common thing there.

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