After Halong Bay we drove back to Hanoi and took a flight to Danang to spend a few days in Hoi An. Hoi An is a lovely little town sort of a cross between Vineyard Haven and St. Thomas but with better food. Sort of. Okay, maybe not really but it was quite different from any Asian city we had ever been to. It was quaint and quiet; there was very little traffic and it was so clean. Kind of reminded me of the 1950s, not that I was around then. hahahah It was just plain charming and there were lanterns everywhere! I loved how so many shops not only carried them in stock but hung them out front. At night the whole town was lit up. It was so beautiful.
We stayed at a lovely resort and had another great guide to show us around. Here are a few pictures of our resort. Yeah, I broke down and bought us each a conical hat. Love ’em! One really nice thing the resort did each night was a kind of happy hour from 4-5 every evening. They have these delightful, low wooden tables set up and they bring out some cooks and have them prepare a variety of local foods freshly made on the spot: spring rolls and rice cakes and other tasty Vietnamese treats. It was so relaxing and the food was amazing, and –believe it or not, free! Here are some pictures of us enjoying it, though I should maybe say me because really all Coco wanted to do was look for frogs! 🙂 (I can’t blame her. It was fun because there were so many of them and they croaked so loudly!)Hoi An was so charming with so much of the history of the town still in tact and undisturbed. Not an American chain restaurant to be found. My kind of place! There were very few cars and taxis aren’t allowed into town during certain hours of the day so you had to rely on cyclos. We love this type of open-air transportation after experiencing tuk tuks in Thailand and Cambodia. And they’re great for taking pictures.
(Top photo is of a Buddhist temple; this one shows a dress I bought earlier in the trip and had copied in grey fabric in Hoi An because I loved it so much. Please ignore the water spot over my boob that you probably hadn’t noticed til I just pointed it out but I spilled something there and tried to get it out! lol)
We arrived late at night and the first stop we made the next morning was to a tailor to have some clothes made. I had some custom-made curtains made for me in my first apartment in Manila and somehow they didn’t make it into the shipment so I lugged those six heavy panels all the way to Vietnam and had them cut up and made into dresses, a tablecloth, two pillow cases and tons of napkins. I also brought some clothes I had made in Senegal and had them refashioned into clothes for Coco. Reduce, reuse, recycle! 🙂 After getting fitted for clothes we went to a lantern-making workshop. We were guided through the steps of how to make our own lanterns. Coco chose the same colors as I did (pink and purple) so I think I will hang them both in her new pink and purple bedroom. After making our lanterns we took a tour of the facility. There were stations where there were people doing one part of the lantern-making process, kind of like an assembly line. I can not imagine doing that same movement day in and day out in the heat and humidity and with the toxic fumes of the glues that permeated the place.
As much as I enjoyed the experience from a creative/artsy perspective, I felt lucky to be able to leave and had an uncomfortable feeling of privilege, so familiar from living in the Philippines. I just hope the people there are making a living wage and the water and cool towels I saw being handed out is actually done as part of a regular routine and not simply for show when tourists come through. I reflected on this situation of circumstance while I ate some tapas in a lovely air conditioned restaurant run by a Spanish woman. Sigh.
That night we went out to get ice cream and got caught in a downpour. We still went ahead and bought a candle to make a wish on which was placed in a cardboard container and floated down the river. I asked Coco what she wished for and she said “a unicorn!” 🙂