So, Saturday, yesterday . . . .Hoi An
is such a cute little town. To plagiarize from Lonely Planet: Hoi An owes its quaintness more to luck than planning. The river silted up. Hoi An was once a major port doing trade with China, Japan, and many other nations. Once the ships could no longer make their way up the river to the port, the shipping industry died. But, Hoi An lived on to become a tourist destination. The earliest evidence of human habitation dates back 2,200 years: excavated ceramic fragments are thought to belong to the late Iron Age. From the 2nd to the 10th centuries, Hoi An was a busy seaport of the Champa
kingdom. Hoi An was also the first place in Vietnam to be exposed to Christianity. Among the 17th Century missionaries was Alexandre de Rhodes, who devised the Latin-based quoc ngu
script for the Vietnamese language.
We opted into a bus ride, i.e., tour, to My Son (pronounced Me Sun) which is the site of Vietnam's most extensive Cham remains. My Son was once the most important intellectual and religious center of the kingdom of Champa and may also have served as a burial place for Cham monarchs. It was rediscovered in the late 19th century by the French, who restored parts of the complex, but American bombing later devastated the temples. Damn Americans. Today it is a Unesco World Heritage
site. The bus ride to this historic site turned out to be a tour with a chatty tour guide. We were the only Americans. Once we arrived at the site, about an hour and a half after leaving the hotel, the tour guide gave us instructions -- number of bus and the "name" of our group. We were the "monkeys" and we did feel as if we were caged. Eventually, we escaped the cage along with a couple of German couples.
Back to the bus and another hour drive to the "river excursion" portion of the tour. Oh my. These boats would be condemned in the West -- loose floor boards, no life jackets, not sure if it would make it all the way back to Hoi An. We did make one stop -- in hopes the tourists would spend money -- to an island that has a wood carving village. Apparently some of the monkeys did spend their dong because they took longer than the allotted 15 minutes. By the time we embarked on our "river cruise" the weather had turned windy and cold. We were served a lunch, of sorts. With lunch and the side trip, by the time we returned to Hoi An, we were really feeling like we were being held hostage. We do NOT like tours. Hate might not be too strong a word, although we did enjoy our tour of the Holy Land.
Once back in Hoi An, we worked our way back to the hotel with a stop at a watch repairman we
had noticed the day before. He is set up on a corner. Tom thought he only needed a new battery in his old Swiss Army watch, but this guy took about 20 minutes to clean and time the watch. We were asked to sit and given chairs, so we had the opportunity to watch the watch repairman and watch the world go by on this busy corner. Both of us noticed the watch repairman was missing a leg -- probably a war casualty. As we sat on the corner, I noticed other people hobbling along who were missing legs. They do not use wheelchairs, they do not have prosthetics -- I have seen a woman and a man use a type of wagon with a pump-type steering wheel and I have seen a few people, the watch repairman included, who use crutches. I find it disheartening that with all the war casualties we know are around, they seem to be well hidden. There are definitely not laws to help them, or to make their lives easier.
We went back to the hotel to rest for a bit before heading out again for the Full Moon Festival. I had an umbrella and we, eventually, bought ponchos. When it rains in the tropics, it rains hard. We had a lovely dinner at a nice restaurant where we could watch the local people come out for their monthly stroll. Rather than seeing only the worker bees that we see during the day, the strollers were much more middle class. Nicely dressed, families walking together, everyone having a good time. What made the Full Moon Festival even nicer is that the streets were closed off to traffic -- no motorcycles, no cars, it was quiet!
And, that was Saturday! Now for the pictures that everyone is waiting for!
It is still Sunday and it is still raining and I am still catching up on the blog and Tom has returned from his little venture out. He says the river is nearing flood stage and there is no point in wearing shoes. Sandals with little fabric will do as we wade through the puddles on our way to lunch at the market in a little while.