Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

Hoi An Old Town, Saturday, September 29th, 2007

Posted by Lisa Hill on October 20, 2007

Our guide, Long, met us at nine and we took a walk through the Old Town, where mercifully there are no cars or motorbikes allowed and it was uncharacteristically peaceful and quiet. Here we saw the prettiest temple of our tour (at the Assembly Hall), a ‘Japanese’ bridge, and the oldest house in Hoi An. It was over 200 years old, and had survived regular flooding in the monsoon by having marble bases to its supporting columns which prevented them from rotting. There was also a trapdoor from the upper storey so that precious items could be hauled up during the floods, which sometimes reach 1.5 metres during the wet season. I was especially taken with the three household gods, with a baby for happiness, a hat and a ‘happy belly’ for prosperity, and a walking stick for longevity. Although the house is open to visitors it is still in use, and upstairs a seamstress does the most beautiful silk embroidery by hand, presumably for long hours each day. I bought some lovely tablecloths and matching table napkins which I shall treasure, for I know how poorly my attempts at needlework compare with the work of this charming young woman.
We had a refreshing cup of Chinese tea, and then everyone else went off to buy shoes while Tim and I took a stroll along the riverfront instead. It was very pleasant exploring this less frequented area, and we were left in peace to enjoy it. Although we’d made a booking for dinner at the Morning Glory restaurant, we couldn’t resist a snack beforehand, so we went back and sampled little dumplings and corn pancakes. Our route back to the hotel took us back past Hoi An’s most famous landmark, the covered Japanese bridge, built in the 16th century, though possibly not by the Japanese. There are statues of two dogs at one end, and two monkeys at the other, probably representing points of the compass and not, as commonly believed, the Year of the Dog and the Year of the Monkey because that would mean that it took two years to build the bridge, which seems unlikely. After loafing about with a book and a snooze at the hotel, we took lunch at Miss Ly’s Cafeteria 22 (where we had another lesson in folding spring rolls), and then discovered the market. The rain was very heavy but we splashed along quite happily and plunged into the undercover part where we marvelled at the range of goods for sale, crammed into every available scrap of space. (I finally managed to buy a moon cake here, but I forgot about it afterwards, and had to throw it out – what a waste!)
Our dinner at the Morning Glory Restaurant was every bit as good as the previous night. We had Three Brothers crispy noodle pancakes (chicken wrapped around a stick of lemon grass, like an icy pole on a stick), some fried spring rolls, stuffed squid for Tim and Long’s recommendation, Cam Lan, which is noodles with pork and nuts. We love the crisp/silky contrasts of texture and taste in Vietnamese cuisine!

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