We flew from Hanoi to Danang, then caught a shuttle south along China Beach to Hoi An, a Unesco World Heritage sight that was spared by both sides during the Vietnam war and boasts 800 buildings of Chinese and Japanese heritage that are hundreds of years old. There was no sign of the war at all in Danang or along the ride south, even though it is right on the DMZ. We had heard that the Vietnamese don't really make any effort to preserve battle sights here. I think we were just another in a long line of external powers trying to control their country, and we were the shortest lived.
The origin of Hoi An dates back 2200 years. Our hotel (to the left and up the road in the photo above), was just across a bridge from old town Hoi An, was the Little Hoi An Boutique Hotel & Spa, another great find, with excellent, helpful staff, decent breakfasts, and good air conditioning (a must have in July, trust me). We could not have been happier with its location and accommodations. Here is a photo.
After settling in, we headed toward Old Town.
It is just lovely, lacking the traffic and some of the modern trappings that marked Hanoi or the nearby Danang. It felt like moving just a bit closer to an ancient, quieter and simpler time. The streets were quaint and really wonderful, even in the heat of the day.
It is a series of non-stop shops and restaurants, with ancient architecture all around. One of the oldest sights is known as the Japanese bridge, pictured with the boys, below:
The only downside of the whole trip was the fact that the river below the bridge smelled just like it looks. UGH. Fortunately, it only seems to be in this immediate area, and perhaps only during the heat of the summer. The rest of the town just smelled of lovely food. Speaking of food, the focus in going to Hoi An was some architecture, great food, and tailoring, as it is a renown custom clothing location. We decided to make our first day the "fitting" day, where we went to a local tailor, Bebe, picked cloth, and got measured for pants, shirts, skirts and all. I also walked into a shoe store, and came out with an order for two sets of custom shoes -- they traced my foot, took two measurements, had me pick a style from the many on display, and said come back tomorrow to see if they fit. Hard to believe, but that is the way it worked, and they are awesome shoes. (Wish the tailor had been that easy, but for me, it took many fittings. :-( ) That took a lot longer than we thought, but once evening came, the skies clouded over, it cooled down a little, and the streets really came to life.
As you can see, tourists mix shoulder to shoulder with vietnamese visitors in everything from shorts to formal, native dress, the colors abound, and the beautiful traditional lanterns are everywhere. The energy is great, there are a lot of places to eat very good food, and it is as enjoyable a stroll about as you could ask for. After doing just that for quite a while, we settled into Vai's Kitchen, near our hotel, for a variety fo dishes, including dumplings the kids loved (even Alden!), Cau lau pork and a smokey eggplant dish that was so killer we went back for it before we left. From there, we needed to get to bed, as we had a 5:00 am appointment with a private guide and car that would take us to My Sohn ruins at sunrise.