Vietnam. Hoi An. The land of lanterns.

A short flight down from Hanoi to Da Nang, another efficient pick up, an hour long transfer, and we arrived in Hoi An.  We’d booked a beautiful looking Air Bnb about 15 minutes stroll away from the main areas, and were certainly not disappointed.  For a cost of £23 per person per night it was incredible value.  Two double bedrooms, both with en-suite bathrooms, an upstairs balcony for one of them, access to the small pool from the other, and we couldn’t have been happier. Hanoi’s weather had been a little disappointing with rain each day and cooler than expected.  In contrast, Hoi An was hot and we made use of the secluded pool a few times, both during the day and at night.  Two bicycles were also provided and we made use of those too – an accomplishment for Judith who hadn’t ridden a bike for 40 years!

We had booked 6 nights in Hoi An and were glad that we did as it’s a beautiful place.  One morning I got up early to walk in to the main area by the river as I wanted to capture the place without hoards of tourists there. As it happened, the Corona Virus was starting to take a worldwide grip, and it was much quieter than normal in general, but the early morning was peaceful with the local people going about their business.   I chose a few spots along the river opposite the old town and waited for walkers and cyclists wearing their traditional Vietnamese hats. I particularly liked the texture on the wall in the photo below but wish I’d captured the girl a few seconds earlier as I’d have liked her to be a few feet further to the left.

There are hundreds of boats along the river, all decked with lanterns.  At night they get busy with tourists taking a boat trip, and as we walked along the street, every couple of minutes we’d be approached by somebody wanting to take us out.  They always took No for an answer though, and we never felt hassled.

The ladies below constantly crossed from one side of the river to the other, taking local passengers in order to save them a long walk across a bridge.  They look like they’ve had a hard life.

Hoi An is full of old temples and interesting buildings and we bought tickets for multiple entries to them.

There were plenty of bicycle rickshaws available but we preferred to explore the Old Town on foot. When I’m abroad, there’s something about a bike that makes me want to photograph it in its surroundings…..

There is a large market alongside the river with fabulous fresh produce. It’s so nice to see it all laid out with no plastic wrapping in sight!  We bought a couple of bagfuls of fruit for our breakfasts and it was incredibly cheap. Walking through the market is another occasion when you run the risk of getting knocked over by scooters though.  They weave around pedestrians along a very narrow street and you need to keep your wits about you with every step you take.

Beautiful bougainvillea tumbles over walls everywhere, and there isn’t a street that doesn’t have lanterns hanging over doorways, windows, balconies, and across the street itself.

It’s at night time that Hoi An really bustles. As dusk falls the lanterns start glowing and the river is busy with little boats taking tourists for a trip. Normally these streets would be packed, but with the Corona Virus keeping many people away it was perfect. Perfect for us that is, but far from perfect for the people who rely on the tourist trade to earn a living.  As the days passed, it became apparent that shops, bars, and cafés were starting to close and people were getting worried. We saw a few more face masks being worn by tourists, and when Judith coughed once in the street a local woman literally yelped and ran away.

Many of the cafés had a 3 hour long ‘Happy Hour’ when drinks were Two for One.  Because I hardly drink alcohol, my so called best friend lined up ‘all’ of her mojitos in front of me for dramatic effect 🙂  The second photo below shows the view from our table.

Below is one of my ‘Marmite’ images. (You’ll either love it or hate it!)

Below is the well known ‘Japanese Bridge’.   You’re supposed to pay to walk over it –  I think because so many people stop for a photo so they want to deter people.  Sometimes there would be a man charging money, and other times not.  There’s another ‘walkers bridge’ not too far away and I preferred to take a photo from there.

Going back to our Villa late one afternoon we watched a couple of fishermen on the river nearby.  There was almost nobody else around and it was a really peaceful scene.

One day we arranged for a driver to take us out for several hours as we wanted to go to Da Nang to see a couple of sights.  One was the Lady Buddah. She’s 67 metres tall and is the tallest Buddha statue in Vietnam.

After that, we went to one of the Marble Mountains. These are a cluster of five marble and limestone hills and are named after the five elements.  There is a lift to take you to the top if you don’t want to walk, and we made good use of it as it was very hot and humid that day.  One of the amazing places we went into was a temple in a cave, which has shafts of light flooding down from holes in the roof.

Elsewhere on the site is a temple and its roof has dozens of dragons on it.

On the way back to Hoi An we asked our driver if we could make a short detour to see the Dragon Bridge.  Each evening it’s lit up, and every Saturday and Sunday night it breathes fire and water which must be a great sight.

Another day we took the bikes out for the afternoon.  We cycled to a beach which was almost deserted and we felt very sorry for the local people who have no income at the moment.

On the way back we got caught up in rush hour and it was a rather terrifying ride!  Before we hit the busy part of town though we passed a rice field and I had to stop to grab a photo. Finally, back in Hoi An, we witnessed a beautiful moon rise and despite not having a tripod with me, I managed to get a pretty decent photo of it.

On our last day in Hoi An it was becoming apparent that many places were closing down, and on the day we left we heard that the whole of Hoi An was going to be closed that day, with no tourists allowed there at all. There’s no doubt that we were there at the best possible time.  Very few tourists, only a couple of closures that affected us, and feeling as if we were mostly staying one step ahead of the virus.

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