'There are two ways of spreading light; to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.'
April 5, 2018
Last night, we became instant millionaires. For a relatively modest investment of $400, we were instant recipients of over 6 million. With our wallets bulging with notes, we made our way to our hotel, sleeping for just a few hours before boarding our next flight. On arrival, our euphoria soon wore off when our taxi driver demanded 500,000 of our hard earned coin, then reality set it. How were we ever going to get our heads around the Vietnamese currency? The taxi ride, by the way, cost only $28.50.
I wake up to the sound of a rooster crowing somewhere in the distance. The room is in complete darkness. Perhaps the curtains have blocked out the outdoor light. I stir and raise my head to check the clock. It is 1:10am and I have been asleep for exactly forty minutes.
There is a rooster crowing outside my window. We are not in a rural area, well, not really. We had arrived in Hoi An early this morning and after wandering through the old town, then attending a pre-wedding dinner, I had been exhausted, falling asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. I am now wide awake and for a few minutes think up imaginative ways in which that chook could end up in a pho pot...
I must have slept okay after the rooster incident, because I wake up refreshed and ready to start the day.
Hoi An is a city on the central coast of Vietnam. It was a major trading port from the 15th to the 19th centuries. It had lost its status and virtually became forgotten, after the nearby town of Da Nang was given to the French, who built it up as a new centre for trade. Also due to the river mouth silting up, Hoi An remained untouched by outside influences for almost two hundred years, resulting in a well-preserved example of the city's melting pot history. The architecture is a mix of eras and styles from wooden Chinese shophouses and temples to colourful French colonial buildings, and ornate Vietnamese tube houses.
We walk along the river bank to the Lantern Town restaurant, bright red lanterns contrasting against the bright yellow walls, which are synonymous of this ancient city. Last November, the annual floods had reached a record 1.8 metres and there is a marker inside the door of the restaurant to show the height it reached.
Each year, water from the nearby mountains, together with the annual typhoon season causes floods in this part of Vietnam. The people are used to the annual floods, and shift their belongings from the ground to the upper floors as soon as the floods are predicted. Within hours of the waters receding, the cleanup starts, repainting and scrubbing the ground floors, and opening businesses as soon as possible. We are surprised at the complacence and acceptance of the floods by business owners.
As much as we love the food at Lantern Town restaurant, it is nothing compared to the traditional Vietnamese 'street-food' served at the wedding, which was held at the Field Restaurant. The setting is an idyllic location between the beach and the river, and in the middle of a rice paddy. As the sun sets over the river, the owners light citronella lanterns, which also serve as mosquito deterrents. Overhead are fish traps, which have been turned into lanterns. In the waning light the happy couple exchange vows, wishes, and messages of their love for each other. The speeches are short and sweet so that the guests can immerse themselves in the serious business of selecting food, which is cooked in front of their eyes. The Vietnamese fare is exquisite, as staff encourage guests to try something new. The food is without question, the best we have eaten at a wedding. The staff, quietly stand by, removing dishes, replenishing fresh cutlery, and refilling drinks, as the guests dance, sing, and make acquaintance with each other. Before we know it, it is time to call a cab and return to our hotel.
As we reflect on our first two days in Hoi An, we feel comfortable staying in this town. The Vietnamese people have a happy disposition, are friendly and show a wonderful sense of humour. This is a beautiful city and I am already regretting not planning to stay here longer than the scheduled four days.
Title quote: Edith Wharton.
Accommodation: Lantana Hoi An Resort & Spa, 9 Thoai Ngoc Hau Street, Cam Pho Ward, Minh An, Hoi An
Restaurant: Lantern Town Restaurant, 49 Nguyễn Thái Học, Phường Minh An, Hội An, Quảng Nam
Wedding was held at: The Field Restaurant & Bar, Vong Nhi hamlet, Tống Văn Sương, Cẩm Thanh, Hội An, Quảng Nam