Sunday, 24 October 2010

Old Houses of Hoi An

This morning I visited 5 historic sites in Hoi An Ancient Town. One is a family tomb for worshipping ancestors, the others are traditional homes, some 200 years old. The guides at each house profess to be part of the family that has lived in the house for 6 or even 8 generations. The families still live in these houses but conservation and restoration work is supported by the Government. Architecturally they manage to be both beautiful and functional with a balance seldom achieved in our modern buildings. Flood marks on the walls of those closest to the river show that there have been 3 metre floods, but it is more common that each year there is up to one metre of water in the lower areas. I saw trapdoors and pulley systems, for pulling the furniture and possessions up to the loft at these times.

The ticket for five historic sites says "Please dress decently, Sleeveless blouse, drawers and over the knee skirts or dress are not welcome inside the show places."

Lucky I wasn't wearing my over-the-knee drawers today.

After two visits I stopped for coffee and croissant. After the fifth I had steamed seafood spring rolls. The boy on his bike going around the cafes selling the English-language daily newspaper says "hello again". And again...

As I sit here in the foyer of the hotel, sweat is running off me - well maybe you didn't need to know that but I share it for atmospheric purposes. The middle of the day is resting time, shops close their doors and the kids are back from morning school (two shifts per day).

One small treasure - Yes, this is a communist country but I didn't realise there was a curfew. Last night at about 11.00 pm there was a vehicle going down the street with a megaphone, and a tinny official voice intoning "Off de-lay-aits. Off de-lay-aits." It took me a little time to realise the message was to turn off the lights. Had my light been on I'd have offed it immediately.

Every corner has the motorbike drivers calling Hello, madame, you take motorbike. I was rather insulted by one this afternoon who added, We go very slow madame.

Someone called today "Motorbike Madame? We go Easy Rider. Very good enjoy Viet Nam easy rider!" Exactly, but not for me thanks.

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