Hoi An is a charming little city. In the late 18th and 19th centuries it was the major port in Vietnam, when traders from around the world frequented this place. As such, the architecture and people's open-mindedness towards foreigners were shaped by the Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Dutch and other traders who regularly came and went for many decades. However, in the early 20th century, ships became too large for this tight harbour, and the port of Danang (30 km north) took over major trade. As such, activity in Hoi An slowed, and the city was never "modernized". This probably seemed like a shame at the time.
In fact, it is often said that Hoi An fell asleep 100 years ago. In a happy coincidence, this also meant the city was bypassed by the French in the 40's and 50's, and Americans in the 60's and 70's, when Danang became the northernmost air and sea base for occupying forces. (FYI - Danang is home to 'China Beach' - made famous in movies like Apocalypse Now, the Deer Hunter and Forrest Gump).
It was about 20 years ago when Hoi An began to awake, not as a commercial port, but as a tourist destination. The small scale (similar to Quebec City), intact architecture (no bombing) and nearby beaches made it "the place to go" in Vietnam for backpackers and other adventurous travelers looking for a piece of the old Vietnam. Today the city retains most of it's charm and fishing fleet, but tourism is clearly the dominant element in the local economy.
Since we've arrived, each morning we've taken the bicycles provided and ridden a loop through local neighbourhoods, and out into nearby rice paddies. In a very weird way, it reminds us a bit of Holland, where you can ride on bike paths between the fields, far from the cars and trucks on the main roads. The biggest difference is that here, the major obstacle encountered are the water buffalo and cattle that share the dykes with the bikes. No huge tractors here!
So, for 7 days, we've ridden our bikes, laid on the beach, drank too much cheap beer, eaten too much delicious Vietnamese and other foods, and enjoyed leisurely mornings and evening sitting around, surfing the net together. We'll be sad to see the Brandons leave Thursday morning, but on Saturday, the Devolins will head north to Hanoi. We hadn't planned on going there because it can be cool and wet in January, but I see a warm spell is going to hit next week (24 and sunny), so we've adjusted our plans to visit this popular destination. The adventure continues...