A Break in History Lessons
Hoi An has some of the finest architecture in Vietnam, thanks to the cooperation of both side, Hoi An was barely touched in the American War and therefore still stands in its former splendour. Having visited the Japanese Covered Bridge in the morning, along with the Chinese Assembly Halls and two of the ancient merchant houses we had reached the point where we needed a break in history lessons and wanted to get a feel for current life in the city. However, before going to the local markets we wanted to take in the Quan Cong Temple, which was conveniently located just at the top of the Food Market Hall.
The small Quan Cong Temple
The small Quan Cong Temple dates back to 1653 when it was built in honour of the Chinese General, an esteemed military figure of the three Kingdoms Period. The temple itself was surprisingly quiet and peaceful considering its central location and proximity to the busy marketplace across the street. There was a scenic koi pond at the centre of the temple and Jerome once again admired the little temple scenes on the bonsai trees surrounding it.
Food Market Hall
Leaving the temple and crossing the street we reached the bustle of the main market. Having had lunch already we were not tempted by the tasty offerings of local dishes at the Food Market Hall, however it is a great spot to experience the local fare among other tourists and Hoi An residents at a very reasonable price if you are hungrier than we were. Just take a seat at a stall that takes your fancy and dig into the Vietnamese dishes. On our walk through the food hall we were surprised to find that most of the tables and stalls were empty and some of the staff were even dozing on the benches, although we were well after local lunchtime. Towards the back of the market hall were rows upon rows of shops selling dried and canned food, including large sacks of rice and beans.
Fruit and Vegetable Market
Once back outside on the street, we found ourselves at the fruit and vegetable market. It was quite shocking to see how little some of these women offered for sale. There was one older woman, she literally only had a few dried mushrooms laid out in front of her. It is hard to fathom how they may survive on the little money they earn. Most interesting for us was the variety of fruit and vegetable for sale. There was an abundance of choice, much more variety than we would ever find in a European supermarket or market stall and there certainly were a large number of unknown, tropical fruits and vegetables that we had never seen before.
The Cloth Market
Turning left in direction of the Cloth Market we noticed that the stalls changed rapidly, many were orientated at the tourists with pottery, clothes and baskets among the goods on offer. Right before the Cloth Market was a lady with chicken squeezed into a tiny wired cage, it was a sad sight but part of Vietnamese culture. The boys wanted to go into the market hall, Chris thought we might be able to find some line for Jerome’s kite that he had bought in Hue. A friendly lady helped us find a toyshop and when we showed her on our phone what we were looking for we were soon able to buy two rolls for Jerome, although the lines on them were not as long as he would have liked.
Purchasing a Pair of Handmade Shoes
The friendly lady owned a shop selling handcrafted shoes and she tempted me with her charm to purchase a pair. What women cannot be tempted to a new pair of shoes? However, if I was going to spend money on a pair of handmade shoes I thought it best to go for a simple design, I was too worried they might not turn out how I wanted them to be otherwise. I showed her a photo of the shoes online and she agreed to make them to match. She then took measurements of my foot and I chose the leather from a mountain of samples. When she told me the price I did not even think about haggling with her, as it was such a small amount compared to the original pair that I already owned. She said they could be ready in 24 hours but we chose to give her more time, as I wanted the pair to be perfect. After making an advance payment we left the market hall agreeing to return in a few days, the lady would have loved to sell me more shoes but I stuck to my plan…
Back outside, the sun was noticeably lower and we strolled westwards, in the direction of our hotel along the waterfront. The tourist boats anchored in the port, once a busy harbour with ships docking from all across the world. Nowadays the wooden tour boats are the only ships to come ashore in Hoi An. There still is a fully operational fishing port closer to the river’s mouth at the quaint Duy Hai fishing village.
River Cruises and Boat Trips
Walking on the waterside past the many boats you might be approached by annoying touts that offer river cruises and boat trips down the Thu Bon River. River Cruise packages sometimes include cooking classes or are part of the return journey to the My Son Cham Ruins. Be prepared to negotiate to avoid paying over the odds and make sure they offer the trip you want if you are tempted. Some say it is the best way to see the town and countryside from a different perspective, however we would recommend hiring bikes for the day and exploring the beautiful landscape by pedal power. Children on the other hand might enjoy a short boat ride and it can be a welcome change to exploring Hoi An by foot, but a longer run such as that all the way to or from My Son might bore them, so choose carefully.
Relaxing by the Pool
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