Friday, November 19, 2010

Tuesday, Nov. 16th, Day off in Hoi An (morning)

Another packed day off. Chau met us promptly at nine for a walking tour of old Hoi An. First stop: the Chinese Temple. The building is an elaborately decorated pagoda with many ornate curlicues and dragons. Inside are statues to various gods including the god of midwives and the god of money. Chau explained that Chinese people who want to start a business go first to the temple and pray to the god of money. Vietnamese people being more practical go first to the bank.
Second stop:: a live performance featuring traditional Vietnamese music and dance by a troupe of young, flexible and graceful performers.
Third stop: a historic house owned by the same family for 200 years. The architecture is a combination of Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese elements. The owner pointed out heavy wooden pillars set in concrete to withstand regular flooding. The family runs  a business out of the house producing hand embroidered table cloths. Bernie caved in and bought a cloth and twelve napkins.We were ushered upstairs and graciously offered tea and then the hard sell began. No takers on water pipes or toothpick holders.
Last stop: the local market which was partially underwater because of the previous day's flooding.
Later in the day I returned to the same area to find the streets submerged in water. A Vietnamese woman offered a ride in her wooden boat but wouldn't let me board the boat on the corner muttering something about the police. Instead she led me to a narrow alleyway where her mother was piloting the boat up to meet me. The water taxi took me down a back street which was now one with the river. I watched a boat loaded with merchandise back out of a shop. The shop owner was busy hurling his stock from the boat up to the second floor balcony. Flooding is a regular occurrence and families and shop keepers are practised at moving upstairs until the water recedes.

Paddy Miller

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