Hoi An – Woah, this is Vietnam?

Last night we flew from Hanoi to Danang, and then drove from Danang to Hoi An, which is about half an hour away by car.  We got in late at night, so we didn’t see anything on the way in — all we did was grab something to eat and go to bed.

This morning we woke up and holy cow, Hoi An, where have you been all my life?  This town is beautiful and charming and full of interesting architecture (a mix of Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese influences dating from the 18th Century, when Hoi An was a major shipping center) and blessed with gorgeous beaches only a little ways out of town.  And all that haze and humidity that made Hanoi so infinitely sticky?  Gone.  Sure, the heat was still oppressive and the sun super intense (probably more so), but the air was clear and there were coastal breezes to cool our sweating bodies.

Oh, and an even bigger difference from Hanoi?  PEOPLE FOLLOW TRAFFIC RULES!!  Most of the time.  But still!  Red lights actually mean something, and traffic flows roughly the way you’d expect it to.  It’s hard to believe it’s the same Vietnam we all know and love.

Before biking out to the beach, we spent the morning strolling through the old part of town.  The best way to describe it would be to say it feels the way Antigua, Guatemala, might feel if you put it right on the coast and replaced all the Spanish and Mayan influences with Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and a little French.  Does that makes sense? 

The streets

17th Century Japanese Bridge



Merchant’s house

Built by a merchant in the 17th Century, this house is still occupied by the same family

Japanese architectural element:  Three beams represent heaven, earth and humans. Five
pillars represent the five elements (earth, fire, water, metal, wood).

Chinese architectural element: Curved ceiling
(apparently it acts as a “yin” to the “yang” of
something else going on upstairs)

The house floods nearly every year, so there’s a trap door with a pully up to the second floor
for evacuating the furniture.

Temples and pagodas

The outside
The inside




Roof tile detail

Gargoyle!  Makes me wonder if Gaudi knew anything about Vietnamese architecture.





Flowers and water gardens
I am seriously coveting the gardens here.  I know it’s hot and humid, but look what you can grow!

Water lily
They’ve got all sorts of jasmine growing everywhere, from temple gardens to streetside
hedges.  The blossoms smell so good.  (I think my own jasmine plant back home
should be blooming right about now.)
I think I need to make it a life goal to live where I can grow bougainvillea

Water gardens of all varieties and all levels of
complexity are everywhere here. Makes me
want to up the ante on my own water garden.

Oh, and one more thing

This, friends, THIS is what is wrong with America today.  (Well, this and the continued existence of Doritoes, but that’s a different story.  Also a crime against humanity.) 

This is what was on stage
This is how he watched the entire performance

This kid literally watched the entire performance THROUGH HIS IPAD.  Seriously.  He should have just stayed home and watched some other teenager’s video on YouTube. 

Of course, he didn’t really stand a chance, given that his mother was the most hyperactive picture-taker I’ve ever seen.  It was bad enough when there were only musicians on stage.  When the dancers came out, was certain she was going to slip a disc from all the bobbing and weaving.  Of course, all of my warning bells for concert-going etiquette were ringing like crazy; it was all I could do not to smack the woman.



  1. Anonymous · · Reply

    Well, things just get more interesting and beautiful as you go! Jasmine and bougainvillea…what a grand thought. I really think it has to be hot and himid for water gardens to do that well. Clearly you need more balcony space! Lady


  2. Agree 1000000% infinity about people and their devices! Just enjoy it as it happens. There is this John Mayer song and putting away your cameras and stop looking at the world thru a 3×5 picture…totally!

    And you can totally grow bougainvillea in Phoenix. I know because my Dad has this hate relationship with a bush in the back yard. He has been trying to kill it for almost 30 years. He is losing spectacularly. Of course, I don't think you want to live on the surface of the sun.


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