An elegant sufficiency

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

In Hoi An

It's been a fun day walking around another World Heritage site - the old city of Hoi An, in the words of our guidebook "shoppers paradise". Not that we wanted to buy a great deal. We were not in the market for made to order clothes and we don't go a bundle on souvenirs and things for our home - in my experience, such things don't travel well, however good they look in their original surroundings. But, we did succumb to one or two bits, of course.

Firstly, we bought more Me Xung, an Hue speciality we tried yesterday and enjoyed. It's a kind of sweet jelly covered with sesame seeds and quite yummy, we think. Then of course, we had to buy the Hoi An speciality, Hu'ong, little shortbready biscuits, wrapped in pairs each biscuit with a stamped chinese design on one side.

We enjoyed these too, so had to buy more replacements. Next was a bag of black peppercorns, Vietnam's major export we've learned, and some dried lemongrass which smells so lovely. Finally, some green lotus flavoured tea which we tried earlier in the day and enjoyed.

We loved the market, enjoyed watching the daily life unfold there, in particular the small argument which resulted in one stallholder splashing fishy water from her counter all over a customer who must have irritated her in some way. The customer found herself drenched in the smelly stuff as she turned around to hurl abuse! There were fruits of every kind here, many of which we've seen (and eaten) at breakfast time, but also others which were new to us. The vegetables were fresh and plentiful and everything looked good and appetising - with the possible exception of the area with the aroma of fish sauce!

We made the obligatory visit to a craft workshop and watched more embroidery, some weaving and silk production but declined a huge hardanger tablecloth and matching napkins, thanks.

Further down the street was a shoe shop where a pair could be made and delivered to the hotel later. I was sorely tempted, but Phong, our guide, warned against ordering a pair, because the glue won't dry in time and they'll fall to bits!

There were shops selling silk lanterns, a speciality of Hoi An, and of course, lots and lots of T shirts.

After a temple or two - one with the most wonderful hanging incense cones, we made our way to the river, where we climbed on board a small boat for a trip downstream for an hour. We sat and watched scenes unfold in front of our eyes and found ourselves fascinated by everything around us. This is such a picturesque country, the people delightfully friendly and good natured.

Along the river, we passed fishermen and women in small boats, ferries with it seems, more motorbikes than passengers and small children playing in the water. All so romantic - except for the choking diesel fumes and the noise from the engine!!

So, another busy day which provokes "The Thought". Edward started this one years ago and it remains one of our pet phrases - when I am sitting at home in a couple of weeks, I shall think of this place where life goes on day after day in the same way it has for years - even when I'm at home doing the ironing. It goes like this: "Just think, right now the Star Ferry is chugging away across Hong Kong Harbour, people are bustling around New York and the daily flight to (enter whatever city is in your mind) is just taking off. And here we are, doing (insert boring activity of choice).



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