Hoi An

Our little group’s opinions divided over Hoi An.  Everyone agreed the hotel (Boutique Resort) was a letdown after the classy Le Residence.  The town though, is a different story.  People either love it or hate it, just like they do Venice (not that it looks anything like Venice).  Yes, the town is heavily commercialized, there are too many shops and tailors displaying dated and utterly unattractive merchandize, the streets are mobbed with tourists, but every touristy place is touristy for a reason: the town’s charm is clearly discernible through the crowds and the commerce; you just have to delete the mob, the cheap clothes and trinkets off the image in front your eyes.
And the little town is indeed charming!  The bright yellow houses are adorable with their blue shutters, tiled mossy roofs, and carved wooden ornamentations. The whole place has a feel of a party day or night. It’s a happy place: both tourists and locals alike are one cheerful mass. And amid the junky stores, a discriminating traveler can find hip restaurants, cool coffee shops, original art galleries, and refined silks and crafts. What’s remarkable about this town, despite its appearance of a Disney set, it’s a living, breathing town. Most shops are operated by families who live in the back of the very houses that lend their fronts to the shops. You enter a shop, which usually occupies the huge front room, and proceed into an open air courtyard, and from there, to the next room, also, part of the shop. Beyond the second room is another small courtyard and the living quarters. One shop owner told us that her house was built for her husband’s great grandfather, and is now occupied by her immediate family and her mother-in-law. Another house had 5 generations living under one roof: the youngest is a teenager, the oldest is a woman of 98. She milled around the house perfectly erect, climbing stairs, and giving her great grandson directions on painting the house for the upcoming Tet holiday.
I bought a lacquer painting from an artist himself, in his studio/home.
There is also a bustling, crazy, loud food market clearly catering to the locals. The huge covered hall has stalls where local women prepare street food. You can have yourself a meal for the whooping one dollah! The food, though, didn’t look appetizing. Nor did it appear to be adequately hygienic. So instead, we went to the restaurant that picked the food idea off the streets, sanitized it, and fine-tuned the flavors. We splurged and paid $3 per plate instead of $1 for the glorious pseudo street food at Morning Glory and were blown away! In fact, after having two other meals at two other restaurants, which were very good but, alas, not as good, we went back tonight to Morning Glory for our final meal in Hoi An.

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