At precisely 1.16 am this morning I received a text from Charlotte. The house alarm had been triggered by Jamie and he couldn’t turn it off. A flurry of texts was then exchanged giving instructions and around 1.30 am I sent a text and turned it off myself before sinking back into my nice, comforting, unalarming pillow.
A lovely breakfast of a more international choice, I stuck with the Asian selection din sum etc. and Sue went European with fruit. Afterwards, we caught the 9 am shuttle bus into Hoi An. The twenty-minute journey gave us our first real sight of the surrounding area. Unlike the north, the paddy fields here were being harvested and families of farmers were out with their sickles gathering bundles of rice plants. A lovely scene of bobbing bamboo hats and brown tunics, though I guess in reality it is back-breaking work and they started work long before we had breakfast.
We were dropped off in a car park near the Old Town next to a restaurant. I checked with the driver if this is where he will pick us up later in the day and he said yes.
Making our way through the narrow streets, quite busy with locals and tourists alike (even for that time in the morning) we soon came across a kiosk at the side of the road that sold entrance tickets. So we bought two. We hadn’t previously known that Hoi An, Old Town was a designated World Heritage Site. The ticket had cut-away parts to it that gave us access to five of the twenty-two historical buildings within the site. We meandered through the narrow streets looking for the buildings that were indicated on the map we had been given with the tickets, deciding from the outside whether to sacrifice one of the portions or not. At the very first one, we bought a couple of sketches. Next was a bridge built by Japanese traders and then at the Cultural Centre, we were entertained by a Vietnamese Folk band, singers and dancers. The dancers told a story and for once the accompanying singer didn’t have a cat in her throat scrabbling up a galvanised windpipe. Somehow during the performance, we played a game of bingo to win one of four hanging lanterns. We didn’t even come a close fifth.
The day was warming up and it became necessary to seek the shadier part of the street, so after another purchase, this time after much consideration of heads sporting beards, made wholly from dried bamboo rhizomes (unique) we made our way to the river bank and selected a restaurant with a pleasant garden to have drinks.
Suitably cool and refreshed we left the shade of the banana plantation our table was situated in and went in search of our next venue. Having found the historical Community Assembly House and marvelled at its wooden structure I bought a good luck coin for my birth year. You won’t be surprised to learn that it bears the same lucky creature as Jamie, a snake! Sue is a horse, Charlotte is a dog and Sarah is a rooster.
We then had lunch at Miss Lyns. We both opted for spring rolls, Sue vegetable with watermelon juice and I prawn with a concoction made from barley, hops and water. Our final ticketed venue was another house with a very fine cool garden that possessed a huge beautiful ceramic dragon set within a pool. We did manage to enter another interesting ancient building as the ticket collector took pity on us as we had run out of portions. I do like the Vietnamese.
From there we made our way back to the pick-up point for the shuttle bus (as pointed out by the driver). We were fifty mins early for the 4.20 pm bus, so we idled the time away eating ice cream in the restaurant. We were surprised to see Ron and Jenny from Hanoi and Halong Bay get off another hotel’s shuttle bus. We chatted a while and then they left to discover the town themselves. A few minutes later to our annoyance we saw our shuttle bus leave from across the other side of the car park with empty seats without coming to the pick-up point! Though Sue dashed to stop him he had turned into the road and was gone. We deliberated on whether to wait two hours for the next one or get a taxi. Sue was tired and in need of a cold shower, so we got a taxi. On arrival back at the hotel, we complained bitterly to Reception who afterwards went off to investigate.
While Sue had her shower I sat at the Services Desk and looked through some of the available tours, while I was there my glasses broke. Kindly the member of staff had them taken away to be mended. I am beginning to think that my coin is not so lucky after all. Perhaps I have been conned?
Later we both returned to the desk. My glasses had been fixed and we set about booking a couple of tours for the next two days.
Later that evening we crossed the road again to the restaurant of the evening before and ate. The owner came and sat with us at the end of the meal and we chatted about children, schools, family and her childhood and the changes that had taken place for well over an hour, before paying the bill and returning to the hotel.
We diverted to the beach and mused about the pretty little lights, twinkling out to sea before returning to our room for an undisturbed nights sleep (fingers crossed).