Our 7 am wake-up today feels like a lie-in. We were expecting the bus to pick us up for Hoi An at 8 am, but a car is waiting for us well before we are ready. We are driven to the bus, arriving at 8.15 am, and realise from the immediate departure of the bus once we are on board that we were probably supposed to be there for eight. The sky is overcast and there is a little rain as we drive down the coast, and then up over the Hai Van Pass. There are adequate views though the mist of the sea, but it is less spectacular than we had been led to believe.
En route, we stop off at the Cham Museum in Da Nang, and the Marble Mountains. It is the tourist slack season, and we are repeatedly accosted at the Marble Mountains by souveneer traders selling a range of carved buddhas, lions standing on balls, and just about any other shape that a small lump or marble mountain can be fashioned into. The pagodas and caves are worth visiting, but we don’t risk keeping the bus waiting any more than the 45 minutes we have been allotted.
An extended hotel-trawl at Hoi An before John and James are satisfied. The driver of the courtesy minibus from the coach terminal to the hotels seems happier than yesterday’s about taking us to our own choice of hotel, but the Dâng Xanh where we end up, slightly further out of town, is one of their recommendations again.
Walk into town. On the way in, we are accosted by a woman who wants us to visit her tailor’s shop and buy some lovely Hoi An silk clothes. With some difficulty, we manage to get away, promising that we will return after lunch. We eat fish baked in banana leaf with lemon, herbs and spices at one of the riverside cafés—delicious. We discuss our onward travel options; support for the train has haemorrhaged, so the plane it is.
As we leave, the woman from the tailor’s is waiting outside to guide us back to her shop. John, James, and Jay go to order some made-to-measure silk clothes. Clothes shopping is generally something I do only when the need can no longer be ignored. It is certainly not an activity worthy of spending my holiday time on, so I wander off through the old streets of Hoi An to do some serious atmosphere-soaking. Up until now, we have seen very few westerners, but Hoi An seems to be a magnet for them—there are the most here of anywhere we have so far visited, though it is hardly overrun.
The main products of Hoi An seem to be clothes, silk paintings (watercolours on silk), oil paintings, and wood carvings. I see a lovely silk painting in a shop just past the Japanese Bridge and decide to come back tomorrow when the light is better to take another look.
The clouds are becoming heavier and lightning flashes across the sky as dusk falls. Then the rain starts. I am back at the hotel just in time, but John, arriving a few minutes after me is soaked.
We return to the town for dinner, equipped with umbrellas borrowed from the hotel. I eat a speciality of Hoi An—‘White Rose’. It consists of shrimp meat and vegetables wrapped up in thick, almost pasta-like rice paper packages, each one like a flower head, and is quite delicious. Just before we leave, there is power outage. This is not an unusual occurance judging from the number of establishments that have their own generators.