28.04.2012 - 30.04.2012 32 °C
Probably known best for its rampant trade in counterfeit clothing – you can simply take a Next catalogue to one of the textile shop owners and they will knock you up an exact replica for half the price in a day or two, Hoi An actually has much more to offer. From the Japanese bridge, to the 1st floor restaurants overlooking the narrow river, to the quaint coffee shops in the small lanes that run away from the river, Hoi An was the most charming place we had been to for quite a while.
Our hotel was about 25 minutes walk from the centre but offered cheap bicycle hire so that's how Lou and I got around. Once you realise that the Vietnamese advice on how to cross the road (close your eyes and walk slowly) is actually closer to how people do it than their joking tone suggests, you're ready to take to the roads. As long as you're prepared to swerve at a moments notice to avoid hitting a person, or another cyclist, or a car, or a chicken, nothing can go wrong. Hiring a bicycle also gave us an opportunity to get off the beaten track somewhat, where we found a restaurant serving fried noodles with chicken and vegetables for virtually nothing.
The following day we booked a day tour to 'My Son' – a heavily Hindu influenced collection of temple ruins from the ancient cham empire located in the midst of heavy jungle. As with most tourist sites in Vietnam, we were far from the only people there, but it was worth the visit to see what is left of the relics, although given the lack of security presence, and the propensity of the tourists to touch and trample on the ancient ruins, how much longer they will be there for is anybody's guess.
We met up for dinner that evening with a guy from Buenos Aires that Bettina knew, and he brought along a Dutch guy that he was sharing a room with. I ended up sat next to the Dutch guy who, despite being a back-packer who had just come from India, was dressed and looked exactly like a politician. He had a balding head, despite being in his early 20's, wore a stiff-collared shirt paired with chino shorts and on his feet wore deck-shoes. When we started talking about giving money to beggars, he also spoke like a politician: “yah well really its up to the government to support them so I never give anything. Giving actually makes the problem worse as it gives the government an excuse not to help”. While I understood his angle to a certain extent, in India if you have a mental or physical handicap then you get pretty much no help from any social welfare system and you're pretty much on your own and so without handouts from members of society you're going to die. “They should try and sell something” was his last thought on the matter, before confirming what I suspected all along that he was a politics student. The guy from Buenos Aires was alright though.