|NEW TONIC PRESS||
The thought of strolling round an ancient Vietnamese town had never occurred to me as I'd never heard of such a place. By a stroke of fate I was booked on a flight to Hoi An within days of hearing of its existence.
Hoi An old quarter is a world heritage site. Traditional Vietnamese style buildings are mixed with designs from Japan, China and the West. It was a thriving trading port between the 16th and 18th centuries but as other ports along the coast, like Da Nang, got more popular Hoi An faded into the background while its harbour filled up with silt.
It's unbelievably well preserved and incredible that it wasn't bombed to smithereens during the war. The old quarter is made up of shops, tailors, temples, galleries and cafes. There was a three storey high wooden house made up of a cafe and bookshop - a great place to hang out and browse books about Vietnam.
We spent hours wandering around the streets of the old quarter. There were lots of tourists but it didn't make it any less charming. It was never crowded and it had a laid back style. We went to eat in cafes with hidden courtyards. Treats Cafe cast us back in time one evening as we sipped our drinks and listened to Edith Piaf. At Bazar Cafe we walked through wooden Chinese doors into a brick-walled garden and ate banh mi (baguettes) and green mango salads.
The main streets of the old quarter run parallel to the Thu Bon river, while narrow alleyways cut across them. The main form of transport are bicycles and motorbikes. On our way to the airport in Da Nang we circled a four lane roundabout which was filled with motorbikes. There were about five cars amongst them.