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Saturday in My Son and Hoi An and Sunday in Da Nang

Exploring My (pronounced Mi) Son and the colonial town of Hoi An

sunny 34 °C
View Journey Through Indochine on goodearth's travel map.

I am looking forward to exploroing these new places. We left on the bus at 7:30. Our first stop was a special restaurant for breakfast, Tru Clam Vien, in Da Nang. I have pictures on http://community.webshots.com/user/splendrous The restaurant is a favorite for coffee and breakfast. It reminds me of a Japanese garden. You enter over an arched walkway bridge. There is a traditional Vietnamese house with all the walls open to the garden. Many water features and lots of plants.

We then continued along the beach road to My Son passing many markets with chickens, ducks and vegetables for sale. We also saw rice fields and rice drying for the seed crop for next year. We traveled about 60 KM.

My Son is a group of temple-towers of Cham people. In 1999, the complex of My Son Cham Towers were recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. There was only one small wooden temple built by King Bhadresvara I in late 4th century. In the 7th century, King Sambhuvarman had it rebuilt, using more durable materials From then on, successive Cham kings, when enthroned, had their temple-towers constructed as offerings to their gods. During seven centuries (7th to 14th century), the temple-towers mushroomed in My Son, turning this land into a cultural, and religious center of the Cham Kingdom.

My Son was a complex of constructions, including different temple-towers and stela in various architectural styles. French researchers listed some 70 temple-towers in the mid 1800's. However, time and war together have taken their toll. Now, only 20 temple-towers remain intact. The rest have been reduced to ruins. Though less impossing than the Angkor in Cambodia and less diversified than the Pagan site in Myanma, My Son is unique in Southeast Asia.

On our drive to Hoi An, we passed many lotus fields and stopped to see them close. We also saw the children riding their bikes returning from school on Saturday morning. The girls were wearing jackets on top of their long sleeve Vietnamese style dress to protect their skin from the sun. They also wore masks, like they do in the city as they walk and ride their motorbikes and bikes to keep their skin from tanning. White skin is prized.

Fai Fo, (Hoi An), was a bustling port in which Chinese and Japanese merchants traded silk, lacquer and porcelain with Indians and Europeans, worshipped at ornate temples and met at splendid clan houses. The streets were filled with traders from East and West, and Vietnamese in conical hats going about their daily business.

Hoi An is an old town of narrow streets, lined with chic restaurants, pretty guest houses, scores of art dealers and tailors' shops, ornate temples and clan houses. The streets are filled with tourists from East and West, and Vietnamese in conical hats going about their daily business.

Fai Fo and Hoi An are the same place, with a few centuries and several culture shocks between them. But if an 18th century Fujianese merchant were to rise from his grave and walk into the street today, he would recognise a great deal of what he saw, give or take some blue jeans and motorbikes.

Hoi An was collapsing into ruin before doi moi (Vietnam's new economic policy instituted in 1989). It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Few towns in Asia boast such a well-preserved history and a strong economy.

Most of the town's visible history dates from the late 18th to the early 20th century. But Hoi An's zenith of wealth and power came earlier than that. It existed during the Kingdom of Champa in the 2nd to 10th centuries, recorded as a busy seaport in Persian and Arab documents.

By the 16th century, Hoi An was a major Portuguese trading centre, in the same league as Macau and Malacca. Chinese and Japanese merchants made its fortune, setting up waterfront trading houses which developed into expatriate colonies. The Japanese, however, disappeared during the 17th century after the Shogunate withdrew into isolation, whilst the Chinese continued to expand. Dutch traders came in and French missionaries appeared, foreshadowing the French colonial takeover two centuries later.

The Tay Son rebellion of the 1770s and 80s destroyed most of the town. Rebuilt after that, Hoi An retains a distinct Chinese atmosphere with low, tile-roofed houses and narrow streets; the original structure of some of these streets remains almost intact. The best houses were made of rare wood, decorated with lacquered boards and panels engraved with Chinese characters.

During the 19th century the Thu Bon River silted up, blocking the passage of ships, and nearby Danang with its deepwater harbour supplanted Hoi An as the main seaport of central Vietnam. Losing its raison d'etre, the old town began to stagnate. As in the old days, Duong Tran Phu is the main street. A row of vibrantly ornate temples and clan houses face south towards the river, built by the various Chinese communities of Hoi An.

We saw silk worms and how the threads are pulled from the cocoons and woven into cloth. Much embroidery work is done on purses and tablecloths. Framed work looks like a photograph. The towns is organized for tourists and has many shops and tailors. The river runs through the town and the architecture is very pretty. The restaurants are quite good and it is a delightful place to explore. We returned at 9PM and had rain for the first time since we have been in Da Nang. Many of us plan to return next weekend. It is only 40 minutes from Da Nang.

Sunday, I went with Pradeep, from India, to the Catholic Church. We discovered that their services are in the afternoon. So we went to the Caodai Temple. We looked around as a man was sweeping the floor and as we were leaving he told us that a service would be in 5 minutes. So we waited and met a young woman who is an accountant and spoke English. The men are on one side and women on another. I went in with her and very much enjoyed the music. She asked for our phone number and wanted to meet with us again. In the afternoon I went with Pradeep and Marc, American, on the back of the motor bike to enjoy the beach. It is a lovely setting with the mountains surrounding the water. The water is very warm and a swim is most refreshing. The perfect end to a wonderful weekend.

Posted by goodearth 01:01 Archived in Vietnam

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