Bookless on the Beach

By Colin McFadden
This post is part of a series called Vietnam 2013
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Like Sleepless in Seattle, just a different kind of horrible.

Yesterday, I made the trek to Hoi An. Hoi An is part Ye Olde Town, and part beach resort. Because the river silted in, it was basically frozen in time a few hundred years ago (when the port became useless) and was mostly spared during the various wars of the 20th century. The town lines a river estuary, with a couple islands connected via small bridges. It’s a town of tailors, spas, trinkets, and restaurants. A few miles from town is a gorgeous beachfront on the pacific, lined with more restaurants.

I’m staying at a hotel midway between town and the beach. It’s got an amazing view overlooking the river and the type of terrain you imagine when you think of The War.

I started the day with a walk to the beach. I’m not really a beach type of guy, but I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity entirely. Apparently beach type people don’t show up at 8 am, because I was more or less the only person there. I paid my dollar rental for a beach chair and umbrella and set about relaxing. Except, I killed my Kindle yesterday, and thus was bookless. Well, not entirely bookless. I brought along my Vietnam Lonely Planet guide and flipped through it. But, I lamented the loss of my Kindle. On the plus side, they will bring you vietnamese coffee (so.. coffee) while you lounge. In reality, it’s a fantastic beach, with great gentle waves and clean water. I spent the better part of the morning there.

Around 11, I strolled back to the hotel, by way of the semi-local market for some lunch. Today was the 15th day of the lunar month, which for some Vietnamese means maintaining a vegetarian diet. For that reason (I suspect) there weren’t any meat vendors at this more rural market, and all of the street food options were vegetarian. In town of course, everything was on the table. It was, as with everything I’ve eaten in Vietnam, delicious and served with a smile.

In the afternoon, I set out for town. The first stop was Randy’s Book Exchange, a bookstore selling used and pirated foreign language books. A life saver! Crisis averted, I settled in at a cafe to reach and people watch. Eventually, I strolled the town, poking in shops and snacking a bit.

Hoi An doesn’t really come alive until dusk. That’s when the tour busses bring in the folks staying at out of town hotels, and the river front lights up. There’s a night market and most of the streets are closed to traffic.

I can only imagine what it’s like in peak travel season. One of the Hoi An rituals involves purchasing little lighted luminaries which are floated down the river. Sales weren’t particularly brisk tonight, but I can imagine the river looks stunning when flooded with them.

Tomorrow, I head to Ho Chi Minh City. I imagine it’ll be a bit of a change from Hoi An. A day and some partials was definitely as much time as I needed to spend here – a pleasant place, but if a beach resort is what you’re after, I can’t see flying to southeast asia. And if Ye Olde Town is what you’re after… have you considered Charleston? I’m ready to dive back into the chaos.

One thought on “Bookless on the Beach

  • Susan McFadden May 24, 2013 at 3:11 pm Reply

    Beautiful pictures, as usual. Sometime you’ll have to explain a bit more to me about the unique character of night markets in Asia. How do they differ from day markets? My main association with them is the one where you got so sick in Beijing.

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