18.12.2008 20 °C
In the 14th.and 15th centuries Hoi-An was a major trading post. Chinese, Indian and Vietnamese merchants sold silk, china and other wares to fleets of Spanish and Dutch merchantmen. Little has changed in the past 500 years. A hundred and forty tailors' shops, with an equivalent number of shoe emporiums, line the streets, and the Central Market Hall is a giant Alladin's cave. Merchandise of every kind is stacked to the ceiling leaving only a dimly lit maze of narrow passageways for the shoppers. Hundreds of stalls selling meat, fruit and vegetables spill from the market hall onto the surrounding streets, while the fishmongers are kept at arm's length on the quayside.
To our western eyes the entire market appears as chaotic as Hanoi's traffic, but the eagle-eyed Vietnamese spot every opportunity to pitch their merchandise and services. As we browse the market and walk the streets we are constantly forced to do the George Bush duck. And it's not just shoes. Clothes, cloth, peanuts, ginger,
banana fritters, and a thousand other goodies, are touted by pretty little Asian sparrows wearing conical straw hats. Sometimes the "pusher" is an ancient shrivelled granny with teeth blackened by years of smoking and chewing betel. But whoever tries to part us from our money, young or old, male or female, none of them wear glasses. None - not one - not even the frail septugenarians who embroider, sew and knit in the permanent gloom of the indoor market. An opthalmologist would be out of business in a week here. Someone should do a study to find out where we went wrong.
Hoi-An is a fascinating town with delights around every corner. We've done museums, temples and the ancient Japanese covered bridge; we've done the cafes, bars and restaurants; we've even been to cooking school. Tomorrow we will visit the ancient monuments at My Son, and then we will fly to Ho Chi Minh with the feeling that we could happily have stayed here another week.
Today we made the fourth donation on your behalf. This time to an Australian based organization that arranges for severely handicapped and sick children to receive medical care. It is called "Children's Hope in Action" and their website is www.childrenshopeinaction.org