i flew into denang and have been in hoi an for nearly a week now and i must tell you that i’d been particularly looking forward to coming here ever since bourdain mentioned his love affair with this small city awhile back. it’s well located on both a river and a beach and you’d be hard pressed to find anyplace more charming.
luckily due to an agreement during the american war, this old city escaped unscathed from any active fighting keeping the ancient buildings intact. over the years due to dwindling trade the village had slid into decline but thankfully hoi an was resurrected about 15 years ago as a big tourist destination and in 1999 received unesco world heritage status. granted i’ve seen more white people here than in any other portion of my journey, yet somehow despite all the tourists and the countless souvenir shops all hawking the "same same but different" stuff, hoi an has retained an elegance that somehow combines the very old with the very new and still holds tight to all its beauty and authenticity.
i spend my days wandering about always hitting the market first to have breakfast and to revel in the simple yet highly aesthetic nature of these people. it’s a gritty kind of beauty but it draws me in. hoi an is small, with narrow streets so there are no cars allowed within parts of the ‘old city’ although motorbikes are allowed 3 days a week. you can feel the french influence in the architecture and it’s often compared to new orleans. but there is no mistaking where you are. this is vietnam...
my first two weeks here i managed to buy nothing at all. i’m traveling light and armed with michael’s measurements my only intention was to pick up a bespoke suit for him while in hoi an, a city well known for its plethora of tailor shops. the plan was to buy just one suit that i would be able to bring back with me in my modest bag.
and then i went fucking crazy. cause you know… you can take the jew out of nyc, but you can’t take the nyc out of the jew. and people, let me tell you. i have been SHOPPING. and it’s been SO MUCH FUN. you pick the fabrics and there are thousands, you pick the style, they tailor fit it to your body – and it’s pretty inexpensive… like, troi oi. i have died and gone to heaven. still though, in the midst of an exhausting shopping frenzy it’s a bit disconcerting when you ask how much that silk dress will be and the answer is 800,000. because that just really sounds like a lot to me. it’s 40 dollars.
i’m buying a cheap suitcase as well…
food. i’m supposed to be talking about food… but really, most of my food is bought on the street and i eat for one dollar when i’m feeling hungry and as much as i love the food here and could wax poetically (or try) about the herbs and the flavors, it is not the food i will remember…
it’s the colors of vietnam…
it’s the juxtaposition of the old and the new colliding…
but mostly it’s the people of vietnam that take my breath away. and each photo has a story…
i wish you could have seen this… the woman on the left is 90 and her face was so beautiful…
the paper recycler
the live chicken lady
the wine distributor
the salt lady
but alas, a woman’s got to eat and so here are some highlights… each of these was bought on the street and comes with a glass of hot tea
beef with tomato, some kind of sausage on a fried egg served with a perfect baguette, table salad and dipping broth… 85 cents
this was a damn fine breakfast
it came from here. they’re packed up and gone by about 9am.
a dish from hoi an, cao lau – 75 cents
made here at the market
and this woman by the river
served me this grilled pork. you roll it yourself with first a layer of dry rice paper, then fresh rice paper, the meat and the salad and then dip and eat… 1 dollar
dinner: com ga – chicken with rice and shredded pawpaw with fresh herbs and a broth with chunks of liver – really good – 1 dollar
which came from here…
bun bo – like pho but a richer broth. my market breakfast – 75 cents
which came from here
closer pick of the market stall - i believe that’s a pile of pork…
bahn mi – pate and pickled vegetables with herbs a bit of mayo and some sliced pork on a fresh baguette – 50 cents. i eat these often. i forgot to take a picture but they look like a sandwich. a really really good sandwich.
more to come… i need to hit the streets