Our rainy days in Hue passed with us hiding in shops and temples, skirting large puddles, and me refusing to take out my camera in the downpour. We soon decided that the grey imperial walls and the equally grey sky made us gloomy, and we continued south to the town of Hoi An. Hoi An is one of these towns that is well established on the tourist trail, both because of its striking colonial architecture and for its fame as the place in Vietnam to have clothes tailored.
Words like ‘quaint’ and ‘picturesque’ are probably well suited to describe the town, but for me the word that stuck was ‘Yellow’. Of course, not all of the town was yellow, but the buildings on the river and large parts of the ‘old town’, which holds a UNESCO heritage status are painted in a bright yellow. Yellow was also a prominent colour of the lanterns that were woven and sold in countless stores, and yellow were the flowers I found left as blessings in several locations.
The town lies at the meeting point of rivers and the sea and the offers for tuck-tucks are quickly replaced by ladies asking if you want a boat ride. Some of these women had the most charismatic lined faces, others were toothless and smiling and some had such a pleading voice that I felt guilty for my refusals. Similarly clinging where some of the women who worked in different tailors’ shops. We adopted the aliases of George and Kate as people started conversations simply to try to convince us that we needed more trousers, a dress, some shoes. Even the protest that we were travelling for months met a practical solution; they would happily post it for us!
But the sales pitches really picked up in the evening. As the sun went down more and more street food appeared, seeming to spill out of the market and into the rest of the town. The whole heritage site is rigged up with lights and lanterns, and women sell candles and floating lights on street corners. Boat rides amongst the floating lights on the river seemed especially popular, and the soft glow of the candles lit up the faces of vendors and pleased tourists, alike. Without the soundtrack of people selling their wares, musicians playing and tourists chattering, it could have been a peaceful scene.