29.04.2008 - 07.05.2008 30 °C
Hội An was the first foreign settlement in Vietnam. It was then known as Faifo to Europeans. Four hundred years ago it was an important trading centre, with trade routes heading from Faifo all over the world – particularly to China, Japan and India. The Dutch were there in large numbers at the time too. The Japanese and Chinese quarters still exist, and the Japanese covered bridge links the Japanese quarter to the Old Town.
A couple of hundred years ago the town’s trade began to dwindle as the river silted up and Danang (known to the French as Tourane) took over as the major port.
The money dried up, so a lot of the buildings are about 200 years old. The traditional merchants’ houses are wooden, with sloping roofs. The planks are orientated down the roof. The house is in several sections: a front section open to the public, a courtyard and then the private quarters, and then a kitchen area. The courtyard is a design classic, since it ventilates the building. Modern buildings, laid out on the same narrow plots, lack this feature and its benefits. Apparently the old buildings of Kyoto are very similar, and this may be no coincidence, since pottery from each municipality has been found in the other.
The local government – prompted by its listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – has slapped severe planning restrictions on the buildings in the Old Town. It attracts a lot of western tourists – few Vietnamese – and the town protects its collective commercial interest by restraining individually rational development.
As I mentioned before, the town is blue and yellow. The boats are blue and yellow, the river is blue on a sunny day, and the houses are ochre. What with the water and the bright colours, it’s a rewarding place to take pictures. Here is the first batch; another batch will follow.
On the bus to Hội An we were honoured by the company of Elvis.
A view from the bridge.
Lantern shop again.
What's this? I asked a photographer with a a paparazzo lens. 'Vlha' he said. It means bee-eater in Czech.
A Chinese temple at Hội An. There are quite a few of them.
Waterflower at a Chinese temple.
A remora at the hotel.
On the waterfront.
Ancient ferryman. Part of the town lies across the river, and another part on an island. You can walk there, but it’s very hot, so it’s easier to take a ferry. Vietnamese pay 1,000 dong; most tourists probably pay at least ten times that.