Vietnam, July 2012

Xin Chao from Vietnam where I have been travelling for the last 10 days.

I started this steamy journey in the south, in Saigon (AKA Ho Chi Minh City now..).  I didn’t linger long though as the “rebuilt” Saigon is an unfortunate soul-less mix of colonial French and modern Soviet architecture.

I’ve hop-scotched up the coast via the train, spending a couple of days at the beachside town of Nha Trang.  Locals fish the turquoise blue waters from circular basket boats, hiding from the sun under broad conical hats.  The bath-like waters are a mecca for scuba diving.  While the corals certainly aren’t as beautiful as other reefs I have dived, I was truly amazed by the array of marine life.

The last few days I have spent in the ancient port town of Hoi An – a glorious jewel that somehow survived the swathe of devastation that was the Vietnam war (called the American War here.. there’s always at least 2 versions of history!)  Hoi An was an important south Asian crossroads in the 19th and 20th centuries with Chinese and Japanese sea merchants arriving with the monsoon winds seasonally to trade in silk and spices.  The old town reflects these architectural and cultural influences.  The pagoda-style ancient houses are resplendent with Chinese lanterns that hang from every eave, window and doorway.  Bougainvilleas garland narrow laneways and pink jasmine vines spill from balconies and walls.  In the evenings Hoi An is transformed by the glow of hundreds of colourful lanterns reflecting in the waters and the perfume of jasmine suffusing the warm night air.  Hoi An has a charm that captivates and entrances… and it’s a place that I have had to tear myself away from.  But the compass is still set north- I’ll write more when I’ve reached Hanoi.

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