Light and bright in Viet­nam’s her­itage town of Hoi An

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SUSAN KURO­SAWA

LET there be lanterns. The his­toric lit­tle trad­ing town of Hoi An in the cen­tral coast re­gion of Viet­nam (in­land from Da Nang) is UNESCO World Her­itage listed and fa­mous for its tai­lors and silken tex­tiles.

De­spite the throngs of tourists, many be­ing ped­alled along in con­voys of cy­c­los, it feels a bit like a movie set. It wouldn’t seem en­tirely ridicu­lous if a mar­tial arts master were to cat­a­pult from a tiled rooftop or a shapely maiden in tra­di­tional ao dai cos­tume twirl her oil-pa­per para­sol and sing for the cam­eras.

The ground lev­els of Chi­nese-style shop-houses lin­ing Nguyen Thai Hoc and Bach Dang Streets, plus nu­mer­ous side lanes such as Le Loi, are full of shops fes­tooned with silk and bro­cade lanterns in bul­bous or slen­der shapes, bounc­ing about door­ways and hung from posts and rafters, all are ribbed and can be folded down for easy pas­sage home.

My first visit is by day and the se­lec­tion ap­pears over­whelm­ing but next night, the choice seems eas­ier as colour is the key; the lanterns glow brightly, from mul­berry and scar­let to jazzy orange and gold, some NEW from Ae­sop, and in this Aus­tralian brand’s sig­na­ture stores and se­lected stock­ists from Fe­bru­ary 24, this emol­lient balm is blended with an ori­en­tal mix of es­sen­tial oils, in­clud­ing crushed co­rian­der seeds, black pep­per­corns and patchouli. The balm ab­sorbs read­ily and has the right kind of spicy scent to ap­peal to chaps. It also con­tains shea but­ter, sweet al­mond and wheat germ oils and Vi­ta­min E-rich car­rot root ex­tract, and is avail­able in a 500ml dis­penser ($103). More: ae­

SUSAN KURO­SAWA with pat­terns of blos­soms and but­ter­flies, dragons and stalks of bam­boo.

The town is lit up like a fairy­land as lo­cals and vis­i­tors alike prom­e­nade over the Cam Nam Bridge and be­side the Thu Bon River

The six lanterns I buy (and which later be­come gor­geous hang­ings for gar­den par­ties) come with lit­tle notes that they are “cer­ti­fied by the In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty Depart­ment”, which should make any shop­per feel right­eous.

Din­ner that evening is a treat at a river­side ta­ble at the colon­naded and colo­nial-in­spired Brother’s Café on Phan Boi Chau Street, after which, like most tourists, I stroll more lan­tern-lit al­leys to pause and lower a can­dle in a scal­loped pa­per “boat” from Cam Nam Bridge via a long hook into the river.

It costs the equiv­a­lent of less than a $1 from the can­dle hawk­ers and, like me, surely ev­ery­one wishes they could re­turn, and soon, to charm­ing Hoi An.

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