Light and bright in Vietnam’s heritage town of Hoi An
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: aesop.com.
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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