Baked Potatoes

by James Murtaugh, Jul 11, 2005 | Destinations: Vietnam / Hoi An

Hoi An,2005.

Hoi An is a World Cultural Heritage site. Long ago, Hoi An was a major trading post on the South China Sea.Much of the buildings from this era remain. The town gives you the flavor of a Vietnam long gone.

Today, the town has lots of places to eat and shop. There are almost four hundred tailor shops. They can make you a three piece suit, shirt and tie overnight for about fifty USD. A woman can have anything made the same way at prices unheard of.

There are many shoe stores, a market, a nice river to relax by. You can rent a bicycle for less than one USD and ride around town. When you want to get away from town you can ride your bicycle into the countryside. You may discover a fishing village, the local beach where you are the only tourists or take a dirt path into a small village. There are hotels on the tourist beach or you can stay in town. If you stay in town, a very good hotel is Thuy Duong Hotel, Nhi Trung St. It is not expensive, has a nice pool and cafe. Best of all is the staff. They will do everything to make you happy.

It is easy to think of the people of Hoi An as just sales people but they are very sweet people when you get to know them. I told the girl at the hotel desk that we would like to visit an orphanage but not the one that most tourists see. The following day she took us to a very poor one and we gave the kids toys. The toys gave them and us much joy. Then we went to the market and bought cookies, cakes and fruit for the children. It was a great day for all of us.

On another day a woman stopped us and asked us where we were going. I told her that we were just looking around and she invited us to come to her house. It was a small house made of cement. There were only two rooms. One was the main room and the other a kitchen. We sit down on little plastic stools. Looking around I see the house of a poor person, yet everything is neat and clean. Our host tells us that she works part time as a waitress. She brings out a photo album of her treasure, her children. A boy and a girl. She is so proud of them! The pictures are of happy children. She explains that they are in school. After school they must work selling postcards and bracelets to tourists to help out.

I asked to see the goods that her children sell. I paid her three USD for three bracelets. A small sum of money for me but a huge help to her. She was very happy and thanked us.

On our last day in Hoi An,we were eating dinner when I saw a friend. He was a postcard boy that wears a New York Yankee baseball hat. Each day we would see him and he always had a "Hello" and a smile for us. I wanted to do something nice for him and I remembered a digital watch in my bag and gave it to him. He went across the street to admire his new watch.

An old woman stopped to talk to the postcard boy. I could tell what they were talking about. The old woman wanted a watch also. As luck would have it, I did have a watch pendent that was just right for her. When she came over, I saw how poor she was. I gave her the watch and she reached into her basket. The old woman took out two baked potatoes and gave one to each of us. She then waited while we ate them and gave her smiles. It was a magic moment.

Of all the cities and towns, I like Hoi An the best. It is small but there is alot to see and do. Enjoy!

Jim Murtaugh

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