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UNESCO Visits and Cooking!

VIETNAM | Wednesday, 6 March 2013 | Views [683] | Comments [2]

The Merchant City of Hoi An is a lovely city that sits along the Thu Bon River. Although no longer an active port, the City still holds much of the charm of old. The City is well preserved with 200 year old Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese merchant houses, community lodges and Buddhist pagodas. It is currently designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The people are wonderful, and helpful, although when purchasing items prices seem less negotiable than HCMC. As always the food is tasty. My one complaint would be the Venice-like tourist atmosphere. There are more than enough souvenir shops to satisfy even the cheesiest vacationer and the waterfront, although lovely, feels more like a Disneyland than an actual place people live. Alas, this seems to be the cost of becoming a tourist-focused economy. A benefit of it all is that even though many of the buildings are now souvenir shops, the 200 year old buildings themselves will be preserved for generations to come. Just like Venice, architecturally, this city shines.

On our second day in Hoi An, we took the Red Bridge Cooking School full-day class. The classes are small, only 8 people maximum, start in Old Town Hoi An with a morning coffee. Then off to a van for a morning tour. Much to my taste, the school took us to an organic farm for a lesson on practices and types of herbs and vegetables grown in the region, followed by a trip to the local market to pick up the ingredients to be used in the day's cooking class. Upon arrival at the school, we were served drinks and immediately jumped into the cooking. We cooked, chopped, BBQ'd, etc, EVERYTHING! The class was great. We even made our own rice noodles. Four dishes total were made: Clay Pot Fish, banana leaf shrimp, pho bo, and papaya salad. The property of the school is quite picturesque, set on the river front and a well curated garden, the kitchen is outdoors looking out over the river. After finishing the cooking and eating, we were given a wonderful riverboat ride back to Hoi An.

On our last full day in Hoi An, we boarded a big tour bus for the My Son Cham Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, built around 1000 years ago by the Cham Empire, a Javan peoples who once ruled parts of Central and Southern Vietnam. A Hindu temple complex, the Cham Temples resemble the temples of Ankor Wat, but on a smaller scale. An amazing thing about these Cham temples is the way in which these buildings were built. Using only bricks and perhaps an organic resin, the Cham peoples were able to build buildings to last over 1000 years! These bricks sat in the rainforest with little deterioration until the American War, when Nixon decided to bomb the temples. Today, much of the temple complex is destroyed or in need of repair. A joint project with the Italians is helping the Vietnamese restore many of these temples, but the technology used to build them as they had 1000 years ago is lost. Current methods seem to only last a few decades. If you look at the older reconstruction and compare it to the original work, you'll see the brick and mortar technique fails to hold up for more than 40 years, while the original work looks quite new. On the tour we got to walk around the complex and explore a number of temples. Our guide, a well spoken Vietnamese man, was funny and informative. Unfortunately, the size of our group made our interaction with him rather limited. There were a decent number of tourists about, but not so many it felt overrun. We did have some puppy friends running around the temples who had followed our tour group from the information center located about 100 yards from the temple site. After leaving the site, we were taken to a boat where we had lunch and stopped over at a traditional woodcraft village located just across the river from Hoi An. The villagers make fishing boats and other larger vessels as well as more intricate woodworks used by the town of Hoi An for restoration purposes as well as to sell to rich tourists. Sorry folks, no five foot wooden Buddha or Shiva statues for you.

Today we travel northwards to the old Imperial City of Hue via train. See ya'll in Hue!

- Geoff

Tags: cham, hoi an, my son, red bridge cooking school, temples, tour, unesco



Nice descriptive writing by both travelers! Great reading.

(Who are these Italians who can't figure out lasting masonry? Certainly not Romans; they built the Coliseum for JC's sake...probably my people from the south -- good-hearted enough to help out, but more interested in sampling local food and wine than developing decent mortar...)

  A.J. Pasquarelli Mar 7, 2013 12:02 PM


Love love reading your posts!! I feel like I could visualize it all with you.
Sounds delish too!!

  Kellie Mar 15, 2013 10:25 AM

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