Hoi An, Vietnam. In the city of lanterns
Evening, I was sitting on the stairs, in our hotel, after a long day of adventures. I wrote down this article. Here it begins our Hoi An travel diary.
"Three years ago we visited Hoi An for the first time, I was only two months pregnant. My belly was still flat, we were the only ones knowing that we would have soon been a family of three, and perhaps we didn’t know what that meant either. We stopped in a bar for a coffee.
There was another pregnant woman in that bar, she was probably 8 months into the pregnancy. I still remember her vividly, because back then it was all new for us and every little hint we could grab about pregnancy was a step towards comprehension and towards the future. Today we came back to that coffee bar and we asked about her. We met her again. She’s fine and has two healthy kids, the same age as Teo and Lia. Sliding Doors.
I wish I could go back in time, get in that coffee, wink at myself and say: “don’t worry, it’s gonna be alright. It will be constant hard work, intense and crazy, but they’ll have those blond curls you will love so much. And even if you’ll lose the right of eating your brioche without giving away half at least, you will gain the right of kissing them on their forehead while they sleep. And it will be so beautiful.”
Day 92. Hoi An, Vietnam. Today, in that coffee, we came back with our children.
It’s the first time since we left that we visit a well known place, and finally with our children. It felt a little bit like going home, that familiar sound and feeling, despite the fact that we’ve only walked once into this café.
Hoi An has a special spot of that three year ago visit to Vietnam. Here we took one of our favorite pictures, one of those who made our history on the kitchen’s wall in the old, warm house in Firenze. The story goes like this:
One morning I remember (it was so hot) we saw a temple, while walking towards the old city, and we got in for a prayer. We were the only ones inside. The temple was in a secondary, very quiet street. Julien took a picture of me while I was sitting down on the floow. Back then, I named this picture “praying for you, praying for three”. My thoughts were for my child, inevitably, constantly.
Hoi An is a small city near Da Nang and the airport. It takes one hour on the road to reach the Old City, Unesco Heritage. We got to the city in the evening, when the sun starts setting down and when this city shows itself incredibly beautiful, for this main reason:
Hoi An is the city of lanterns, they’re everywhere in the Old City. During the day they make the city warm, during the evening it’s like being in a movie. So suggestive. To buy a souvenir in the night market along the river is a must do, but we didn’t do it because we bought one three years ago. A tiny tiny one, when you are backpack travelling you need to be careful of space. In our attempt to assemble it, when we were back to Paris, we broke it. And that’s how it will always be, a broken lantern on our living room’s floor. It’s our lantern and it’s our story, that’s enough reasons for it to stay, I though. As soon as Miki forgets about it I’ll throw it, Julien though. ;)
Hoi An has its own atmosphere: extremely, incredibly, profoundly romantic. It seems surreal. The river is the real postcard, what you’ll never forget. On the sides, the colonial style houses cgrab your attention. The night is magic.
Hoi An is full of narrow streets to walk over and over again, trying to avoid the tuc tucs. The market, a color bomb. I took videos of the market and shared them every single time I walked there, because it represents the Vietnam we love, its quintessence. Careful women, pointy hats, exotic fruit.
We walk through the crowd and the noise among the durian baskets, the big smiles to the baby Lia I’m carrying with me, while I keep looking for her leg and her arm with my hand, or her hair, blonde like the sun, blonde like her brother’s. The old women talk with us about history, with their wonderful wrinkled look. They invite us on their boats to sell us paper lanterns and to teach us how to leave them floating on the river.
Everyday we wondered how it must be to live here, in this crystal hut separate from Vietnam’s horns and smog, a bunch of kilometers from the sea. A sea made of white white sand and dreamy beaches and still desert (it’s such a pity that the tourism business and luxury resorts are taking over this paradise). We are so honored we had the chance to visit Vietnam when it was still free from all of this. Strolling around the countryside by bike, staring at the red pagoda (reminding us that China is so close), women working hard in the rice fields with their back crazily distorted, because they’ve been working a whole life.
One morning I receive a message from a girl from Da Nang, who is following us since we started this adventure. My eyes shine, I won’t miss the chance and I ask her to meet around 2PM, in one of our favorite spots, where we had that amazing Vietnamese coffee (brewed and served directly from the typical steel coffee filter, with its peculiar consistency and served with cold or hot condensed milk). We spent a whole afternoon together with her, her husband and their 11 months daughter. I don’t know how we actually managed to communicate (Google Translate was the greatest help). Their thick Vietnamese accent melted with ours creating a dance of sounds that ended up with a laugh and put everyone in the right mood. She introduced herself with a big smile, their child was wearing the loveliest dress. We feel flattered that she gave us so much of her time and she cared so much about their look. Her husband is a wedding photographer, he showed us his work. He’s so incredibly good. We chat.
After a while the kids start being impatient (especially our kids, showing their utmost anarchy - guess who they took from). We have a walk together, taking advantage of the first day of good weather. And the last one, of course. We have a wonderful memory all together in front of a yellow wall, washed by time, so typical in Hoi An. Lia falls in love with the child and keeps hugging and kissing her with that emphasis that is typical of her brother. The child likes Lia a bit less and runs away from her, trying to avoid another one of those sweet sweet hugs. We say goodbye, we’re all happy we met. It was a real life experience, just as we like it, just like we’re looking for. The people.
Our Hoi An ends with a big moment. A boat is waiting for us. We get on. The engine starts, oh that sound. We go. The sun sets behind our backs, it goes hiding in the palm trees.
A man is coming along, he takes a picture of us and suddenly that picture goes on top of our favorites, winning the first place. We are sitting on the bow, because in the front row everything is better. We say our farewell to Hoi An in the most magical moment, when it’s dressed in its night dress.
It’s in Hoi An that we bought the first gift for our first born, of which we didn’t know the gender yet. It was a tiny tiny pointy hat. Every time we walked into a new hotel room, we used to put it on the table: our most pure travel memory.
Eventually we bought two tiny hats, and we’ve been waiting for so long to do it: Hoi An 2017.
With a Lot of Love - #miljiansgotovietnam
We’ve been guests at Anantara Hoi An resort, a pearl facing on the Hoai river. Staying here gave us the privilege of some of the most amazing images of a dreamy Vietnam. The breakfast on a terrace, enjoying the trajectory and sound of the boats, a perfect portrait of charmante Indochina. The pool with a view. The dance and music show of a group of children dressed in traditional clothing (to which Teo participated without a second of hesitation, also wearing one of those traditional hats). This place was the highlight of our whole stay: finally the kids could sleep in their own bed (usually this is so rare, sometimes the four of us ended up sharing one double bed and I even found myself sleeping upside down), the bathtub in our room was so big that Teo used to call it “the pool”, but in particular it’s the hospitality that impressed us, the location and the atmosphere - exactly what we needed to live a dream.
Thank you so much again Anantara Hoi An Resort for this amazing experience, you let us breathe the real Vietnam.
- Mango rooms excellent cuisine born out of dedicated research. The chef’s passion is evident in every little detail
- Caphe Cong our favorite coffee
- Morning Glory perfect combination between the respect of tradition and openness to the modern influences. One of or favorite places.
- Escursione a My Son Unesco Heritage site. Here you can admire what’s left of Indu temples built between the 4th and 14th Century during Champa reign, all dedicated to Shiva. In our opinion not much compared to the Angkor Wat, but it’s definitely worth a field trip.