Just another day in Hội An

Last week my best friend from college was in town for a vacation. We hadn’t seen each other for more than two years, so it was so much fun to hang out with her in Hoi An. Actually the first time I visited Hoi An was with her back in summer 2008. We had just graduated from college and took a South-bound trip across Vietnam together. Hoi An has changed so much since then, and so have we. That summer night in 2008 we went out and ate Hoi An chicken rice and drank their bitter rice-based alcohol. Afterwards we walked back to our hotel at 10 pm, and along the way we got a bit scared and lost among the many dark, quiet, narrow back alleys of the old town. But of course nothing happened other than in our imaginations.

And we helped take a million pictures for each other. It seems like nowadays we don’t like being in front of the camera anymore. We’re a lot more interested in photographing other people and scenes. So this time we just walked the old streets that are so much more bustling than they were eight years ago, talked and took pictures along the way, stopped for a coffee here and there, and then walked some more. It was so relaxing to just do simple things with her. After all, it doesn’t matter where you are and what you do; it’s really the company that matters.

Here are some photos I snapped during the walk with my friend that day. I hope you like them.

Pre-wedding photoshoot in front of a fabric store. HoiAn is one of the most popular destinations for pre-wedding photoshoot in Vietnam.

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“Greening” our tropical home

We’ve been pretty busy for the past week “renovating” our house!

My feeling is that people here in Hoi An are very big on plants and bonsai. No matter how shabby a house might look, in its front yard there’re always frangipani, or some exotic, colorful tropical blossoms, or different kinds of palm trees and cactus. I spot people’s lovely plants and flowers every single day. I admire their beauty, and I get jealous! After one year of jealousy, I decided to add more green to our house and have been loving it so far!
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Vietnamese Fusion Glaze Salmon

There’s a video tutorial at the end of this post.

This morning I had a phone call with my old landladies in the Bronx, New York City. It was more than a year since we last talked. They’re among the kindest, sweetest people that I’ve been lucky enough to have met in my life. Actually, I’ve been very lucky when it comes to genuine friendship.
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Beautiful Hội An | Early morning coffee

This morning I got up really early and took a walk in the old town of Hoi An. My new friend, Trang, a Hoi An local, took me to a street coffee place that was crowded at 6 am. 6! Yes, you heard it right!

Below are some snapshots I took during my leisure walk!

Avocado and strings of steam rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves. The latter became my breakfast soon after that.

 

Trang showed me how to get to some nice local tailor shops and a beautiful hidden beach this morning. Can’t wait to check them out. It’s never too late to have the real local hook-up.

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Lychee Panna Cotta

Lychee Panna Cotta_Dessert_Vietnamese Cuisine_Indiechine

Lychee_ Panna Cotta_Dessert_Vietnamese Cuisine_Indiechine

It’s lychee season now, and next month it’ll be longans. LONGANS!

My hometown is a small Northern province that has a few specialties, a kind of soy sauce that some really love and my favorites, amazing longan and lychee fruits. There are several other Northern provinces that also grow lychees, and longan trees grow in many places from the North to the South, but the fruits from my hometown are claimed to be the best. They’re fragrant, sweet but not too watery; the meat is thick and the seeds tiny. When I was 10, my mother and I took a Southbound train to visit my grandparents, whom we hadn’t seen for years. Transportation was difficult then. It took us two days and one night, and we both shared one seat, me sitting in my mom’s lap. The space was tiny but my mom still managed to bring some bags of lychee fruits as presents. Fruits were precious to us, and it was no brainer that our hometown’s lychees had to be onboard traveling with us.
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a trip to a Vietnamese traditional mat-weaving village

 

A reed mat (chiếu) used to be a must-have item in Vietnamese households when I was small. My family ate around a big round tray on a mat on the floor. One of my chores was to roll out the mat before meals and to neatly roll it back again after. In addition to using these mats as places to eat, we slept on mats instead of sleeping on a mattress. On hot summer nights when there was no power, my grandmother would put a mat on our roof top so we could lie there in the cool(er) air and I would fall asleep listening to her telling folk tales.

I found out about Cam Ne mat village last month when researching traditional handicraft villages in Hoi An bigger area. The village has been around since the 15th century and they used to weave mats for kings of the Nguyen Dynasty in Hue, which is about 100km from there. Obviously if the kings were sending for mats from so far away, they had some pretty good skills. I have always wanted to buy a couple of mats for our house because of my childhood nostalgia about them, and I was curious about seeing them made in the traditional method. So off we drove on our blue scooter to Cam Ne on a burning hot day.

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Beautiful Hội An | Chula House

Laura in her Hội An Chula House, wearing her husband’s design. Her hair pin is a dried plant she picked up on the street while taking a walk.

Laura and Diego are a Spanish couple living in Hanoi, Vietnam. Their fashion brand, Chula, makes lively, sophisticated couture designs with tropical inspiration. Last September I took a calligraphy workshop in their riverside house in Hội An and I knew I had to photograph it someday. The ground floor is dedicated to an Artists in Residence Program where artists can host workshops and art programs. The pictures below are of their second floor, which is the living area. Despite it being quite small, about 60 square meters (around 650 square feet), this space is very thoughtfully designed and charming because of its bright colors and unique furniture.
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Beautiful Hội An | My Favorite Arts & Crafts Houses

I adore the houses in the old town of Hoi An! They’re uniform in their antiquity but individually unique. They look ill-tended with their old paint and rustic wood shutters but charming because of that look. They’re zen but lively, simple but sophisticated. And because of that, I decided to have a series on this blog named Beautiful Hội An to share this town’s beautiful places that have inspired me.
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