Hoi An was unkind to us in a way. We knew we were visiting this central Vietnamese city near the end of its rainy season, but with a week to spend in the relatively small town we figured we had more than enough time to see and do everything. We were wrong. The rain was nearly relentless for seven straight days.
Now if you have to be rained in somewhere there are few better places in the world to be than this atmospheric former trading port.
Once a powerhouse harbor that dominated the spice trade, Hoi An’s historic merchant houses have today mostly been repurposed as restaurants. And that was excellent news for us. As we walked through the cracked and colorful facades of Hoi An’s delightful old town, we were never far away from the protective cover and outrageously delicious coffee of the city’s many cafes.
Dictated by the weather, our daily routine became a somewhat randomly alternating mix between exploration and caffeine. We’d walk through the mist and the drizzle for as long as we could and then hunker down when the precipitation became too heavy.
We’d settle at a table, just outside of the rain’s reach, sipping coffees and watching the world go by; our books, more often than not, sitting unopened beside us. It wasn’t how we planned to spend our time here, but we weren’t really complaining either.
To be fair, the sun wasn’t a complete no-show for us. After waking one morning to see a break in the clouds we scrambled to hire a driver to take us to the My Son temple complex located 10 kilometers outside of town.
That short distance took us from the bustling city center to one of Vietnam’s least developed provinces.
What we found hidden amongst the jungle were the remnants of perhaps the longest inhabited archeological site in Indo China. For 11 centuries My Son served as the royal temple and burial ground for Vietnam’s first major civilization.
Over those long years, the Champa Kingdom built 70 Hindu temples and tomb structures on the site. Sadly it took only a week of U.S. aerial bombardment during the American-Vietnam War to destroy a large majority of that ancient architecture.
What little remains is nonetheless impressive.
We returned to the city just as the rain started again. Our reprieve had ended, but we used our brief bout of sunshine well. Over the next several days we followed a familiar routine, popping into comfortable cafes when needed, but otherwise we just strolled around and soaked up the wonderful atmosphere of this living postcard they call Hoi An.