I carried her around the narrow lanes of Hoi an, my strings strutting on the pebbled streets, peeking at the beautiful lights that shone high above me. I saw several of my kind in little boutiques, in several colors and textures, which got me envious and insecure, for I hoped my master wouldn’t replace me with yet another shining shoe, packing me in the interiors of her bag and taking away from me the opportunity to experience a city so vibrant and colorful ! To my pleasant surprise, and to the relief of her companion, she did not and therefore, hereon I spell the encounters of my shoestring…
Japanese Covered Bridge:
I hopped on this beautiful Bridge, nestled in the heart of the centre, which to my surprise was guarded by statutes of two dogs and monkeys on each side. I overheard her conversation, as per which the statutes reflected that the work began in the year of the monkey and ended in the year of the dog. Inside rested a small temple of the Taoist god, who is known to be the Emperor who controlled wind, rain and other evils. The tale as the paths read was that the Japanese shoes were struck by a series of earthquake, which they blamed on a poor monster, known to have his head in India, tail in Japan and heart in Hoi An. Therefore, the Japanese thought it fit to build a bridge as a metamorphic sword cutting into the beast’s heart. Thank god, the monster’s feet were elsewhere!
From here, I carried her across the stunning bridge, lit up with Hoi An Motifs- a mythical beast with a fish’s body and dragon head which symbolizes prosperity, success and serves as a reminder that nothing in life comes easy! At the edge of the bridge sat several ladies selling boxes lit up with a candle. The boxes can be bought and set afloat into the river in order to make a wish, which if you were to believe the ladies (or their clever marketing skills for foreginers), always come true! I nonetheless fell for it and quickly made my wish that my sole (Soul 😉) doesn’t wear out and takes me miles to different parts of the world!
The Lantern market:
This joyous city of lights finally led us to the glittering lantern market, where the choices of styles are endless, with traditional silk, lace and chiffon alongside detailed hand painted cottons. One can even learn how to make their own lantern and paint it in the way they’d like.
My master was on a roll as she hopped from the lantern market to the array of stalls laden with trinkets, jewellery, silk fans and as her bags got heavier with all her shopping, the weight on my soul, uh, sole, also got heavier!
Art and Shopping:
The by-lanes of the Old Quarter had amazing collectibles, especially for art-lovers! Several beautiful galleries and stores displaying Canvas oil paintings, Tintin Vietnamese shirts, leather bags, antiques and hand-painted silk scarves, existed ! I almost toppled over my own lace to discover the amazing shops stocking striking hand-made posters ranging from classic movies with the likes of Godfather, StarWars, Inglorious Bastards, Super/Bat/Spider man et.al (they even had Rockstar!), war heroes and local propaganda posters. There was another store where replicas of Star War characters were made with recycled nuts and bolts! Beyond Epic! Pop- up greeting cards were quite awesome too!
The Street Food:
After the much bargaining and shopping, she finally gave her little trotting feet a break and we sailed towards food!! The Old Quarter has great food options where you can commonly find rice-flower dumplings called banh beo and banh vac (white rose), cau lau, a combination of thick wheat noodles, roasted pork, bean sprouts and herbs in a thick gravy, roasted quail eggs and pretzel like waffles.
Over the next three days, after following the usual routine of mandatory shopping and some sight-seeing, the glutton in her, gobbled food at several pretty restaurants such as The Cargo Club, Morning Glory, Mango Room, Al-fresco and Before and Now. The whole crispy fish with tamarind sauce, Prawn cocktail garnished with fresh coriander served in a coconut shell-eventually set on fire, the Imperial Vietnamese Spring Roll, Berry cocktail and Vietnamese chicken tapenade knocked her off her feet. Several of these restaurants also offer cooking classes and should be tried by anyone interested.
In Old Quarter, the Happy hours, to say the least, are generous. Almost, half the things on the menu are either free or half-price or on bucket deals. A game of pool, Beer Pong, Shisha, Welcome Drink, Beer Bucket- all for Free! Ofcourse, she got dizzy- you can’t blame me for her loosing her balance!
After my remarkable journey here, I sign out from this post, vouching with all of my insole, heel, strings and frame, that the Old Quarter dazzles on a riverside bed and is a great place for toe-watching! I fell in love with the rubbled street,the mist that rose from the riverbed and the chime of people (and of course their sandals)! Be a Ballet Flat or Kitten Heels, Wedges, Oxfords or Tall boots-everyone is welcome with a warm heart and shoe wax!