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Thursday, October 24: Day 185 – Hoi An, Lantern City

The five elements theory is a philosophy used to describe interactions and relationships between things. The elements are fire, wood, metal, water, and earth. The five colors are red, blue, white, black, and yellow.

If someone does something nice for the king, he gives you his last name. Fifty percent of Vietnamese last names are Nguyen. Population research says that it is the third largest surname in the world.

Names are important in Vietnam and a lot of thought goes into naming a child. One lady asked my name, and I said Brenda. She said that she liked it and wanted to know what it means!! That was a first. I looked it up, and it is a Celtic name meaning “Blade of a Sword”. I am sure my parents had that in mind!

“Don’t touch our ancestor.” Pay respect to ancestors. There is a lot of fake money in Vietnam because on Memory Day, they burn fake items to send ancestors. Be aware travelers!!

If you are bad to an ancestor, it is unlucky to the next generation. Ancestors are buried, not cremated. I am surprised that the cemetaries are in bad shape and disrepair when so much emphasis is on ancestor worship.

The dragon is a sacred mythical animal that symbolizes luck, intelligence, nobility and power. Local people would not have a dragon in their homes as it would be disrespectful. Three other sacred animals are the turtle which represents long life, the phoenix which represents rebirth, and the unicorn which represents wisdom and help.

We are riding on the bus and each rest stop allows for amazing pictures.

We went through the Hai Van Mountain Pass. It had to be enlarged in 1968 to get heavy equipment through the pass. The French and Americans had bunkers in these strategic places, and there was fighting here. It used to be a narrow footpath, and it was dangerous travel with wild animals. Today it is part of National Highway 1.

In 2008, Top Gear BBC did a program about crossing the famous mountain pass on mopeds.

When the French were here, they built a railway. It overlooks the East Sea. (China calls it South China Sea to make their claim on it, but Vietnam and other nations call it by it’s proper name.) It is the East Sea not the South China Sea. The archipelago islands belong to Vietnam, but China disputes that.

I was somewhat reminded of the ancient Roman Roads that we saw in Turkey.

Speaking of Roman Roads, I came across this cool article about making a modern subway map of these ancient roads.

Roman Roads Modern Map

Vietnam was part of China until the 10th century. They were southern tribes of China until the 17th century.

There is evidence that people lived in this area in the Early Paleolithic age.

In the 2nd century BC ancient Vietnam consisted of minority hill tribes of China. For eight dynasties the Vietnamese have been fighting with China because they would like to have Vietnam as a separate country.

Pine trees were planted since they spread roots to protect the soil from erosion. Kudzu is also important as it prevents landslides.

The north and south cultures of Vietnam are very different since they were not able to engage for 500 years. Now one can travel by car, bus, train or plane. The pass was a boundary of ancient kingdoms, but is now the border of provinces.

The weather in Vietnam can be split by region. In Hanoi and the north, May to October is hot and humid with high rainfall; November to April is cooler and dry. In the far north, December and January can be particularly cold. Central Vietnam, where Hoi An is located, experiences hot, dry weather between January and August when temperatures can hit the mid-90°F’s; while high levels of rainfall can occur in September, October and November. Southern Vietnam is generally dry and hot from November to April, and warm and wet between May and October, with the highest rainfall in June, July and August.

Da Nang Airport was known as the busiest airport in the world during the war with over 2,500 flights per day. This was the first stop in Vietnam by American soldiers in 1965. It is here that the French first arrived as well. It is also where planes departed that were carrying bombs.

Da Nang is called The Bridge City. The Dragon Bridge spans the river and was built in 2013 by Americans. It is a yellow undulating bridge. On weekends and during festivals the bridge spits out fire and water. This 88 million dollar bridge has become the symbol of Da Nang.

Da Nang is the one of the best cities in Vietnam. This seaport is a young and modern city. Since it was rebuilt after the war, the streets are wide with lane markings. The city is organized and, they don’t have a pollution problem.

The Golden Bridge near Da Nang is 1,500 m above sea level and was opened last year. This footbridge was all over social media as it holds several world records.

Hoi An is an old seaside trading town, and the name means peaceful gathering place. Traders come by boat to trade. Hoi An was a commercial center and had traders from all over the world. These different cultures influenced Hoi An.

It was most active in the 17th to 18th centuries with Dutch, Indian, Portuguese, Chinese, and Japanese traders. Many different cultures make this city unique, and The Old City is protected by UNESCO.

In the late 19th century Da Nang became the trading center since it is better suited for big ships coming on the East Sea.

Because of this Hoi An is well preserved and was not affected much by the war.

The ironwood frame houses have curved roof tiles. The houses have two floors: the lower floor is for storage.

This city floods every year and people have large trap doors on the second floor to hoist up their belongings when the water rises.

Small streets make for better trading opportunities. Houses have entrances on both sides.

We went to a local house that was built in 1718. The eighth generation is now living there. All ironwood columns are put on marble bases to prevent rotting. Houses older than 100 years combine cultures: Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese.

The covered bridge in Hoi An is a Japanese-style bridge built over a canal by a Japanese business man to connect the Japanese side with the Chinese side.

Construction began in the Year of the Dog and finished in the Year of the Monkey. Kings are born in those years.

Locals expanded and added a temple to the god of weather. Confuscianism believes that their worship affects the weather. They burn incense every day but still have flooding. In 1964, there was a big flood.

This bridge is so famous that it is pictured on the 20,000 Vietnamese dong bill which is worth about 85¢. A word about money: All bills have the face of Ho Chi Minh. They are just different colors and sometimes different sizes. There are no coins.

An optional activity was making a lantern as Hoi An is called The Lantern City.

They have a lantern festival every month. These young ladies were taught how to make lanterns at a young age by their 95-year-old grandfather.

Those who know me are aware that I am all thumbs when it comes to arts and crafts. Every time that I would look for affirmation, the young lady would say, “Don’t worry, I’ll fix it!” It sounds like a song title and we sang it A LOT!!

Here is our selfie!!

Here is a picture of us taking the selfie! Ha!