Hoi An, unlike Danang but so close to it, is a hotspot for Western tourists. As soon as you arrive, you notice the increase in white faces on the streets. They are drawn by the lure of an almost-perfectly preserved old town along the river, with tiled shophouses in fading pastel colours. Its is pretty to be sure, although the tourist hordes have swallowed much of the town centre. I preferred to hover around on the edges. We were staying in a beautiful little resort called the Muca hotel, where the restaurant sat on a palm-thatch pontoon in the river, strung with colourful lanterns and the lush gardens bloomed with palm trees and orchids. When it rained – which it did for several days, for hours at a time – we would stay in our room, lounging on a majestically sized bed, reading novels (“Naomi” and “The Sympathiser”) or watching “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” or Chinese singing shows on the iPad.
When it was clear we would venture into the old town (I had a suit made) or ride around the rice fields on the hotel’s complimentary bicycles. On these cycle trips we saw water buffaloes in the canals, flocks of starlings and pens of squawking ducks, funerals blaring weird droning horn music and banging gongs and hippies smoking weed furtively in the fields. The peacefulness of the scene, the muted shades of grey and green and the gentle cool drizzle on our arms and faces were one of the highlights of the trip for me.