Before I arrived Vietnam, I had heard that Hoi An is among the most beautiful cities in the world. Lanterns, lights, rivers and late-night music were in my mind as I entered the plane from Norway. When we arrived Hoi An, the rain was falling from the sky, and the water was floating high in the streets. It was almost impossible to manage to get around in the city without a bicycle. I did not know that the bicycles would be a so essential part of the everyday life, as it is. We use our bicycles to get around everywhere, although riding the bike to school in the Vietnamese-traffic, is with a big effort.
We have lived here for a week now, and I am still not used to the constant hooting, and I am not sure if I ever will. The first days, I wondered where the beautiful city was, with all the lanterns everyone had been talking about, because all I saw, was streets full of water. Then the third day we cycled to the old town, and then I understood what everyone had been talking about, Hoi An is truly beautiful. Lights and lanterns everywhere. We arrived at a marketplace, where the locals sit under large tents, and sell all the fruits and commodities you can imagine. Fish, meat and fresh local food, are flooding at the markets. Further on in the Old town, we came to a river, and a long row of tourist-boats were lined up by the quay. There are a big number of backpackers in the Old town, and the prices are higher than in the rest of the city. It is a noticeable change between different parts of Hoi An, and we notice that the Old town is quite touristified, relative to the rest of the city. If you want to experience the city from the local’s perspective, the Old town may not be the place to start.
One of the things I have given a lot of thought, is the big differences in Hoi An. Once you walk pass a big, at least five-star hotel, and next door, it can be an old dusty garage full of trash. Yes, it`s a city of contrasts, and I think it’s going to take a while to get used to all of the differences. Some things are very different from Norway. And now in the beginning, all of the differences, kind of hit me in the face. The food, the traffic, the people, the manners and the climate are different. I am getting more and more used to the Vietnamese culture as the days goes by, and I feel more and more like home in Hoi An. Although after a week with mostly noodles to eat, I am already missing a slice of bread with brown cheese. Hoi An is an amazing city, the people who live here, are probably the most polite and good-hearted people I have ever met. I am very thankful for being able to live and to learn to know a different culture in this way and I look forward to the rest of the semester in Hoi An.