The simple pleasure of doing nothing, “dolce far niente“, is merely enjoying the moment. To Hoi An time, I just want to slow down, travel without any plan, and take it as its come. Dolce far niente!
*”Dolce far niente” is an Italian phrase for pleasantly doing nothing.
The present trend of returning to slow living originated in Italy in cities such as Greve, Orvieto, and Positano. It is spreading as cities around the world have begun to emulate their lifestyle. Hoi An is one of these places where people are willing to set aside their worries to take a short siesta. It’s a city where travelers can put down their heavy luggage to savor a cup of coffee while enjoying the warm sunlight of tranquil days.
80 is the number of ancient wells – the forgotten treasures of Hoi An. You realize that all wells were built near assembly halls, catholic churches, temples, and shrines. It is believed that each well is protected by a god, making the water pure and sweet despite the effects of weather, dust, and environmental conditions. These wells are also always full.
Having visited Hoi An many times, I had yet to learn about Ba Le well. I had just accidentally found out about it when … asking the way to a fabric shop. An old man told us to return in the next morning since the shop was already closed. He said after that, “remember to drink the water in Ba Le for luck, girls. If you go between 8 and 9am, you will see many people fetching water to sell”.
Don’t imagine the well is large and that there is a crowd of people drawing water by the well. Ba Le well is so simple that my friend didn’t notice it as we were walking past. The well is square, following Champa architecture, and covered by green moss. While we were managing to scoop water from the well, a man gave us a ladle of water, noting that he likes sweet water here and can’t drink water from anywhere else. The most delicious sweet soups in Hoi An, cao lau and banh vac, are made from water taken from this well. My friend was greatly surprised to learn that a 20 liter bottle of well water costs only VND5,000.
There is a restaurant selling skewers of grilled meat and grilled rolls near Ba Le well. If you want to enjoy barbecued meat, just go to this restaurant as a skewer full of high quality meat costs only VND 7,000. If you go to the Old Town, the price is around VND10,000 a skewer.
300m is the length of Cong Nu Ngoc Hoa road which is named after the first Vietnamese girl to live in Japan. The road goes from Chua Cau canal to the Hung Vuong – Tran Hung Dao intersection. When my friends and I visited the antique houses in Hoi An, few of us knew that we are strolling down a road associated with such a nice anecdote.
In early 17th century Japan, Araki Sotaro, a talented navigator descended from a samurai family, led many Japanese businessmen to expand their business in South East Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia). At that time, Hoi An was one of the most important harbors of Dai Viet and was believed by the Japanese to be the heart of Asia. That was why Mr. Araki Sotaro often stopped here and eventually got married to Cong Nu Ngoc Hoa, the princess of An Nam.
In 1620, Cong Nu Ngoc Hoa, known to the Japanese as Princess Wakaru, followed her husband to live in Japan. Their marriage solidified the relationship between Japan and the Nguyen Dynasty, even during the time of seclusion. Up to now, people in Nagasaki still celebrate the day she moved there with the Okunchi festival from October 7th-9th.
Faifo is the old name of Hoi An, but nobody knows exactly where it is derived from. We just know that on the map of Indochina Cochinchine, the French, Spanish, and Portuguese referred to Hoi An as Faifo. In 1535, Captain Antonio de Faria, a Portuguese explore, visited this area for the first time to establish a sea harbor. In 1595, the name Hoi An officially appeared on the map of marine business thanks to Princess Nguyen Hoang – the pioneer who worked to expand the country’s borders to the south, and created a foundation to form Dang Trong which later became the pearl of Far East.
It was not until we felt tired and stopped at a restaurant named Faifo that I began wondering about the name. Looking at the restaurant board, I smiled and asked “Why are there so many things named Faifo here?” My local friend answered right off the bat, “Faifo is the old name of Hoi An, dear!”. You can find a Faifo fabric shop, a Faifo restaurant, and a Faifo café. This old name hearkens back to the glory days of Hoi An as a bustling commercial harbor.
Don’t move fast in Hoi An, slow your speed, sit down at the Faifo café rooftop and enjoy a cup of coffee. Perhaps, this is the only café in the Old Town offering a panoramic view of Hoi An. There are many lovely cafes in the heart of Hoi An, some of them sit quietly on stilts, some are simply a house with a sunny balcony, and some of them are on airy rooftops. And you don’t need to seek restaurants on websites. Just stroll down the small streets, and you’ll randomly come upon any number of food stalls if you like to test your luck. Life is like a box of chocolates; let’s find your own taste among the different flavors!
“Dolce far niente” – do nothing except lye on Cua Dai Beach, smell the clean ocean wind, listen to the melodies of waves, and bathe under the sun. That’s enough for you to taste the true sweetness of Hoi An.
Cycle about 30 minutes and you will reach Cua Dai beach. You may see some common sites; vast green fields of rice, a rustic blue school, and children happily calling their friends after school. If you have a chance, why don’t you visit Cua Dai – one of the most beautiful beaches in Asia – to take in the fresh beauty of nature at sunset?
We stopped at the Palm Garden Resort, which boasts a great beach which hasn’t been affected much by the sea. At the resort, you can welcome the sunrise under the palm trees as you enjoy a loaf of bread and a warm cup of ginger tea. If you like horse riding, you can take a horse along the beach for a breath of fresh air. In the morning, friendly horse jockeys are always willing to introduce you to their 4 legged friends. For me, I love eating mi quang, kho quet, and braised meat with eggs as I reminisce of home. And don’t forget to enjoy an effervescent night here with warm vocal artists from the Philippines:
“Hello, it’s me
I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet…”
+ Ba Le well is located on Tran Hung Dao, a small street leading to Hoi An Old Town. Near the well is Bale Well restaurant (45/51 Tran Hung Dao).
+ Café Faifo, 130 Tran Phu, Hoi An
+ Palm Garden Resort, Lac Long Quan, Hoi An
+ Web: www.palmgardenresort.com.vn
You also see more Hoi An travel guide at here.