ACU BIEN TRAVELS: WTMH - Hoi An City, Quang Nam, Vietnam - Part I

Gus Franklyn-Bute Editor-in-Chief

Where The Magic Happens (#WTMH) is a series of lifestyle articles about cities and places around the global that imbue a sense of magic and mystic, seen through the eyes of ACU|BIEN people: staff contributor, readers, associates and specially invited guests.  As personal life journeys, they give voice to how ACU|BIENers see the world in which they life, travel and work, tracing their footsteps, hops, skips and jumps, and building a travelograph of the Caribbean peoples’ on-going voyages around the world.

The Vietnamese story is one of a practical, resourceful people with a tragic, devastating history of war and obliteration, who against all odds strive to make the smallest of anything, into the most of everything

Rhythmic, Pulsing Heartbeat: ‘erratica’

Hoi AnEnthralled, arms gently folded, shoulder leant against the aged stone façade of the roadside gateway of Hoi An Historic Hotel on Tran Hung Dao Street. It is the eve of sunset and one is powerless to resist the dalliance of the autocade unfurling in the provocative, reticent twilight.   Hội An (會安) translates as “peaceful meeting place” and is a city at ease with itself.  Yet, at the bookends of the day – sun:rise-set – streets, traffic and people converge into a well-ordered chaos where cycles, motorbikes, cars and buses converge to dance a quadrille (French – quadrille de contredanses) in an effortless ebb and flow, a rhythmic, pulsing heartbeat of seeming erratica.

Heavy Load This handsome performance is an organic, ritually bewitching circa Cirque de Soleil, and one cannot help but applaud the visitors and tourists on their hired bicycles braving the bedlam as they nervously blend, hem and haw, into this Vietnamese experience.  It may be liken to leaving the relative safety of suburbia to join the Running of the Bulls (Spanish – encierro) at Pamplona, Basque Spain.  And yet it all works so well, a far cry from the rush hour madness of New York, London or Port-of-Spain.  Traffic moves constantly, pausing only momentarily at the behest of lights of red, amber, green.

Beauty, Utility, High Value

And the beauty of this living, breathing behemoth is more profound than simple traffic gazing.  This daily procession along major road arteries of Hội An is as good a place as any to comprehend and admire the character and splendour to these fine people, a ‘phine’ populace of the province of Quảng Nam on Vietnam’s South Central Coast.  They are an ingenious people with a wherewithal, curiosity and affability towards each other and outsiders alike, which is fragrant of a Caribbean that was.  Resourcefulness is evident. Each two-wheeled carriage is at once more than just a selfish mode of travelling from A-to-B, as is characteristic of commuters in developed and developing cities as they sit, shifting their arse side to side, daily, behind the steering wheels in shiny, empty cars, isolated and frustrated in bumper to bumper traffic, polluting the skies. Each moped or cycle is a highly valued, resourceful utility; and here is why!

As the sun rapidly descends, countering the crescendo of blaring horns and voices that punctuates, chorus-like, the green-hot, December dusk, one begin to truly comprehend that the protagonists, these players in this curtain-raiser are living a Vietnamese story, one of a practical, resourceful people, with a tragic and devastating history of war and obliteration, who against all odds strive to make the smallest of anything, into the most everything.  Every other moped or cycle carries two, three, sometimes more passengers in closeness and comfort.  Looking on from the side-lines, one sees families, friends, colleagues, neighbours happily sharing their two wheelers, their faces garlanded in contentment, smiling, and exchanging conversation – a far cry from lifestyle and life we lead.

Road Hogs

Once your mind takes you beyond questions of safety (no one seems to travel at unsafe speeds, but at a modest pace; all riders wear protective headgear), and you understand that there is order and rules in what looks like utter chaos, one cannot help but smile and marvel at the sights and sounds, and shake ones head in utter amusement.  Babies wedged snugly between driver and pillion; slightly older children perched on sedan-like chairs (miniature high chairs) affixed to the space between the driver’s legs and front shaft of scooters. Tables, cabinets, animals, household items of all shapes and sizes, expertly balanced, is commonplace. It was the 6 foot gas canister and enormous wire rack stacked with tourist souvenirs that made one chuckle most.  Cirque de Soleil indeed.  Vietnam surely is Where The Magic Happens (#WTMH)!


26 December, 2012






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