This guy was making wire baskets (for catching sea creatures?) just outside our hotel.
I can’t remember how we spent the morning, but we started to look at some of the Hoi An “attractions” (old houses, family temples, museums, etc.), and came across a young backpacker walking out of this place, who recommended it highly. Always keen for a good veg restaurant, we went in.
And found tofu so fresh, it was still steaming.
I wanted to go to the Hoi An Orphanage, but the address was in “Let’s Go Vietnam” (which I highly reccommend BTW), and not in the Lonely Planet which was in the day bag. I had found the orphanage on the way back to the Grasslands hotel late at night by walking into the rusty barbed wire surrounding it and scraping some flesh from my scalp. Unfortunately neither of us could remember where we were at the time. A young western woman entered the restaurant and ordered in Vietnamese, Mark asked her if she knew where the orphanage was. Fortuitously, she did. Her name is Emma, she is a social work and psychology student from Melbourne, and she is in Vietnam for the 4th time to work at the orphanage for a month on her annual holidays. She gave us directions worthy of me (crappy), and we hoped to catch up with her later.
Unfortunately, from this point on, I have no photos until later in the day. Rhubarb (the macbook) decided that even though his hard drive was full, and he wasn’t going to save the pictures to it, he would delete them from the memory card anyway. I hissed, and cried, and stamped my foot, but they did not come back.
I went into one of the “assembly halls”, places where chinese families could meet and celebrate. They were doing a solid trade in incense cones, which were hung from the ceiling and had labels attached – it appeared to be some kind on ancestor worship, but there was no-one around to explain it to me, so I just drank in the colour and movement, took pictures like I was possessed by a thwarted japanese tourist, and grinned from ear to ear.
This is one of 2 photos I took at the orphanage. I just couldn’t be a “tourist” here, there is too much life and suffering, it is too close to the edge. This little girl is 5 years old. Emma says that 2 years ago she would not speak, or smile, or engage with anyone. She is the first child that engaged with me – she motioned for me to come to her, pick her up, and take her to the food. She had already eaten, she was just trying it on. She spent most of our visit either in my arms on on my lap, smiling and laughing and clapping her hands, and being tickled by one of the other kids. She lives in the room with the severely disabled. Of the 70 odd kids at the orphanage, about 25 have disabilities, many of them quite profound.
Visitors to the orphanage are asked to give a donation – Emma had warned us that this would be expected (and of course, we went with the intention of helping out), but that if we did want to make a financial contribution, it would be much better spent by giving it to a UK based charity that directly helps the Orphanage, rather than allowing the money to go to the Director of the Orphanage (from where there is no transparency as to how the money is spent).
The Kianh Foundation was started by two women who visited the orphanage in March 2001, and found the children living in revolting conditions. They met a boy whose spirit touched them, and they resolved to do whatever they could to change things for the children there. We made a small donation in the official donation box (100,00D, less than $10), which Emma said they would be happy with, and then met Emma at a park down the road (the director gets suspicious if she leaves with visitors).
Emma led us to Jenny’s Bamboo, who is an Aussie expat and is authourised to collect donations on behalf of the foundation.
We bought Emma a beer, and sat and chatted till night fell. Again I looked for Pho (a place recommended by our tailor), but we couldn’t find it, and my guts are still not quite up to scratch, so we went for Emma’s reccomendation of Cafe 19 – “try the tofu with stuff”.
On the way we found the place where we had our cooking lesson – highly recommended.
Tofu with spicy greens and peanuts. One of the top 5 meals so far. Mark ordered this, I ordered “Tofu, Vegetables and Rice”, but it came without any flavour whatsoever, so I gave up and ordered the same thing.
A Hoi An Lantern shop.