The land of 1 million scooters

Trip Start Jan 01, 2011
Trip End Mar 21, 2011

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Wednesday, March 2, 2011

On Tuesday we left Bangkok on the 7:50am Air Asia flight to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. We were at the airport at 5:30am and it was already extremely busy. We arrived in HCMC at 9:30am and then had to wait until 3:20pm for our next flight, which was to Danang. We tried to change our flight to one that was two hours earlier but weren't able to. That wasn't a problem as time seemed to fly as we waited in a restaurant and caught up on emails. This offered us our first chance to get reacquainted with Vietnamese cuisine. We had iced coffee with condensed milk (fresh milk is rare in Vietnam), fresh shrimp spring rolls (the rice paper was a little too tough) and beef hot pot. We had really wanted Pho, but they stopped serving it.

It was eventually time to board our Vietnam Airlines flight to Danang. The flight was only 1 hour and the taxi ride to Hoi An was another 40 minutes. In total, we traveled for 3 hours and it took us 12 hours to do it all.

We found the drive from Danang to Hoi An quite interesting. The first thing that hits you is all the scooters on the roads (there are very few cars as they are significantly more expensive) and all the honking. Honking in Vietnam isn't about anger, it's more like "Hey, I'm coming up behind you or at you, so plan accordingly." The beachfront at Danang is continuing to be developed. Last year, we had saw the beginnings of construction of beachfront resorts/condos and this year they are in full swing. Some of the resorts are huge. It was interesting to see which projects had clearly lost funding as they were standing half completed with nothing around them. We drove by as work was letting out and it was amazing how many people were employed by these projects.

Once in Hoi An, we checked into our hotel, the Thanh Binh II. We had thought it had a pool and breakfast, but apparently, these were down the street at their other hotel. This was a bit inconvenient and I thought the room was a little too dark and musty, so we walked across the street to where we stayed last year and negotiated a lower price as we are planning on staying for 6 nights.

We then walked around the town, which is still very cute. This town wasn't damaged during the war and still consists of only its original buildings. Most of these buildings house the tailor shops for which Hoi An is famous for. 

As we were hungry, we found a restaurant, Sakura, along the river and took a seat on their balcony overlooking the river and the town on the other side. Dinner was amazing. We were starting to get bored with the food in Southeast Asia, but the food in Hoi An is changing our opinion.

For dinner, we had a set meal for $8 each which consisted of a seafood soup, prawns wrapped in potato, deep fried crab balls, pork and shrimp wraps, skewers of lemongrass chicken and seafood, salad, a local noodle dish and a creme caramel. All of it was delicious.

After dinner, I hopped into the bathtub and then went to bed. I've only have had 1 bathtub in 2 months, so I was super excited.

Wednesday morning, we got up, had breakfast down the street and then moved to the Vinh Hung 2 across the street. The bed is a bit hard, but overall, the hotel is a vast improvement. After showering and taking a bath, we went for a walk. We walked through the old town and crossed the bridge to Cam Nam Island. Last year, the road was still dirt, but it has now been paved. The road follows the river and after 40 minutes, we stopped at a riverside cafe for a drink. We then headed back into town and had lunch in the central market. We tried to find our Cao Lau lady from last year, but she wasn't around, so we tried a dish that wasn't quite Cao Lau and a real Cao Lau. Cao Lau is a noodle dish made with noodles only made in Hoi An (they are made of a special ash water only found here) with pork, herbs and croutons. We then stopped along the river for a glass of fresh beer, which only costs $0.15. It was actually 1,000 Dong cheaper than last year! The idea with fresh beer is that one batch is made every morning with no preservatives so it must be consumed on the day it is made.

After lunch, we headed back to the hotel and had a swim and a nap. We also had to pick up our laundry from up the street ($1/kg is a great deal). Then it was back into the old town for dinner. We tried to go to The Morning Glory Restaurant which is supposed to be really good, but it was full. We made a reservation for the next night and then crossed the river and found somewhere to eat.

The restaurant turned out to be great. We both had set menus again (around $5 each) and were not disappointed. I had Cao Lao, shrimp pancake, shrimp with sweet and sour sauce and rice and Jeff had shrimp and pork noodles, fried garlic greens, stuffed squid and seafood fried rice. Yummy! After that, we headed back to the hotel.

These last two days, we have been trying to get used to the crazy traffic, crossing the streets with the crazy traffic (it is an art form) and all the people with shrill voices trying to sell you stuff. My favourite line is "Sir/Madam, buy somethiiiiiiing." Everywhere you go, someone is trying to get you into their tailor shop, sell you a manicure or massage or whatever they have.
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