Hoi An

Trip Start Jan 27, 2006
Trip End Sep 09, 2006

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Sunday, April 30, 2006

We left Dalat via the bus and had a pleasant 5 hour journey to Nha Trang. It is amazing how you get used to drifting alone on public transport for hours and hours - the IPOD helps.

Nha Trang is the main beach destination in Vietnam, acres of white sand, balloon sellers and seaside hotels. We had decided not to stay overnight as we were keen to get to Hoi An. This meant back to back bus journeys....... ummm not such a good idea.

The first bus dropped us in Nha Trang at 2pm and the second bus left at 7pm, so we headed down to the beach. We had an idyllic 4 hours sitting on a sun lounger and thinking that perhaps we should have stayed afterall. But our bus was booked so off we went. The overnight bus - 12 hours!!! was not our best experience of being budget travellers - infact we both lost our ankles just like on a long haul flight. Just shows how bad it is for you - Phil was convinced he had DVT and even looked it up on the internet - he is such a drama queen.

We arrived in Hoi An at 6.30am, the difference in Vietnam is that everyone gets up at about 4am, so the place was hopping, restaurants were busy and the hawkers were wide eyed and bushy tailed waiting for the next bus of helpless tourists. We managed to avoid getting checked into the bus drivers mates hotel and walked to the one we had picked from the Lonely Planet. It was lovely, and after a bit of negotiation we agreed $16 a night including breakfast. We must have looked rough because the manager gave us a voucher for breakfast for that morning, despite the fact we were already 6 hours earlier than check in! We had a shower, massaged our huge ankles and then went to breakfast, it was a yummy buffet. I think they were sorry they had offered us complimentary, we stuffed ourselves stupid with fresh fruit, french stick with ham and jam (not together) and loads of coffee. The coffee in Vietnam is very different, and just like Marmite you either love it or hate it.... we are addicted and it is not good for you. They make the coffee so strong you can stand your spoon up in it and then add condensed milk - so it is think, sweet and absolutely lovely.

After breakfast we checked out Hoi An. It is a gorgeous little town on the river, with a lively market, great food and bars and best of all it is the home of the tailor.

We have had some clothes made and they are really great and really cheap. I have had a traditional Vietnamese silk suit - wafty long trousers and a long fitted tunic - made for the wedding in September, some black linen trousers and a japanese silk top. Phil had a pair of trousers copied and 2 black linen shirts made, plus a pair of trousers mended and they charged us $75 for the lot - about 42 quid. I soooooo wish we were on holiday with the usual budget - they have copies of the 2006 Next catalogue and you just point to it and they measure you and make it, and unlike Next, it will fit. There are fantastic shoe and bag shops too, it is shopaholics heaven!

We also promised ourselves that we would do a cookery course in Hoi An and so after our success at the tailors we headed to Red Bridge Cafe for our one day course. It was great fun, started with 1 hour at the market where you could get to see all the fresh ingredients and some ingredients that you wanted to forget - jelly fish, duran fruit (smells like vomit!). Then we took a 25 minute boat ride to our floating classroom, where a flaboyant chef helped us to make chilli aubergine, squid salad, fresh spring rolls and carve stuff from fruit and veg. It was not exactly City & Guilds but it was great fun and we met some really nice people on the course. After our time sweating in the kitchen we all sat down to a 3 course lunch, fortunately supplemented by the Red Bridge kitchen staff. It was a great way to spend the day and meant we did not need any dinner, which was a real bonus.

Hoi An is a perfect base as it is only 5km from the beach. We hired bikes and took a leisurely cycle to the golden sands. The sunbeds were free if you bought your food and drink from the relevant cafe, so we settled in for the day and watched the hawkers try and sell everything from pineapples to frisbies to the disinterested tourists. All over the beach you can hear "You wanna buy?", "No thank you" rings out from every sunbed as tourists try to hide behind their photocopy of the Lonely Planet. Had a wonderful fresh fish lunch on the beach, and chilled out before taking the cycles back to the hotel.

If you are looking for a holiday venue with it all, Vietnam really is it, we have fallen in love with it, it is wonderful.

We were really sorry when our 5 days in Hoi An came to an end and it was time to go to Hue. Over to you Phil
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