21.01.2009 - 27.01.2009
A quick update on our adventures as we travelled further north in Vietnam. We have had some great experiences so far, and the north has proved to be a very exciting and beautiful place. We arrived at Hoi An on the 21st after an overnight sleeper bus from Nha Trang. Hoi An was fantastic. It is a really old port city, dating back centuries, and with assistance from the Japeneses government has been really well preserved. The 'Old Town' area is great - narrow alleyways bordered by old wooden houses, all very well looked after. The Old Town sits on a river which leads to the coast. Hoi An was certainly the cleanest and best organised place we have been. Doubling the excitement was the fact that it was almost Tet (Lunar New Year) when we arrived (the 26th was New Years Eve), so there was a buzz in the air, and everyone was very bust preparing to celebrate. Tet is very central to Vietnamese culture - they take 1 or 2 weeks off work around this time, and everybody travels home to their place of birth or ancestry to celebrate with their families - this means that pretty much the whole country is on the move. As such busses are pretty hard to come by, so we decided to stay in Hoi An fo 6 nights, and wait til New Years Day to go straight to Hanoi. It turned out ot be a good decision, as we easily passed the time in Hoi An. Some highlights:
- Getting clothes made! This is what Hoi An is famous for, and there are literally hundreds of tailor shops. They all look quite similar and can do similar things, so it was just a case of picking one we thought was a good quality place and hoping that the tailor did a good job. We picked well, and ended up getting a lot of stuff made. Nicola had a three piece suit, shirts, a big jacket and boots made, while Mark got a suit, shirts, casual jacket, cotton pants and shoes. The price was very good for the quality stuff we got. Not wanting to haul it round China and Russia we sent most of it to London to await our arrival - and the best part was the post office came to us! Two people turned up at our hotel with scales and boxes and took care of it all. Love Vietnam.
- The food. Hoi An probably had the best food we have had yet. They have great local specialties like Cau Lau - a noodle soup type dish that is very tasty. We became regulars at Mr Tuongs, a little street stall where Mr Tuongs wife cooked amazing food. They were happy to have us back time and again. We also did a cooking class whcih was great. Our host was really funny, a 21 year old girl - Vina. She was really enthusuatic and we ended up getting her email address and chatting to her about her life, boyfriend etc.
- Breakfast. This should be separate to food, because it is one of the best things in Vietnam. We discovered to bun stalls, which are these street stalls that have baguettes filled with egg, chilli, greens, soy sauce and the round happy Cow Cheese, so delicious it is hard to explain.
- The beach and bicycle debacle. On one day we hired bikes ($1 each) to ride to the beach, about 5kms away. Our bikes weren't the best quality, but they went ok, so we made it to the beach. The beach itself was really good. Even though it was overcast and a bit rough, it was a 'real' beach (like Aus I guess), and also a really nice ride through rivers and rice paddies to get there. However on the way back Nicola's bike broke, through no fault of hers. As we tried to fix it two or three people pulled up on scooters, including one guy who was very determined to fix it. Having no luck, he decided the solution was to put me on the back of his scooter, the bike on my shoulders, and ride back into town (5kms) to return the bike (He also insisted that we should pay 'no money, no money' for the bike). So off into the sunset i went with the bike, not really knowing what was going on, leaving Nicola behind. The ride back into town was hilarious. I was trying to balance a biek on my shoulders, while staying on the damn scooter, and also dodging other road users so as not to take them out with my bike. to make it worse, a tet flower market was on in the main street - people everywhere. I managed to knock a few people, including a veyr suprised middle aged Western lady ont he back of another scooter. Good times. About 2 hours later I finally caught up with Nicola (with a new bike), who had been riding around in circles not knowing where the hell I went (although she informed me later she did have take time out from looking and panicking to buy a dress...hah!)
All in all, Hoi An was great. There was even a latern festival on the river for Tet, with singing and dancing, and a fair with awesome Carni games that we played for 5000d (40c) a turn. and we won lollies! wooo!
Next stop was Hanoi, via Hue, but that is for the next installment. Hope everyone is surviving the heat back home!