Guess you are wondering where I have been for the last few days. Well I am in Hoi An which is in central Vietnam on the coast of the south china sea.
Hoi An is another world heritage site and has a population of 120,000.
Thought i was being seasoned traveler by negotiating a fare with a taxi cab from the airport in danang to Hoi An. Lesson number two always have the correct money otherwise you will not
get the correct change - I argued with the driver and he told me there was a fee to get into Hoi an the ancient city. There is no such thing and I knew that but this time the hotel staff was backing the driver so I gave up.
By Vietnamese standards Hoi is very clean and the people are so much nicer than Hanoi. Everyone here is more helpful, say hello and of course want to sell you their wares. Something I have learned about this culture is that it is quite appropriate to ask how old you are. Apparently this will identify how you are addressed - given my age I am addressed with respect (finally).
Wandering around the town there are numerous world heritage sites Wonderful old buildings dating back to the 1500's. One of my favorite is the Japanese covered bridge. The first bridge on this site was constructed in the 1590's. It was built by the japanese community of hoi an in order to link them with the chinese quarters across the stream apparently the strucure was built very solid for fear of an esrthquake The town is divided by the Thu Bon River - the river looks quite dirty but with all the old buildings on either side and especially lite up at night it is a very lovely sight.
There are hundreds of tailors in Hoi an--you can get anything made. Very dangerous for me! So after negotiating with a couple of tailors I engaged them to make a few pieces for me. Lesson - do not look at their catalogues to pick out clothes as the clothes will not look nothing like the picture. Be sure to look at the exact material they will be using as some materials are better than others. I had taken in a few of my own clothes for them to copy and I was quite pleased with the results and the quality of the workmanship. The dress did not fit me quite right so she had me follow her sister to her house in the back streets of hoi an where they have six machines and a number of people tailoring clothes (not a sweat shop as these people are all in their 20's). They quickly altered the dress and I was on my way. I have not ordered any shoes here as I have been warned the quality is poor. They may look good but they cannot get the appropriate glues so the shoes do not last. I had bought a lovely red purse in KL and wanted to have it duplicated for Michelle - disaster the purse is the ugliest thing I have ever seen and looks like it came from Walmart - sorry michelle I tried. All in all having clothes made here is a fun experience but really you can buy better quality Vietnamese made clothes in Canada for a cheaper price. The market is a lot of fun you can buy anything from the most amazing herbs and spices (I have picked up a few spices as they are all grown here). Hoi an prides itself on being organic and most restaurant only use local ingredients. The smell of the fish market is foul but fun to see. as I said you can buy anything or including foot massage services and pedicures at the market. I got talked into having the hair removed from my face by threading for $5. I did not realize I had so much facial hair. I only hope i don't look like a guerilla when it grows back.
I took a cooking class yesterday and met a lovely couple from cairns Australia. We went to the market to pick up the food we were going to cook and them we took the riverboat back to the restaurant and prepared green papaya salad, pho soup and a chicken garlic lemongrass dish. All was very yummy and you can see by the picture I even learned how to make a flower out of a tomato and best of all I have the recipes. Anyone for dinner?
The traffic here is still very busy with lots of bicycles and motorbikes but much easier to navigate walking around than in Hanoi. I was tempted to rent a motorbike but I don't have a motorbike license although I don't think it matters here. So settled on renting a bicycle for $1 and rode the 3 km to a lovely beach outside Hoi an and spent the afternoon relaxing. It was a great ride and you get use to all the honking of horns quite quickly.
I went to dinner last night with a guy from Port Townsend. He and his wife come here to buy tailor made clothes and sell them back in the USA. His wife is not with him on this trip as she is at home with their two year old. He and his wife have been coming here for 10 years and now know a lot of the locals He has introduced me to a 29 year old Vietnamese boy and they have introduced me to some great places to eat very cheap. The night before last I ate ate Bale Well in an alley. This is a family run restaurant that serves only one dish cao lau which is a speciality in hoi an. I did not know how to wrap all the items in the rice paper so the girl sat with me and showed me how it was done as I gave her a card from the vietnamese boy I got the royal treatment and was a stuffed for $2.50. It is all about who you know in Vietnam. She told me she works 12 hours a day in the restaurant seven days a week and has two days off a year. I am meeting Dan and Do (vietnamese boy) in the market for lunch today as they said that is where the locals eat. Besides work, food is big part of Vietnam culture and they take great pride in the dishes they serve and the use of fresh ingredients. I am convinced one of the reasons these people look much younger than they actually are is due to their diet - no super sizing here. No fast food outlets, no 7elevens no Starbucks. But they do have great coffee. Have you heard about weasel coffee?
What is weasel coffee you ask?
First of all, yes, I am talking about the rodent. But why Vietnamese weasel coffee? Coffee growers feed coffee beans to the weasels and after they have passed through the animal’s body, the coffee is collected, ground and brewed. The result? A musky, smooth flavorful coffee. Like I said the coffee is great.
You can ask me later about the banana story I heard!!!
This afternoon I am going to rent a bicycle and ride out to the farms where they grow the herbs. The weather here is lovely in the mid twenties and no longer in their wet season. Do told me they do not have seasons like us, it is either the wet season (September through January) or the dry season (February through August). But june to August is very very hot.
Did I mention this is the town of treatments you can have anything done. I think this morning calls for a manicure and pedicure $8.
although Vietnam is not as cheap as it once was the food accommodation and some shopping is still very cheap along with some beautiful scenery for free but I suspect the increase in tourism will start to drive the prices up for westerners. So if you have always wanted to visit Vietnam don't wait too long.