January 31st and February 1st
Days 6 and 7
Hoi An is another UNESCO World Heritage site and is incredible beautiful. Bob thought it full of tourists – it was – understandably though in my opinion because it is such a beautiful place. Over 800 buildings are preserved in the Old Town. We were blessed as our hotel was only a 5 minute walk away. To enter the Old Town you purchase a pass which is valid for three days. Most of these houses may be visited, the owners still live there and spend the day in their private quarters upstairs. The majority of these homes have been in the same family for generations, 6, 7 or indeed 8. Hoi An is on a river and at night the entire place is lit up with lanterns. There is also a Japanese bridge which is very beautiful.
Our journey from Hue was about 4 hours but made longer by many stops. First we stopped at Lang Co Beach. This is a Vietnamese Tourist Resort but we were the only people there. It is totally different during TET, Vietnamese equivalent of Chinese New Year which falls on the same date, as many, many Vietnamese travel here to celebrate the holiday. After a welcome visit to the Happy House we ordered drinks – my 2 double Vietnamese Coffees – and I headed straight to the beach and in for a paddle. It was so nice to be by the sea again and it was refreshing as days were getting hotter. Soon it was time to get back on the bus and head to Danang but not before driving through the Hai Van Pass. On bad days there is an option of going through the tunnel but we were blessed with the fabulous views and many stops for pictures or just to take it all in. As usual Vin was singled out by the hawkers!
Denang, otherwise known as China Beach, is being developed as a Vietnamese Dubai. Speaking to other people it’s taking them a while! Personnally I wasn’t impresed though. Once again leave it to Khanh to know the good lunch spots and we all did enjoy the freshly filled baguette at the bakery he took us to.
Bank into the bus and it wasn’t long before we arrived at our hotel in Hoi An. Phu Thinh 2 http://www.vietnam-hotels.net/hotel/hoi-an/phu-thinh-2-hotel-hoi-an.html A lovely small hotel with a pool in the courtyard and a brilliant location. Once again we were in luck, 2 windows and a small balcony.
After a guided walk with Khanh to get our bearings we had a very welcome free afternoon. I cannot stress how pretty Hoi An is. While on our tour Khanh took us to a tailor he would recommend. Narurally we all went in. They had many samples hanging up but also many books for you to choose a design from. I didn’t think the samples looked great so left. There was also the opportunity to mix and match. Tops of one style, waistline or another etc. I was conscious of Bob hanging around outside and I was too hot and sticky to be bothered stripping and being fitted.
We returned to the hotel. Bob hired a bike, all for $1 for the day and took off. Meanwhile I booked 2 hours in the spa. I had a body scrub, massage, facial, manicure and pedicure all for €24! It was fantastic.
That evening there was an opportunity to do a Vietnamese cooking class. Surprisingly only 3 of us choose to do it, Debbie, Pauline and myself. We arrived at the cookery school, Gioan, http://www.gioancookery.com/cookery/cookery-vi to discover that we were the only 3 in the class. Our teacher, Vina, was hilarious and if you learned nothing you had a full nights entertainment. She had us laughing, singing and drinking wine. She was fantastic. We were taught and cooked ourselves. Our ingredients were prepared for us apart from the chopping. We made Fried Spring Rolls, A Green Papaya Salad, Sweet and Sour Chicken Soup, Tuna Steaks in Banana Leaf and Chilli Paste. OH MY GOD it was absolutely delicious. We walked back to the hotel, got lost but eventually saw Vin and made it back in time to persuade the hotel to reopen the bar for more mojitos! Hoi An goes to sleep very early at night. They were not happy and when it came to the bill we were overcharged for 3 extra beers, we eventually paid up but it was annoying. Still for an extra €2 we weren’t too bothered, just annoyed at being ripped off.
The following morning, after breakfast, I just wasn’t well. The tums had decided it had enough. I stayed by the pool until I felt it was safe to venture out. Bob went off on his bike, another $1. Debbie, meanwhile, had ordered 2 dresses so I said I’d meet her at 13.30 for the first fitting. I was hugely impressed and raging that I’d missed such an opportunity. She said she was unsure exactly what she was getting as the designer more or less took over. The dresses were incredibly well made, one for the office and one for a wedding. There were a few minor adjustments and a 2nd fitting 30 minutes later and they were delivered to the hotel, packed, ready for travel, that evening. The total cost of the dresses, fully lined, including fittings was $70, Debbie did well.
Following a free morning where we could wander around at will, some did a tuk tuk tour, others relaxed by the pool, some went to the spa but 7 of us, Vin, Debbie, the Diamonds, John and us choose to go on a cycling tour and BBQ that afternoon. It was hilarious. Helmets – yes, gears – no and we left Hoi An and took off through tiny villages over Paddy Fields with barely a walking track much less a cycling one, there were many stops along the way. Not only did we cycle through Paddy Fields we were also cycling along the Mekong Delta. Eventually we arrived at a boat – a tiny boat! To much amusement the bikes were loaded on first, then us. We found a coolbox of beer, sodas and water and duly shared them around. Now we’re sailing on the Mekong. It was fantastic. Loads of people were out in their boats fishing, two people to every boat, one at the front with sticks, banging them repeatedly to get the fish to the surface. We arrived at an island for our BBQ, ok, now, this wasn’t what we’d expected. It’s a deserted island! Tables and chairs are somehow found on our little boat. The fisherman also produces a BBQ and proceeds to cook us all dinner. We laughed. Here we were, all 7 of us, on a tiny deserted island, somewhere in the middle of the Mekong with only a Happy Bush, having the most fantastic BBQ ever while listening to the clap clap of the fishermen. Just before sunset we were back on the boat and returning to Hoi An. Another brilliant Intrepid experience..
Soon it would be time to leave Hoi An and we were taking lots of memories. Denang disappointed though I can see why the Americans were sent for R & R to China Beach. It was time to head back to the hotel to shower, change, pack our case and backpacks as an early start in the morning, 4am, we are flying to Ho Chi Minh City