Vietnam: Hoi An

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Hoi An is so lovely and charming we decided to spend Christmas here and postpone our trip to Hue on the 26th. This part of Vietnam has many Christians and we see not only Christmas trees everywhere, but also Nativity scenes, just like in the Philippines where the Holy Family and Santa Claus are both prominent fixtures.

We are having Christmas dinner with Bao, one of Brad’s friends, who is a school principal. Brad spent three summers here staying a month each visit as a volunteer teacher in Bao’s weekend school. It’s really just a hut outside his house. Val just bought a new computer and a software called Finale for writing music. Brian happens to own one and so we spent last evening with Brian teaching Bao how to use the software.

Christmas Day we’re going out with another friend of Brad’s, Thuy. She works at the tailor shop where I just had an ao dai (Vietnamese national costume) made with matching slippers and necktie for Brian, all for $42. Very expensive compared to other shops but Thuy’s shop was visited by the Queen of Spain so it must be pretty good. Vietnamese silk is so fine we were amazed at how light as a feather it is.

We’re enjoying the food here as well. We have baguettes for breakfast every morning. Brad knows another local, a businesswoman who owns a hotel and two restaurants. We love the banana orange lassi drink, which is a fruit flavored yoghurt drink. We ate at both her retaurants and she gave us a 50% discount last night. She also played the guitar for us.

People here are really cool and friendly. A lot of the locals speak English well, better than the Thais. Everybody mistakes me for a Vietnamese which is flattering because Vietnamese girls are fair-skinned and very slim. The Vietnamese are very interested in their visitors and curious about our native countries. There’s no hostility towards Brian being an American or Brad being an Australian. They are proud of their country and Bao even asked us to write down American slangs, so we added some euphemisms from the South like “y’all”

If there’s anything I don’t like it’s aggressive shopkeepers and touts, but they are not as bad or as rude as the ones in Cambodia. I just wish I could walk in a shop to browse and not feel pressured to buy anything.

If you ever make your way to Hoi An we recommend Greenfield where we stayed. The staff are nice and friendly. Place is clean. Most of the guests are couples (one more thing to like about Hoi An, no prostitutes). Non aircon rooms are like $15 for two people.

More about Hoi An

We left Hoi An 8 am today and we’re now in Hue after a five-hour trip. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were kinda hectic for us on account of Brad’s many local friends inviting us to lunch and dinner.

Internet there is so slow … Oh well, cest la vie! At least here in Hue this Internet Cafe only charges 3,000D/hr.

While you’re in Hoi An do try and have those pants with detachable legs made for you. Brian and I ordered a pair each for $7 at 11 am and we got it by 6 pm same day. I made only one mistake of not telling the dressmaker to have the zips open in front. I’ve seen some backpackers in Cambodia wear them with the zips partially open to remain fully clothed but cool. You can have these pants made just about anywhere, and you can choose your own style and fabric, too. Mine have drawstrings and zippers.

Have you tried the lassi yet? We love it. Brian has been having fruits and yoghurt for breakfast everyday, too. Also try the cau lau. Our favorite food, apart from cau lau noodles (authentic in Hoi An), are the grilled pork or mackerel in lemongrass. It’s served wrapped in leaves. My favorite restaurant is the Mermaid Restaurant right next to the market. Their white rose is also good as appetizer. If you have dinner at one of the restaurants by the river try the grilled tuna. It’s also wrapped in banana leaf, and you’re supposed to eat it last and wait for the waittress to open it and remove the bones. This is what we had for dinner on Christmas Eve.

If you can get in check out the “beauty shop/massage stalls” and look for Brad’s friend Phuoc, she runs stall number 3. She has one eye but she’s really a character and lively. I had my eyebrows done with Phuoc’s daughter using only a piece of string to pluck hair. Even saw a German lady getting the same treatment for her legs. Phuoc also does hair washing with tamarind and lemon, facial, and get this, bamboo acupressure which can be painful if you want to try it. They heat bamboo rollers and place these on your back, the heat creates a vacuum which makes the bamboos act like suction cups.
Also, try to spend happy hour (6-9) at the Treats Bar which has a nice balcony. It’s between Le Loi St. and the Japanese covered bridge. A more famous bar, Tam Tam is too upscale for our taste, it’s so full of farangs it doesn’t even feel like you’re in Vietnam anymore.

Hope you enjoy the My Son tour. It rained all day when we did ours, but it was still interesting to take the boat tour back, for only $3/person including lunch (spring rolls, rice, topped with sugar and ground peanuts, relly weird).

We’re spending one night here in Hue (non-aircon triple sharing only $9 with cable TV!), then we take the train to Hanoi at 4 pm.

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