Hue, Hoi An
45 days away
130 km / 81 miles since last post
24,642 km / 15,312 miles total
We took breakfast in the hotel and then left around 8am to get on the bus taking us all to Hoi An - a journey of around four hours.
Along the way we saw some lovely scenery - notably a mountain which you can either traverse via a pass up one side and down the other, or through a tunnel. Our bus went the scenic route up the pass. One side is where Hue ends, and the other side is where Danang begins.
After a while we made a stop at a small beach resort and had a drink. The beach was ok, but there was some rubbish there and the water was quite brown. It was nice to get off the bus though, and always pleasurable to sit by the sea and have a cool breeze.
We made another stop a bit later at China Beach. This was a better looking beach, but it was only a brief stop to take a photo or two, then back on the bus.
We made yet another stop at a place where they had various marble carvings for sale. Some of them were fantastic, but once again nobody in our group wanted to buy anything.
Eventually we arrived at our hotel and checked into our rooms. Our room is on the ground floor, just along from the lobby. It is a nice enough room, quite spacious and clean, big bed, nice shower etc. On closer inspection we realised that the room did not actually have any natural daylight - though we do have a fake window and a couple of drapes on either side of the bed, which we thought may have housed windows at first. It's not the end of the world, but a bit weird. I think most of the group have the same deal with their rooms too, as the hotel has buildings either side and only has four floors.
After arriving at the hotel we were allowed half an hour to check in and see our rooms, before meeting the rest of the group and Thanh at 12:45pm. He had ordered us a couple of taxis to take us to a restaurant for lunch. The reason for choosing this restaurant is that it is slightly out of the centre of Hoi An, and therefore less expensive.
I chose a couple of appetiser dishes - white rose, and pork and shrimp wan tons. White rose is basically a tapioca dumpling containing pork and garnished with crispy fried onion - very nice and a speciality dish of the region.
After lunch we headed for the markets. Thanh advised us there are many places here where are able to have clothes and shoes tailor made. He took us to a clothes maker and a shoe maker who he personally recommended as he had used them himself. He then left us to explore the shops and markets for ourselves for the rest of the afternoon.
We walked around a lot of the shops. I looked in a few and they had catalogues you could flick through to find something you wanted made. Whilst I was tempted to get a dress made, I thought I'd be better off saving my money. Besides, I have no room left in my rucksack to start buying new clothes anyway. A few people in our group did decide to get clothes made - however, most of them are going back home after this trip which makes it a bit easier for them. I would feel a bit worried about keeping a tailor made dress in my rucksack for the next ten months!
We walked around for quite a while. I did managed to pick up a little coffee filter. You see them all the time when you order coffee in a restaurant or bar. You are given the coffee cup containing condensed milk, and the coffee filter sits on top and the coffee drips into the cup. The woman on the market wanted 50,000 dong for it, but I knew that some others in the group had got them for 20,000 - so I managed to haggle the price and get it for 20,000.
Later on I decided to also get a small pack of Vietnamese coffee too. The starting price was 250,000 (just over £8)! I think that just goes to show how they like to play their luck here. There was no way I was going to pay that amount and so I started to walk away. She asked me to name my price so I said 50,000 (a more reasonable £1.60). She knocked it down to about 200,000. This continued for a while, and I insisted on only paying 50,000. My technique of walking away until the price came down seemed to work and I got the coffee for 50,000 dong.
As we passed through the markets and the shops, we did find some of the people selling stuff quite irritating. Most of them weren't too bad, and just asked you to come into their shops, but a few were more insistent and a bit more annoying.
When we went into a tailor shop with Pat and Andy (as they wanted some clothes made) the woman gave us all a free bottle of water. At first you think it's a nice gesture - as well as an incentive for us to stay, of course - but we noticed that the bottles looked like they had been resealed and were probably just tap water. We decided to leave Pat and Andy to it.
Stu, Isabel and I decided to head back to the hotel. Along the way, Isabel and I made the mistake of looking and then touching a pair of trousers outside a shop. The next thing we knew, a woman came out, grabbed me by the arm and took me inside. She started to show us lots of fabrics and said she could make us a pair of trousers to be ready later today. After having a quick look at some rather bland looking fabrics, we made our excuses and got out as quick as possible. She started saying that she would take us to her sisters shop where they have more fabrics, but we just said 'no' and continued walking. Most people aren't this bad at all, but some do get on your nerves. After the experience of the Silk Markets in China, I really don't like to be grabbed by people trying to sell me things.
It had been a hot and tiring day walking around the shops and markets, so it was nice to get back to the hotel and get showered and changed, before meeting everyone at 6:45pm.
Tonight we had a cookery lesson. Stu and I weren't sure if we would do it ay first, as we had done one in China. However, most people in the group wanted to do it (apart from Monique and Mia), and it also meant that we would have the food that we made for dinner too, so we decided to go along.
We got a couple of taxis to the place where we would have our lesson, and were greeted by our teacher Vina. It was a bit of a different set up to our Chinese cookery lesson though. We didn't have separate work stations, but instead were seated around the same table. We basically watched while Vina did most of the work, and every now and again we got the chance to chop and onion, carrot etc. Whilst I was a bit disappointed that we didn't really cook our own meal, Vina was very entertaining and certainly kept your attention. We thought she was a bit crazy actually, as she kept singing and doing impressions. She would say hello to the vegetables... need I say more? Although it was funny when she did an impression of the Aussies, Kath and Kim style.
She tried to remember our names throughout the lesson, but did forget now and again so some people got nicknames. Stu was 'strong man' and 'handsome man' (I think Vina had a bit of a thing for him). Andy became 'chunky chop' as he didn't chop all the onion as small as he should have done. Natalie was 'hot lady' as she asked for more chilli in her dishes. Isabel was 'vege lady' as she is vegetarian and had separately cooked dishes. Pat was 'meow meow', because when she was describing how to pronounce her name to Vina she said it was pronounced like 'cat'. Fran was 'naughty lady' as she kept trying to do things before Vina was ready. Michelle was 'romantic lady', but I don't think any of us quite worked out the reason for this. It was all quite amusing, and made the lesson quite enjoyable.
I think the highlight for me was the food itself, as it was really delicious. We made four dishes: sweet and sour chicken soup, fried spring rolls, green papaya salad and white tuna fish in banana leaf. All of them were really tasty and better than I expected as it seems so simple when you are preparing them.
Michelle nearly had a fit near the end of the lesson when she spotted a massive spider on Vina's top. Michelle says she doesn't like seeing spiders on people. This will now be know as the 'spider incident'.
After the lesson, Vina had some bits that she offered for sale. Everyone seemed to go mad buying lots of stuff: chopsticks, aprons etc. I didn't really see a need for anything, apart from a little bag-for-life that she was selling which may come in handy, so I got one.
We headed back to the hotel by taxi again, and everyone went straight back to their rooms as we have an early start tomorrow.