Hoi An

It’s January 2, 2012. We are on the train to Nha Trang, the beach resort area. The train has come from Hanoi, with people sleeping in it for several hours, then riding during the day. So you can imagine it is not in the best state of cleanliness. Toilets never have toilet paper at this point and it’s a good idea to bring your own sleeping sheet. We’ve been sitting several to a room, playing cards, having a few beers, acting like we are students in our early 20s. The train ride is 10 hours over rice paddies and lush coconut palm groves. It’s not rich looking but the houses are brick or stucco with proper roofs on them. Not really what we would have seen in Vietnam movies. Of course, at this point, I want to watch all kinds of Vietnam war movies and compare reality to Hollywood.

We’ve had a really great time in Hoi An for 3 days and nights. On the first night, we all took a cooking lesson which lasted all evening. The hostess, Vina, is a little girl, about 25 with a vocabulary like she watches too many commercials. She had all of us sitting around a very long table, chopping and mixing, drinking wine and laughing all evening. She liked to make up names for us. Leon was yellow Lion, thanks to the turmeric stains on his fingers, I was meow meow, one guy was Juicy Boy because he strained the vegetables so well in cotton cloth and the other guy was Hot Boy. You can imagine how hilarious the evening was. And the food was probably the best I’ve eaten so far.

We all visited the local seamstresses to have some clothing made as it is a speciality in Hoi An. My personal item is a navy blue gown to wear to the next Army Ball in Ottawa. It’s made of silk chiffon. It may not be the best construction I’ve ever seen, but they make it fast, so you need to have many fittings to get it just right. Leon didn’t bother with the tailor but we did do a lot of walking and shopping in the past days. He gave me a silver bracelet to which I have attached a charm of a kangaroo that was given to me by a friend in Australia. The whole town is about shopping so you are constantly approached as you walk on the street to come visit someone’s shop. Some people are less forward and just wish you a Happy New Year, even though Tet is their new year celebration.

The weather was quite rainy of December 31, so we all ended up going to the spa across the street. Leon and I had a couple’s massage with hot rocks (HOT!!!), then a mani-pedi each. My nails have a delicate design of gold on red polish. Leon did not manage to get rid of his yellow fingers. They are still stained 2 days later as I write this.

After the spa, we dressed up for a fancy dinner. I ordered the prawns – 2 mutant prawns with rice and veggies! One girl, Joanne, ordered the lobster by the gram. It turned out to be a teeny lobster tail especially imported from Canada. Talk about giving us a bad name!! They all coveted my prawns but I was only sharing with Leon as he was having a stuffed squid (very yummy). After a few drinks and dinner, we were off to a bar for some late dancing while some of the younger group went to the local outdoor celebration. We sipped on some bubbly and danced up a storm to disco music. What a great time!!

We were back in our room by midnight, because really, I just wanted to kiss Leon, not a whole crowd of strangers. Unfortunately, I was so tired, I just fell asleep shortly after the clock struck 12 and I had wished Ariane the very best.

January 1 was spent walking around town to a great extent, shopping and going to 2 fittings, eating some more yummy food, but not drinking. Gee, I wonder why? We were in bed early, all packed and ready to get on the bus this morning to drive back to Da Nang for the train. With all the fiddling with the switches in the room, we accidentally switched off the hot water heater, so showers had to wait until after breakfast. One of the specialities in Hoi An is a rice crepe filled with veggies served on a bed of greens. Yum yum!!! I had that each of 3 mornings. I can’t overstate how delicious the food is here. You can order lots of fried spring rolls and such, but we stay with the fresh rice rolls, curried meat or fish, steamed rice and fruit as much as we can. Baguettes are always available, so Leon has at least one a day.

We will be in the south-central part of Vietnam for the next 3 days. The weather is humid (everything feels wet) and the skies look like it’s about to rain most of the time. At least the air has been cleaner since we left Hue. I am told Nha Trang is a big city, so I have not idea what the air will be like. We plan to do some snorkeling, maybe jet skiing and a day at the mud baths is planned. We arrive around 9pm tonight, time for a late dinner and a shower. The train keeps rolling along…

January 3 – Nha Trang

Spent the day near the water. We took a boat ride to a lovely fishing village on an island. Quite idealic with friendly children and no motor scooters! We stopped to snorkel but I chickened out cause the water seemed a big cold. The sun was shining, the sky was blue! I sat on the front of the boat and enjoyed the day. From there we anchored at another island for an on-board lunch with delicious local fish and squid, among other dishes. Then we went onto the island for some swimming and jet skiing. Leon drove. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the motorcycle ride the other day. Still, we had a great time. They had massages and manicures available aboard the boat but I didn’t think I needed to relax any further.

After that day’s activities, we had a free afternoon and time for a nap. Dinner at a large restaurant followed. The restaurant has a pool near the beachfront, so our tables were set up beside the pool. From there we went to the Sailing club bar for a last drink by the ocean.

January 4 – Quiet breakfast on the terrace at the hotel, then a long walk on the beach and through the waterfront area. This city is much like Miami with hotel highrises popping up all over on the beachfront. Lunch was a typical meal of salad and stir-fry with noodles. The restaurant was meant to cater to Western and Vietnamese tastes. We are missing the authentic Vietnamese food we had further north. As we travel south, we find more and more tourists from Russia, Australia and Europe. So the restaurants are not interested in making typical food. Too bad.

After lunch, we went to see a large temple with a huge female Buddha statue on the top of the hill. Many steps later, we got a close-up view of the Buddha. We then went to the mud baths. Now that was a fun time! First you shower, then they put the whole group of us in warm mud where we soaked for 15 minutes. You can imagine the funny comments and laughter coming from our tub. It’s a good thing we all know each other after almost 10 days of travel because you wouldn’t want to sit in a tub of mud with strangers. After the mud, you dry yourself in the sun (more like baking a clay pot) and then rinse in the shower for a long long time. From there, you go to a wall of water jets for hydro therapy and end up in a hot tub with your same buddies. A bit of a soak later, you end up at the outdoor pools – one at 37C, the other at 26C. By now you are mush and you do look 10 years younger!

We swam around for a few more minutes and then were off to change and return to the hotel. Of course, I discovered half a tub of mud still attached to my bum when I removed my bathing suit. I was glad to have a proper shower back at the hotel. Right now, we are waiting to meet the gang for dinner before we take the night train to Ho Chi Minh City.

Juicy Boy tiger 1 Yellow Lion and Hot Boy cooking with Vina
cooking lesson in Hoi An
fishing village on island in Nha Trang
relaxing on the boat after a snorkel
the sailing club Nha Trang
streets of Hoi An after dinner Dec 31
fancy mani
mutant shrimp Dec 31
New Year's Eve on the terrace Hoi An - we had cocktails of gin and tonic with the group
on the day train to nha trang lunch cards and beer
China Beach in Da Nang, now called Myke Beach