On the move again........just a short distance.

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January 28th 2018
Published: February 1st 2018
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Sunday 28th January 2018

Today we leave the lovely Earth Villa and head not far away to the Camellia Homestay to settle in for our last 5 days in Vietnam. Firstly tho it’s time to indulge ourselves with breakfast to set us up for the day. John opted for the Vietnamese special; Pho, which Is a noodle soup followed by omellete and a baguette. Sarah went for cornflakes and then the baguette with fried eggs all with tea and Vietnamese coffee. Breakfasted we returned to our room to pack and then check out. Just after 10:30am we hoisted on our backpacks and looking the part wandered off down the street. John being an excellent map reader soon found the homestay a few streets away. We were again given a lovely welcome by the owners and their daughter with a nice glass of hot tea and a yoghurt to enjoy whilst we were being checked in. Upstairs to our room.....completely blown away by how big, lovely and spotlessly clean it was......this is already a great Homestay. We have a huge double bed plus another smaller double in the room, a separate lounge/sitting area and a bathroom with bath and shower. Plus tea and coffee making facilities, fridge and a mini bar. We have already been invited by the owner to join them for an authentic Vietnamese meal tomorrow night, which we are looking forward to. There are also free bikes available to cycle to town or the beach. We slowly unpacked and then headed into town (again!). The weather today is much improved with the grey clouds gone and sunshine replacing them....so it felt a lot hotter. Went to the tailor shop to pick up a couple of shirts which ended up with us sitting for over an hour just chatting to the owner about her kids, life in Vietnam, how she came to own the shop....all very much the same as us in the U.K. It was a really nice way to waste some time. We said our goodbyes but not before taking a picture of her with her daughter and son. Onwards now for a drink and it was back to the Reaching Out Cafe run by deaf people. This time John went for the fresh orange juice and Sarah the herbal tea, plus some biscuits to nibble on, again they all tasted great. Continued our wanderings before eventually tearing ourselves away and heading back to the Homestay. Fortunately for us we were passing one of the best Banh Mi shops in town.....Banh Mi is Vietnamese for bread 🥖- a lovely freshly baked baguette. There were various selections for fillings so we went for the mixed. We just managed to get into the shop, the sitting area was packed and just after we went in a big queue was forming outside. Apparently Obama ate here on a visit ..........whether he did or not we don’t know but one American girl was asking the server what did Obama order to eat.....she got a blank look. 😂 Then she asked what’s the favourite Banh Mi on the list......Americans eh, you have to love them. Eating on the hoof we sauntered slowly down the road before conveniently we came across cafes serving beer hoi - basically fresh beer, served cold with limited shelf life......4,000 Dong a glass and with the exchange rate at 31,200 Dong to the £ will let you work out how much that was. It was cold, tasted like lager and did the job. Arrived at the Homestay just after 4pm, greeted by the owner who said she was so happy we were staying with her. Met her little poodle like dog called Teeny and before long we were showing her pictures of Kilroy and Claire and Ben’s greyhound strangely enough named Teeny. Time now to chill for a while.

Just after 7pm and we headed out this time a 10 minute walk to a small restaurant called Nahns Kitchen. After our late lunch we thought we were not that hungry so a simple meal of a pizza each would do. A quick check of the menu and it was two special pizzas and two mojitos to start. We were sat at a table next to some old time American guys who we quickly got chatting to...we told them about our backpacking to Myanmar and now in Vietnam.....these two guys had travelled around Asia and decided Hoi An was the place for them and decided to stay........at leat one of them had a girl! In their words they were enjoying life, drinking beer 🍻 chilling out and smoking some weed. They were interesting guys for sure. It became clear that this place seemed to be a gathering point where a few ex pat types from all over the world who lived in Hoi An came to. There were another couple of older British guys .......well older than us anyway, sat at another table plus a couple who had recently settled in Vietnam. The place had a really nice casual vibe and was being run by a young couple with two young nieces aged 10 and 9 helping out. The pizzas were really lovely as were the mojitos which were going down nicely! Pizzas done we then just sat for a while talking to one of the couple that ran the place. She was very chatty and was encouraging her nieces to come and talk to us to improve their English. Now that pizzas had settled it was time for ice cream and pancake - very good it was as well. It was a nice casual evening which we both enjoyed.....a short walk back and in bed by 10pm, tired 💤 out.

Monday 29th January 2018

Awake just after 7am so it was cup of tea time and news catch up before heading down to breakfast. There had been flashes of lightning in the night so it looks as if more warm rain could be on the way but looking outside whilst the clouds have returned its still dry for the moment. Breakfast was a feast with a selection of western and Vietnamese options plus fruit, yoghurt, juice teas, coffees - really substantial. Sat next to an Australian couple and we were able to give them advice on what to expect when they arrive in Ho Chi Minh city their next destination. Had a good chat with them before deciding to head into town. This time we walked a different way in, closer to the river all the way. Once in town we then tried to find the shop we had identified for a retail opportunity......it must be our age as we wandered around aimlessly until we did eventually stumbled upon it. A bit of bartering and we got the price down even more. Moving on, John was also in bartering mode and managed to get the seller down from the starting price of 2,600,000 Dong to 1,800,000 Dong for a leather hold-all, ideal for when we go away for a weekend.....again it’s “real buffalo leather sir!” The numbers of Dong are so big it’s tricky to get your head around them. Our usual pit stop at our favourite cafe and whilst we were sat in the window seats looking out the heavens opened and rain came down heavily. Ever the business people within minutes the streets were full of sellers armed with plastic raincoats of different sizes and standards and also umbrellas. Whilst sat in the cafe one raincoat seller was trying to do a deal. These raincoats were a far higher quality than the thin plastic bag type that some were selling. Managed to barter her down to half the price originally quoted......she said she was whispering price to us so no one else can hear and try and get for same cost! After an hour in the cafe the rain was easing off a little so we donned our macs and headed back to our Homestay via the market. John found a stall selling t shirts and we knew the going rate but as per usual had to go thro the fun of the young girl starting at over twice the price, then us reducing it by more than half, then she tries to increase it a bit - we then say no so she drops a little more, then as we walk away she agrees to our suggested price.Some may not like this way of purchasing things but it is expected and it’s all done with lots of jokes and smiles. There are those that will pay the first price mentioned.....usually they are from the large escorted tour groups wandering around town who on a whistle stop tour of a couple of hours and are not able to compare and barter. The locals always try the same patter in the hope that they will hit lucky and sometimes they do as we have witnessed. Roads here are confusing to say the least so we did make a error when we were close to home adding 10mins on our walk but eventually we worked it out.

Had an afternoon relaxing, watching a film or two and looking thro our purchases from earlier today. Just on 6:30pm we strolled downstairs to join the family and five other guests for the their traditional Vietnamese evening. Around the table were us Brits, a couple of Aussies and three Americans. Had a really good time sampling the different foods, some we had tried before and others we had not. Then there was the chatting about life in general and exchanging stories of where we lived and what we had done. Just a great evening socialising. The family are so welcoming, generous and genuinely interested in ensuring their guests enjoy there stay. There was a huge selection of food from a lettuce, cucumber and mint salad, bbq pork, veggie and meat mini pancake rolls, some noddles and the thin rice paper wraps to make up our own mini rolls along with a chilli dipping sauce. Then there was a chicken noodle soup to sample as well. Afterwards there was fresh pineapple and melon with everything washed down with beers and soft drinks. Supper done we headed up to bed to contemplate what we will do tomorrow.....town or beach? Weather is a bit iffy but still warm and pleasant.

Tuesday 30th January 2018

Awake at just after 7am and a quick read of the papers and catch up on emails to start the day. The papers are full of the Vietnam U23 football teams return from China with crowds out on the streets welcoming them home. Had a couple of emails also from our groundworks man who is busy in the wet trying to get the groundworks done for our lodge in the garden project. Suffice to say there have been challenges! Showered and dressed and down to breakfast at 8:30am with no real idea what we plan to do today. Will check the weather out and decide. Again a huge selection for breakfast but we managed to get thro it all and after checking out the weather we decided it was bike ride day. Grabbed a backpack, threw in our waterproof capes and jumped onto the bikes and headed out on the road to Cu Dai beach area. The weather was overcast but just the right temperature for a cycle ride. After about 4km we arrived at the start of the beach area strip with a few big hotels dotted along the road. We cycled onwards for about another 2km to Ang Ban beach and pulled off the road, parked the bikes up and went for a walk along the beach. Not really a sunbathing/swimming day as the sea was pretty rough - if you were into body boarding it would have been perfect. Beachside cafes were quiet but we decided to waste some time so found a couple of sun beds and sat down, two coffees ordered.....then as they had wifi we could download a book and do some reading. Stayed a couple of hours before heading off again. No map to hand so just following our noses and instincts we turned off the main road and headed down narrow tracks running thro rice fields and small villages. Really great riding as it’s very flat here. Continued on passing lots of places with potted up small mandarin trees and also flowers for sale. It is the start of the Tet holidays here in a week or so and apparently sales of flowers and plants rocket at this time of the year. Onwards we continued, stopping at each major junction to agree which direction we should go. We seemed to make the right choices and eventually we found ourselves heading back into Hoi An town. We jumped off our bikes and walked slowly thro the old town, we were a bit saddle sore! Decided a snack from a bakery would make a great lunch and we knew there was one on the way back to our Homestay called “Lavien”. Pulled up outside and went in to find a nice selection of savouries and cakes.....a couple of bacon and cheese pies and a chocolate and beetroot cake to share. Also a couple of cups of excellent cappuccinos. Just after 2pm we set off again and were soon back at our lodgings. Decided to sit outside and chill in the gardens for a while, the owner came out with two cups of tea for us - perfect. Then back up to the room, a bit of tv and then showered and changed before strolling back into town for the evening.......will be our first night in the old town. Town was very busy and extremely pretty with lanterns out whilst down on the river little baskets with candles were floating along. We wandered around for an hour or so and saw that nearly every shop and restaurant had a table out front with joss sticks and offerings to the gods.....the lunar cycle is very important. We then decided it was time to eat so we headed off and down a small side alley to The Thai Kitchen. Arrived to find the place full but we would get in if we could wait. So we ordered a couple of beers and out came two little stools and we just sat ourselves down and waited. A few minutes later and the queue had grown to over 12 people. It was only a wait of maybe 10mins at the most and then a table was ready for us. It was a table for four and as there were just us two we said we would be more than happy for a guy who was on his own to come and sit with us if he wanted. He agreed. Had a peruse of the menu and went for the fish cakes to start, Pad Thai and the Penang pork curry and this time we ordered a couple of Thai beers. Got chatting to the guy on our table, his name was Stefan and he was Swedish. Nice chap who is doing a tour of indo China and is working his way down Vietnam before going across to Cambodia. The food was excellent, hence the popularity of this place. Really enjoyed the meal and company. We found out that today marks the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam which was one of the biggest sustained battles of the whole war, when the North Vietnamese Army launched huge attacks on the American Forces. These attacks caught the americans off guard as they thought that the Vietnamese would not attack during what is normally considered a holiday time. Whilst the North Vietnamese sustained massive casualties it was a turning point in the war as they realised they could attack the Americans anywhere they wanted. A slow walk home along the river and back in our bed by 9:45pm, happy but tired.

Wednesday 31st January 2018

A good nights sleep was had by all, must have been all the fresh air and cycling of yesterday. Down to breakfast and once again we cannot resist the great baguettes! A huge amount of food to keep us going for the day. Time to think what we need to do to burn off all the carbs we are taking on board. Decided we could not resist the lure of the old town once again so we packed up our rain macs and off we went. Had a nice wander around for an hour or so, John purchasing some lightweight cotton summer shirts......after all the flattery and sales patter he had to! Every girl in every shop was saying how handsome he looked, very fit for age and how the shirt colours really suited him. 😂 Managed to barter them down quiet a bit as well. We were going to go to the Reaching Out Cafe for our normal break, but there was a film crew outside filming so after being nosey and watching awhile we strolled on a few yards and there was a great book/poster/crafty/high quality clothing shop which we broused in for a while. They also had an upstairs cafe which we decided to give a try. Very good it was to. Sat indoors enjoying our coffees and also playing a game of mini pool! Refreshed we continued wandering around the old town area exploring the back streets and discovering lots of hidden gem cafes and houses. Sarah’s turn for serious retail and she was on the lookout for some jewellery, after finding a few shops which looked like they may have the very thing she braved it and went in to get an idea of price. Of course they always start high and within a short space of time we managed to negotiate a lot lower, but not low enough we thought. So we walked away but at least we had a better idea of the real price. Other shops presented themselves but they didn’t seem to have just the thing. No worries it will turn up somewhere. Whilst wandering around a British couple came up and asked us where all the restaurants were..🤔, we really did think they were having a joke. They said they did not want street food, fair enough but the town is full of places to eat - you really cannot miss them. Continued our aimless wandering and as we were going down a side street there was the shop........jewellery and just what was wanted. In we went and the sales girl was very helpful, adjusting sizes and finding exactly what was required. Now comes the price.......firstly it was 50% less than the original starting price of the other shop and in the end we did the deal. The girl in the shop made sure everything was right before we left......it does pay to shop around. Time now for another rest so returned to the cafe we frequented earlier. Sarah had a tropicana fruit drink whilst John had a glass of ginger tea and as we were feeling peckish a small selection of pancake rolls. We were
Beer Hoi.....fresh beer by the glass.Beer Hoi.....fresh beer by the glass.Beer Hoi.....fresh beer by the glass.

4000 Dong a glass.....there are 32,000 Dong to the £😮
joined on the balcony by some Japanese tourists and true to form they were taking selfies by the dozen. As the wind was beginning to get up we walked back to our Homestay....could be a storm later. Whilst on the way back we spotted a Dorian fruit tree. This fruit is banned in many hotels and public transport as the smell is horrendous....apparently it smells of onions and sweaty socks. John did some admin down in reception, checking in for our flight for the next leg of our adventure whilst Sarah chilled watching a bit of tv. The next big decision was where to eat tonight. We had planned on revisiting the Circle restaurant but we found it was closed Wednesdays so Sarah did a bit of research and we found a place close by called Dingo Deli....run by Australians which seemed to get good reviews so that’s the place for us. Headed out early to eat as we was decidedly chilly and the owners of our Homestay were definitely feeling the chill as well. We thought a good meal and early night in the warm was the best option. The selection was mostly western food with also great selection of cakes, pastries and bread. We both went for burgers and they were excellent, then followed a home made chocolate tart and ice cream to follow. A good find and only two minutes away. We were back indoors by 8pm and just watched tv and relaxed till sleep took over.

Thursday 1st February 2018

So that’s January over, where did that go? Today is our penultimate day in Vietnam so we will make the most of it. Weather is still cool for this time of the year but the promised storm of last night must have blown by as no rain has fallen. Time for breakfastAnd then some more walking. Weather cool when walking into town this morning plus we noticed that overnight numbers and lines had been painted on the pavements/roads right on the edge of the old town. Eventually worked it out......these were numbers for stalls to pitch on as the Tet holiday approaches. We are sure that Hoi An will be absolutely manic during this time. Today shops seemed to be competing with each other with offerings set up on tables outside - many tables being piled high with food of all types, paper, joss sticks and incense. Also the build up to the holidays seems to have already started with many stall holders stopping at lunchtime, setting up tables and enjoying a feast of food. Many tables also had an amplifier, large speaker and a karaoke machine which was being used to full effect! They do love a singalong and it was a bit crazy to say the least! Had a nicewander thro the market stopping off at different stalls to check out the veg, meat and fish offerings trying to work out what some of the things were. Found another cafe serving great coffee so grabbed a seat right out front and just sat for an hour. Our favourite daily newspaper vendor came along and pulled up for a chat, not sure what he was on about but think the just of it was that he should be ok for the holidays as he reckons he will sell enough papers to keep him going.....good to hear. Continued strolling,came across bikes for sale with frames made from bamboo....looked pretty good and sturdy. Eventually we were back on the riverfront and Captain Dan found us........riverboat ride sir......he was after $10 but we only had $6,......in the wallet, no problem I do 40min trip instead of 1hr. 😄 Jumped aboard and expected to be sat around whilst he conjured up some other punters but no he fired up the engine and off we went on our private trip on the river. Nice little chug along, just relaxing and taking in river life. Captain Dan was a bit of a character and showed us a book with sections marked out with nationalities who had made comments about the trip. He also offered to take our picture, carefully ensuring he got his name in! Back on shore we had a final stroll thro town before heading out and back to our Homestay.......with a quick stop on the way for a beer hoi.....at 4,000 Dong a glass you cannot go wrong. Time now to start to pack things ready for our departure tomorrow.

Packing done, we seem to have more things to fit in the rucksacks! Tonight’s supper venue was a double affair, firstly we wanted to return to the Red Dragon where we enjoyed our upmarket Vietnamese meal a few days ago and then walk just down the road to Dingo Deli to enjoy there puddings and coffee. Tonight Sarah selected the veggie, tofu wraps with a nice dipping sauce followed by chilli prawns coconut rice and a small salad with John going for pumpkin soup, grilled red snapper with the rice and salad. We also treated ourselves to a bottle of nice Australian wine. Mains done we then walked over the road for puds with Sarah opting for the chocolate brownie with ice cream and John the coffee cake again with ice cream, plus two very nice coffees. Having eaten well we were back home and in bed by 9pm ready for our day of travelling tomorrow. Watched a film and then time for sleeping.

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