Hue and Hoi An

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December 20th 2017
Published: December 23rd 2017
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Hue and Hoi An

We departed from Hanoi around 7/8pm. We were all in the first class sleeper carriage with a 4 person sleeper and me, Bill, Andrea and my dad shared a cabin. The others gate crashed the girls’ cabin and started making gin and tonic mixers (thanks to Duc for buying it!) I swore it was a dry day but was coerced into having a G&T! So we talked, they drank (a lot- finished the Gin and cleaned the trolley lady out of beer). I went to bed at midnight (my crew were already asleep) and the others went to bed soon after. We arrived in Hue at about 9am, some worse for wear (and badly hungover luckily not me!) We checked into the hotel and had a light breakfast. The weather was drizzly and miserable so after some Wi-Fi time me and Bill went to get a coffee. Later that afternoon the group went for a short walk to the Hue citadel but that's when it really bucketed down!! And that’s when I realised just having a rain jacket sucks! Anyway the citadel and the imperial enclosure is a vast array of palaces and gardens. As you walk in there are cars and scooters toot tooting you as you walk across the little bridge. The citadel and its walls dominates the city and was built between 1804 and 1833. Inside the palace (with 3 doors) we saw exhibitions and artwork. It was said the only men allowed to go into the emperors palace were Eunuchs, and many decided to become Eunuchs as it was good money. We walked around the gardens for about an hour taking photos and looking at the various art/decor around the palace. Later that evening we had cheap beers at the hotel and headed to a local family home for a home cooked meal! It was wonderful and the hosts were lovely. We even helped the wife roll spring rolls. The front part of the house is now a shrine to the husbands departed parents. During the day they run a little eatery out of their home. We tried many different little dishes including soups, spring rolls, hotpot and of course rice. Later that night we had a choice between going to a bar or stay at the hotel for cheap 10 000 dong beer (70c) it was a no brainer we kept the hotel restaurant in business!

The next day a bus ride further south we ended up in the pretty craft town of Hoi An. We stopped along the way along a bay or river while some had fresh oysters (not me!) Hoi An is popular for its lanterns and the UNESCO world heritage old town is dotted with pretty lanterns draped across its carless (but not scooter or bike less) streets. The old town is comprised of Japanese houses, Chinese temples and ancient teahouses. Mustard coloured French style architecture set against the colourful lanterns was breathtaking. We went for a delicious lunch , and then afterwards Duc took for an orientation walk in the rain. We went to see a silver shop briefly where silversmiths were working as well as a lantern shop where they were making lanterns. Included with Intrepid was an Hoi An old town ticket which gives you entry to various attractions. We all went into a Chinese temple which had large cone shaped coils (which burns for 1 month) hanging at the front with peoples names and their family members names hanging in these cones for good luck. We also went to an ancient house which still had people living there living upstairs (a family over several generations) with a big open air courtyard and the strong timber structure posts had Japanese inscriptions written in mother of pearl. Apparently the water from last months floods came up fairly high so they had to move the furniture and wares upstairs. So after we walked around the old town and the fresh food market then some of us went to one of the many tailors to ask about getting clothes made. They employ over 300 people at Yaly tailor can churn out an outfit within 24 hours! Some got clothes made (me included). So me, Bill, Andrea and my dad walked around for awhile eventually meeting the others at the restaurant for pre-dinner drinkies. The dinner was superb too, best I had so far on the trip. Later, we went across the road to look at the night market, then back to the main old town centre where Bill and I bought lanterns! At the hotel Bill and I sat playing UNO with most of the group!

The next day us 4 headed back to the old town centre. Its lovely earlier in the morning as its less crowded. We found ourselves back across the river taking amazing photos – Hoi An is a photographers dream!! AND the sun and blue sky came out – we literally had not seen blue sky or sun the whole time we've been in Vietnam so it was a pleasant surprise. We stopped for a quick bite and I quickly slipped into Yaly tailor. After much tooing and froing I decided to get a pair of black work pants made.

We had to get back to the hotel at 1pm as me and Andrea were going for a bike ride with the rest of the group (minus Bill and my dad) but the South African duo didn't end up coming either. We met our local guide at the hotel and took a taxi to collect the mountain bikes and then we were off on a 15km round trip ride through the countryside and rice fields! So close to town too. It definitely reminded me of my mum's village Banputhsa in Thailand. We visited a famous couple – Vietnam’s oldest couple Lê Văn Sẻ and Nguyễn Thị Lợi. 94 years young (although when I googled it he is 94 and she is in her eighties) Their photos are everywhere, in fact a famous French photographer Rehahn has included them in his photobook Vietnam. The wife's goal is to live to be 100 and the husbands 101 so he can get a year of peace and quiet lol. We looked at their large herb and veggie garden and after posing for photos we were off on our bikes again! We did see a small accident with a scooter and a taxi that clipped him (rider was ok). We then stopped at a coffee shop where I tried delicious coconut ice coffee – yum! We then went to another small village to see how they made rice wine – and of course we sampled some too! We then rode our bikes to our awaiting boat and went across the river to a nearby island where we cycled through a small village to an old lady's kitchen shop where she made rice noodles. I also noticed her shop was selling paper objects (shirts, shoes, hates, money etc) which is used to burn as an offering to give to ancestors that have passed and usually done at the beginning and the middle to the lunar month. I noticed many people doing this burning offering while we were in Hoi An. At 72 years young, she has been running this kitchen shop where she makes Cao Lao rice noodles for selling at local markets and restaurants. Most of us had a go at making them too. She mixed water with rice flower and cooked in on a griddle by steaming it, taking it off the heat and drying it. The griddle was fired using an endless supply of rice husk! Afterward we sat and ate Hoi An's speciality Cao Lao – fresh udon like rice noodles with pork, veggies and herbs – yum! After we said our goodbyes we rode our bikes to the boat and took the boat back to town. Most of us booked massages so I went with the first group of 4. The massage place sent taxi's for us and the spa was a relaxing getaway from the hustle and bustle from outside. I got an hour long hot stone massage and it was am-azing!! We then went to meet the rest of the group at a nearby restaurant while group 2 for the massages came in. After a light dinner and drinks me and Bill went to the night market (which was closing) and I bought a wicker handbag. Later me and Andrea stayed up to have a drink with Mark from our group.

The next day was a free day until our 4pm cooking class. Us 4, plus 2 others Louise and Matt from the group had breakfast. I then went with another girl Celine from our group to do a fitting but it wasn’t ready yet. So me, Bill and my dad went walking around and had lunch and shopped. Eventually I got my pants after 2 more fittings! We also bought more lanterns! At 4pm we met our chef and he took us to the local market that sold fresh produce (including meat and seafood) at a typical open air market. We then went to his restaurant, a cooking school ‘The Tropics Hoi An', where we participated in pairs to cook local food. We cooked fried vegetable spring rolls, papaya salad, fish in banana leaf and fried pancake – all delish!! It was a heap of fun too. We walked back to the hotel, got all our stuff then it was a 45min drive to Danag train station to catch an overnight sleeper to the seaside town of Nha Trang. Ta Biet Hoi An – I will definitely be back!!

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