Hoi An: An Bang Beach, Marble Mountains and Chill Chill

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November 17th 2012
Published: November 17th 2012
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Rebecca on our bike rideRebecca on our bike rideRebecca on our bike ride

en route to An Bang Beach
We arrived in Hoi An after the sun had set and it was raining a bit, yet again. Lucky for us it has usually only rained in the evenings, overnight or early mornings; our days have been full of sun and blue skies. This time we refused all hotel touts in search of our own place. We were happy with the first place and agreed on a nice cheap price ($8/night). The darkness always makes it feel later than it actually is so we hesitated to go out before realizing it was barely 7:00. Out we went to explore the Old Town. There were beautiful lanterns lighting our way through the old streets, over the bridges and along the river. Immediately we knew we were really going to like this place.

The following morning we were off to the beach. We rented bikes and took the 4km road through rice terraces and small towns to get to An Bang Beach. It was the best beach we have seen on our trip so far!! The sand was like powder and it went on as far as the eye could see; the water was clean, perfect temperature and not too wavy; there

That we crossed to get to the beaches
were minimal hawkers selling sunglasses, cigarettes and everything in between; we could rent beach chairs for cheap, or get them free with a meal and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. We lounged on the beach all day. It was a perfect way to unwind. At some point in our relaxation Jack (A talkative Scottish lad) approached us to tell us about a bar that recently opened called Chill Chill. It was about a block from our hotel and was giving out free rum and cokes from 6pm til midnight every day.

When we finally peeled ourselves away from the beach, we showered, walked around the old town some more, ate some food then headed to Chill Chill to see if it really had free drinks. Jack was telling the truth, to our surprise Mr. Huy (the amazing friendly well-travelled Vietnamese owner) was actually willing to feed his patrons free rum and cokes all night.

What a fun night! Not such a fun morning. We wanted to make it to the beach again (what better way to cure a hangover than napping in the shade listening to the waves?). Since Rebecca could barely move, we rented only
An Bang BeachAn Bang BeachAn Bang Beach

Our favourite! Spent many many hours here
one bike and Tyler peddled with Rebecca sitting on the back, like the locals do. We made it to the beach in one piece and napped the day away. After countless hours on the beach it was back to Hoi An to spend our evening walking the streets of the Old Town. The Old Town is big enough that you feel out of a big city but small enough so that you don't get lost. We rarely wandered the same street twice and found many great art or clothing shops to browse.

I guess now we should take a moment to let you know what food we discovered in Hoi An:

Grilled Pork with Noodles – yum-o! Pork gets grilled on the BBQ while the noodles heat up and when it's all ready, spicy peanut sauce gets poured over it and a final topping of refreshing herbs is piled on top. Mix it all together and you've got a winner! Usually costs 20,000VND (or about 1$).

Vietnamese Egg Pancakes (?) – not really sure what the proper name for this dish is but it goes something like this: small amounts of batter are fried in what looks

on Marble Mountain
like muffin tins to create a miniature bowl. Some of these mini “pancakes” have quail eggs cooked in theme. One plate is usually a mixture of some pancakes, some egg filled pancakes, of course fresh mixed greens and herbs, a squeezed lime, hot chili paste and a top secret sauce/broth poured on top. It is an extremely refreshing meal that we had to go back to eat more than once. The fact that it was 75 cents per plate (or 15,000VND) is an additional bonus.

Cau Lau – this one we had to get the Vietnamese name for! It is another noodle dish (but usually made with thick noodles rather than the skinny vermicelli style) with some meat, bean sprouts, fresh greens mix and then another top secret sauce/broth that gets mixed together before your eyes. There are usually a number of different jars or tins with different spices or liquids on the “counter”; the cook takes unmeasured spoonfuls of each and tosses them on top of the noodles. When the bowl is handed to you it is warm and smells great so you mix it all together and enjoy every morsel. One Cau Lau we had even incorporated some crunchy bits and made it that more appeasing.

We have found Vietnamese food to delight all the senses; sweet, sour, spicy, cruchy, soft, hot, cold... every dish is a masterpiece for your taste buds and we haven't found one we didn't like yet!

Sorry, we couldn't write a blog without raving about the food again.

Where were we... oh yes our lovely evening wandering the Old Town. This time we remembered to bring the camera (see photos of beautiful Old Town at dusk/night). Our first stop was a riverside restaurant to have a coffee (Ty) and coconut juice (Rebecca). When we had finished our beverages - and successfully avoided getting sucked into buying peanuts/dried coconut/dried banana/dried ginger/a sunset boat ride - off we went hand in hand down the car-free streets. Sometimes it really does feel like we are living in a fairy tale so don't mind the cutesie details Rebecca adds in once in a while.

It was a fantastic quiet evening! However, the darkness tricked us again. We headed back to our hotel when we felt like it was late and it turned out to be about 8pm. Instead of going out and

Marble Mountain
getting into trouble, we watched some movies (there are great English movie channels on TV here) before falling asleep.

Day three... guess what this meant?! Beach! Just kidding! We actually wanted to make the third day about more than the beach so we rented a motor bike and headed north towards Danang. The Marble Mountains are so called because they are limestone/marble karsts that jut out of the otherwise flat landscape. You can't miss 'em. We opted for the cheaper entrance fee since we didn't need an elevator to take us to the top. About 100 steps later we came to the first temple. As soon as the scent of incense fills the air you can't help but feel a calm come over you. We checked out the first temple (please forgive our lack of proper names!), opted out of the dreadful cave nearby and continued up more stairs.

If you took the elevator, this is where you would get dropped off. On the second level of the mountain there is a recently refurbished pagoda with some extremely intricate details. Next we walked along the path; up stairs, down stairs, usually shaded by the overgrown greenery. We found a nice lookout point where we were able to get some photos of the other marble mountains (there are 5 in total, named for the different elements of wind, water, fire, earth, and metal). The mountains are full of caves and Tyler couldn't walk past all of them so when we came to an opening Rebecca decided to take a rest while Ty explored a nearby cave. The cave had a perfectly round entrance that led into a room where a Buddhist monk lived as a hermit. Now there is a shrine there where people come to pray in solitude. Unfortunately Rebecca couldn't avoid all of the caves since there is one specifically that Mr. Huy (from Chill Chill) said we had to check out. This cave was a temple; hundreds of years ago the monks carved statues, shrines and a small temple into this large cave. As we approached the cave that same smell of incense filled the air and down into the cave we went. The main cavern was a couple of stories high with a natural hole that allowed sunlight to shine in reflecting off the incense smoke, making the environment that much more serene. It was beautiful. Places like that cave where you can see hard work and determination, faith and art really make us think. We are so thankful that such beauty is preserved for us to see. Those moments really make it clear what we are doing all the way on the other side of the world. While the beaches are stunning and the other sites are just as valuable, we also came here to learn. We want to see how other people live, how other people used to live long before Canada was a country. Most days are like a history lesson in the best possible way.

After we saw the rest of the mountains we were back on the motorbike to go even further north to My Khe Beach, also called China Beach, just south of Danang. While China Beach seemed to never end, the water didn't seem as welcoming and the sand wasn't as soft. We found a spot to lay out our sarongs and go for a dip. Before getting in too deep a life guard was waving us out of the water. Apparently there were designated swimming areas... who knew?! Since we had enough of the water we dried off before heading back to Hoi An. It was a really enjoyable day spent seeing more of Vietnam's rich culture.

Back in town, we ate and headed back to Chill Chill where we indulged in a few more free drinks and met a cool Canadian girl named Jordyn. We hadn't planned to stay out too late but before we knew it we were heading to Why Not? Bar (why not go to why not? Why not have another drink? Why not stay up til all hours dancing? Evil Why Not? Bars...) for some music and dancing. With everything so cheap and near by, not to mention the great backpacker scene it was hard not to end up with nights like this.

After a lazy start to the morning we remembered we had made plans to meet a friend we met a few nights earlier at the one beach we hadn't been to yet. We rented a couple of bicycles and weaved our way through town on our way to Cua Dai Beach, the closest to Hoi An. We heard it was the more touristy beach with lots of hard selling vendors so we were a little wary of heading there. What a pleasant surprise. It's a huge stretch of white sand spotted with grass huts and backed by huge palm trees. We laid our sarongs on the edge of the shade and alternated swimming in the warm turquoise water with tan time. We walked the beach a few times keeping an eye out for our friends but never found them, perhaps they ended up on one of the other plethora of beaches stringing the coastline. Once we again had our fill of sand and sun we climbed back on our bikes heading to our hotel, to regroup before our overnight bus to Nha Trang.

After hearing so many good things from friends about Hoi An, we were glad to see it had been everything we hoped for and more; were sad to leave, but also excited because we were heading for the beach capital of Vietnam.

XOXO Ty and Becs

Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19


Japanese covered bridgeJapanese covered bridge
Japanese covered bridge

over 500 years old
View from lookout pointView from lookout point
View from lookout point

Marble Mountains
Cau Dai BeachCau Dai Beach
Cau Dai Beach

shady trees

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