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Published: October 5th 2016
From our hotel window
Hoi An - wow! We were about a kilometre out of the old town center where all the "You buy?!!" action is. We taxied in on the first morning ($1.50) and walked and gawked. Hundreds of pedestrians in the walking and biking only area where there are also hundreds of street-side hawkers and stalls/shops ranging from quite high end, to hole in the wall stinkers. The old town is virtually given over to selling. Anything. Very oriented to tourists with dozens of tailoring shops (which Hoi An is renowned for) offering quick turnover suits, shirts, dresses, pants, whatever, at prices way below NZ. We looked at one of the highly rated Trip Adviser places and were measured up for a few things. That took half an hour and we thought, we're not going to do that at three different places for comparison so we went with their offer. I have to say we were pretty poor bargainers. The price they quoted was damn good and we couldn't be fussed with doing it all again several times AND they had dozens of great references so hey, why not? So we did.
After that poor display of our commercial skills we walked
Hoi An cooking school
Lyn arriving by motor scooter
in the sappingly hot heat along the riverside where boat owners implored us to hop in their boat (each one, "the best") and go for a cruise up the river. We declined. The town is beautiful with many pale yellow buildings only two stories high, with Vietnamese architecture, lending a cohesive feel to it all. But the old town is totally market driven. It's sort of like naked capitalism in its purest form. You get asked to buy. You agree. You bargain and the price you pay is what the local market has decided it can afford to accept. I reckon most of the tourists pay over the "market " value but go away happy because the price is so cheap anyway. The goods are not high quality in the main but it's fun having the discussion with the stall holder about what you're prepared to pay and then walking away when agreement isn't reached.
Back at our hotel there was a street side salon offering spa services. We took the plunge and lay side by side while two Vietnamese women sat on us and pummeled us into submission. Actually they did sit on us at times but mainly
Gioan Cooking School. Hanh looks on.
stood by the side of the massage table and did a great job for an hour. I fell asleep at one point. I did feel a little disconcerted at the start when she rolled my (very clean) Jockeys half way down my buttocks but that was as far as it went. Lyn and I groaned our way with pleasure through the hour.
A couple of hours later after a last minute decision we ended up in a cooking class. We were picked up at the hotel and driven to a local market where Vina, our guide, took us through and purchased the veges and fruit that we were going to be using in the dishes we had picked out to cook. Then it was on the back of motor scooters to the cooking school. Hahn was our tutor. Lyn and I were the only ones in this class so we got Hanh's undivided attention. She was a hoot. I was "Robin Boy". Apparently I was "very hot". Make of that what you will. Hanh liked to sing so we got a performance of ABBA and other old stuff as we sliced, diced, peeled, crushed, grated, stirred and created our
Typical colour of buildings
way through the 4 course menu while, along the way, Hanh gave us tips on preparation, spices, techniques, and food qualities entertaining us flat out, nonstop. We cooked Bahn Xao (trad Vietnamese crispy pancake), Gau Lau ( trad Hoi An dish), Clay pot beef something or other and green mango salad. They were superb! And not just because we cooked it. They were better than the same stuff we'd had in eateries around the place already. All our friends - you may find you are eating Vietnamese next time you come to dinner. Hanh was so good I have to give the name of her and Vina's school: Gioan Family Cooking School, Hoi An.
Over the next two days we stuck to the old town area and walked our way through and around it; eating in the small local cafes overlooking the river and in backstreets; perusing the historic sights in the town; travelling out to An Bang beach to swim in big waves in a hot wind with the sea temperature around 30; trying out all the local beers (very cheap, thirst quenching but not much flavour) and generally being pretty laid back and touristy.
was interesting. We had a fitting after 12 hours. My jacket, which I had asked to be loosely cut, was like a straitjacket and a couple of Lyn's things weren't right. They made chalk marks on the garments and assured us all would be well.... and it was. Next day everything fitted perfectly. Amazing industry. The woemn in the shop were great to deal with - Five Seasons Tailoring, if you're in the area.
The hotel we were in was great. The Essence Hoi An, well worth considering if you're in the area. Small but with all facilities and well priced. Helpful, friendly, professional staff who couldn't do enough for us. Excellent in short!
And then it was off to Da Nang International Airport for our flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia. An eventful few hours as it turned out.
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