Do you take Visa????
05.02.2012 - 09.02.2012 27 °C
Time for the next big journey across Vietnam. Rather than hit some of the beach resorts, we opt for an overnight sleeper train from Ho Chi Minh to Da nang. Neither of us are big fans of cramped overnight bus journeys so we're hoping train travel might be better for a 16 hour journey. Justin almost fits on the bed if he lies diagonally! It is clean(ish), but pretty basic. We're on the top bunks and we have two Vietnamese travellers below us who don't speak any English and are fast asleep by 8pm (and wide awake and chatting by 5am). Breakfast is at 7am (rice and chicken...my favourite), with beautiful views across the paddy fields and central highlands. We spend the last couple of hours writing our blogs as well as debating the best technique for using the open squat toilets in a train that occassionally sways violently from one side to another. We agree on the 'hold on tight' technique!
We jump in a taxi to Hoi An, a beautiful little town with historic streets and over 200 hundred tailor shops. We check in at our hotel and immediately get whisked away to the hotel owners tailor shop...just to look around. Fifteen minutes and a decent amount of female flattery later and Justin has been measured and put a deposit down on a handmade blue jacket! We wander out a little dazed - what just happened?
Hoi An itself is beautiful. Lots of little narrow streets filled with beautiful architecture, cafes and tailor / handicraft shops. The old town feels like a time warp - helpfully preserved by its Unesco World Heritage Site status - filled with time travelling tourists. We have a meal in 'Morning Glory', a famous restaurant producing Hoi An specialities like banh xeo (savoury pancakes wrapped in rice paper, White Rose (steamed shrimp dumplings) and Cao Lau (lots of fresh vegetables, noodles and beef). We then wander over to some of the cafes, many of which specialise in French cakes. This isn't going to be a good week for my healthy diet resolution.
Day turns into night and the streets light up with multi coloured lanterns whilst the air fills randomly with jazz and classical music. We have managed to arrive on the Hoi An Legendary Night, a festival that takes place on a full moon night. The town is busy with both tourists and Vietnamese having a drink, buying street food and floating candles on the Thu Bon River.
The next day we jump on our bikes and head out of the town to see some of the local beaches, farms and temples:
The afternoon is spent looking around tailor shops until we are all tailored out from the constant sales banter. I pick a local shop called Khoa Cloth Shop (81 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street) - very welcoming, didn't pressurise and answered all our questions patiently without wandering off! We spend the afternoon looking through fabrics and discussing different styles. What was meant to be a short shopping list of a couple of shirts, some trousers and a coat expands into a couple of hundred pounds worth of made to measure clothing and handmade shoes - all very beautiful and expediently put together by our lovely tailors who ensure everything fits before adding the finishing touches over a couple of days - thank you Khoa :D We parcel everything up and weigh it to get shipped back home by seamail. A weighing competition ensues - our tailor weighs in at 45kgs whilst Justin weighs in at 91kgs causing a lot of amusement.
Our last morning is spent at a cooking school. We wander around the early morning markets before learning how to make a few Vietnamese dishes. They are all very tasty - hopefully we can find some of the ingredients when we get back - although as a recovering vegetarian I struggled with the pho stock made with animal bones including a lovely fresh chicken head. Justin's medical dissection of the different parts of the chicken brain turned a number of us a slightly whiter shade of white!