Hoi An, Vietnam to Jungle Beach, Vietnam
27.08.2010 - 01.09.2010 35 °C
Hoi An is one place that we are definitely returning to in the future but next time we will bring an empty suitcase with us! Tailor made clothes with choices from either sample’s hanging up to UK store catalogues, shoes galore which are ready in 2 hours, fantastic food and beautiful bamboo souvenir’s. We spent a lot of time shopping to the point that we needed to visit the post office to ship the stuff home as our bags were already full.
The main attraction in Hoi An is getting clothes and shoes made for you. Nearly every second shop is a tailor or a shoe maker so you didn’t need to go far to find one but if you were having trouble, they also found you. We explored the streets once we arrived as we heard that if you want something made, the more time you give them the better so we headed down towards the town and explored a couple of shops on the way although we had no idea how any of this worked. Nothing really stood out on our way down and then it all seemed over as we discovered the market area selling wine stands, bamboo bowls, chop stick sets, place mats, hammocks, serving platters and lanterns. Wow.....Christmas shopping here we come but it would have to wait for another day as the heat was getting to us and the pool at the hotel was calling.
On our way back Katie spotted a dress she had seen early and thought ‘why not let’s go try it on’ and then it began. A few samples were hanging in the entrance of the store but the piles of gossip magazines, fashion magazines and shop catalogues was really where you got your ideas from. As we were virgins to this tailor making business, we decided to just stick to the samples hanging up. As Katie tried hers on, I browsed the racks of material available and after finding a piece, all I needed now was a dress. With Taylor being bored by the girls shopping, he started to browse the Next catalogue and ended up walking out of the shop with a pair of shorts and a white linen shirt being made. ‘Come back tomorrow’ was what we were told and all would be ready.
The next morning we spent the day sweltering around My Son which is a complex of ancient ruins within the jungle, dating back to the 4th century. It was the most important intellectual and religious centre of its time and was constantly occupied until the 13th century. After this time it was left abandoned and only 20 of the structures survived the American bombings, with traces of 68 being found.
We spent the afternoon exploring the shops for clothes to be made and as normal, Neill came away without anything being made but it was a different story for Kylie. Lots of dresses! We decided to sample some of the local cuisine for dinner and opted for a tasting menu – white rose, Vietnamese pancakes, cau lou, spring rolls and fried wonton’s – and all for £2.
We continued our Master Chef experience and spent the morning on a Vietnamese cooking course where we cruised along the Thu Bon River to Thuan Tinh Island where our cooking course would be based. Part of the course also involved a Magic Table which mysteriously moved left or right when spoken to, both verbally and through thought. Of course this all seemed very unrealistic and with 5 pairs of hands on top of the table and speaking the words ‘left’ or ‘right’, we thought someone was pushing it in the direction it needed to go. We were then told to turn our palms upside down and Kay was picked to think of the direction she wanted the table to turn without telling us and it moved.
It was now our turn individually to try our powers and Kylie, Taylor and Kay managed to move the table in the direction they wanted it to go but Katie and Neill has no powers. With the help of Taylor’s hands on Neill’s the table moved but once removed, stopped abruptly. It’s still very weird and we are having trouble trying to figure out if it’s magical or if there is a remote control somewhere.
The next part of the tour involved an unsteady low boat through the water coconut trees to our Ms Hoa’s home where we drank iced tea and snacked on rice crackers. A lovely old man swinging in his hammock above his bed gave up his fan for us and being 84 we felt rather guilty but he had a great sense of humour and was just lovely.
With fields of morning glory all throughout Vietnam, it was great to see that we were going to be using it in our cooking and the best part was that we got to pick it ourselves before heading back to start our cooking.
Our cooking started off with de-husking our own rice and making rice flour for our pancakes and with such hard work going into de-husking rice, it’s crazy to see why it’s so cheap but I guess the factories have an easier way. The rice needs to be crushed 3 times to crack the husks so the rice falls out and the boys did good but it’s definitely a woman’s job as once Kylie got the hang of it, there was no stopping her spinning that contraption (apart from the fact that her arms were dying).
The rice is then sieved through 3 different bamboo baskets and the remaining husks left are removed by hand. It was then time to do this all over again but in a different machine, adding water to the rice which was then crushed into a smooth paste for our batter.
With our cooking tables overlooking the water coconut trees, we had the perfect setting to watch, learn and practice our dishes from Ms Hoa – Vietnamese salad rolls, Vietnamese coconut crepes with pork and shrimps and chicken stir with lemon grass and chilli. The salad rolls were amazing, the crepes all managed to be flipped successfully apart from Kay’s ending up on the floor and the chicken stir came with garlic morning glory. The food was fantastic, the passionfruit juice flowed all day and the best part was that everything was cropped up and the dishes were done by some else.
With our stomachs full, the best thing to do was to go shopping and shopping we did. Bamboo bowls, bamboo plates, wine stands, place mats, dresses and ties. Boy this is a great place to shop and we’ll definitely be returning.
After 2 full days of activities and shopping, it was nice to get to Jungle Beach and relax for 2 days with nothing to do but turn up on time for breakfast, lunch and dinner and sun bathe.
The setting was rather spectacular with our bamboo huts being surrounded by palm trees, the beach only a few metres from our huts, the water was crystal clear and the food was fantastic. We swam, ate, relaxed, sun bathed, relaxed, ate, read, drank and swam. Basically we did very little and with the sea being like a warm bath it was a great escape from the heat.
Night swimming seemed to be popular and why not when you have amazing phosphorescence in the water lighting up the area you were swimming in. Names for movements to get the most lighting was created such as ‘feet on fire’, ‘playing the piano’, ‘blender’ and Roberta’s favourite ‘doggy style’
It was a fantastic and relaxing 2 days which we needed and has geared us up for the chaotic ciaos that awaits us in Ho Chi Minh City or what use to be known as Saigon.