Trip Start Jan 22, 2009
19Trip End Dec 22, 2009
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Where I stayed
Hoa My Hotel
The following morning Trong and his buddy, Nam, took us by motorcycle 45 minutes to Hoi An. Hoi An is known for it's Tailor services. The entire town is loaded with clothes shops that tailor to your needs/wants. Ladies...this is clothes heaven!! There is every kind of skirt, dress, pants, suit, jacket, shirt available in whatever color, pattern or material you want, measured to fit you perfectly! Ahhhhh (sigh), if only I wasn't living the backpacker life right now. Clint and I went the practical way and got Traveling Cargo Pants. We picked out the color, was measured, and had the pants all ready for us to wear within 4 hours. They're the ones that are light weight, have tons of zipper pockets, and zip off into shorts...perfect to travel the world in. In the U.S. these pants cost over $70, here they cost us only $15. We walked around Hoi An, tried several new types of street food which were all delicious, and enjoyed "fresh beer" for 5,000 Dong...or about $0.28. We read that it is "Foodie Heaven" here and they weren't lying. The food here is way better than the food we had in the North.
The following morning we met Trong and Nam at our hotel and we were off on a 2 day adventure through the Central Highlands of Vietnam. We left our enormous backpacks at the hotel and brought only a day pack each. This is by far the best way to see Vietnam! Clint and I had grown tired of following the tourist route...which without a guide it is very difficult to stray from. So, with Trong and Nam, we visited families who made rice paper & crackers, rice wine, incense and rubber. Trong explained to us how they make each item and we watched as they did it in front of us. The families were very gracious to welcome us into their home and work place. We also went to two "minority villages" . Clint and I felt a little awkward walking around their home as tourists but the first community made us feel very welcome. The men invited us into their dinking quarters to share a couple shots of rice wine with them. They were all smiles and although we had no idea what they were saying it was clear they were drunk and happy and got a kick out of taking shots with us. They speak their own language so, we as well as Trong, had a very difficult time communicating with them. We found it interesting that very few spoke Vietnamese even though they live relatively close to the cities. We were also told that most children do not attend many years of schooling and that their language is not a written language. The girls get married at the age of 13-14 and start having babies nearly right away. It is also the women who do the majority of the work, such as carrying water, wood and supplies to and from the village, cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry and raising the children. The men "hunt and drink" as Trong put it. We were reluctant to take photos but Trong encouraged it and the women and children especially welcomed it. The kids were adorable and got a big kick out of seeing their pictures on the digital screen after we took them. We were having so much fun with them we didn't want to leave.
Trong also introduced us to many wonderful Vietnamese dishes and beverages. Clint shared Root-Rice (ginseng) Wine with Trong and his buddies and was told it was primarily for men because it was considered to be like a "liquid Viagra". Oh boy! We also shared beers with local friends of Trong and learned how to say "1-2-3 Cheers" in Vietnamese. On the road we stopped frequently to take in the scenery and take photos. Trong stopped at many gardens to show us what certain local crops were and explained how each were farmed. We also drove along the old Ho Chi Minh Trail for a while which was used during the war by the Vietcong to transport troops and supplies. It is amazing how they built a road system through the dense jungles and mountains of Vietnam. We shared the road with many other scooters, vehicles, bicycles, goat, cows, buffalo, dogs, pigs, chickens, ducks and lizards. On our second day, it was the first day back to school and work for many since the New Years holiday so we got to see many students on their way to school and workers hard at work. Overall, this motorcycle tour was our best experience in Vietnam so far. It was the closest we've been to experiencing a more authentic Vietnam...far away from tourists and those catering to tourists.
We leave for Mui Ne, a quiet beach town on the southern coast, right away. A 15 hour bus ride awaits us...