Trip Start Jan 01, 2009
57Trip End Ongoing
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Tracy led the group on an orientation tour. The first thing I noticed was the lack of traffic. Of course the old quarter is a pedestrian only zone until 1630, but even outside the pedestrian zone there were no evidence of the chaotic motorbike/auto traffic found in Saigon. Our first stop on the tour was to have lunch at Mermaids. This restaurant's specialty was White Rose, shrimp wrapped in rice paper with garlic, lemon and chili sauce...obviously it was fashioned to look like a rose. Since a lot of people expressed interest in doing a cooking class tomorrow, Tracy took us to the place were the classes are held. Also she showed us where the group will be meeting for dinner tonight before letting us go to spend the entire afternoon exploring.
Although I hate to shop and do not enjoy the haggling required for shopping in Asia, I still loved my walk through the old quarter taking in the amazing store fronts. As I zig-zagged through the little alleys, I would occasionally run into a Vietnamese temple. I remembered Tracy said that temples with 3 gates are open to the public but temples with a single gate is some private family shrine. I worked my way to the west end of the old quarter to see the Japanese covered bridge. I saw the bridge listed in the map of my guidebook, so I made a point to seek it out. I was slightly underwhelmed; it can definitely use some restoration work. However, I did enjoy walking along the riverfront and watching as ferry and fishing boats cruise by. If you do this walk, be prepared to fend off numerous offers for a short boat tour. Or you can take them up on the offer like Paul and Laureen did. For an hour ride, you will be taken to the mouth of the river; unfortunately I did not remember how much it cost them. "How much did ... cost" was the number one question asked at the group dinner. I made it back to the market east of the old quarter and decided to stand on the nearby Cam Nam Bridge to watch the sunset.
Dinner at the Cargo Club was a lot of fun but a bit on the expensive side. I ordered another Hoi An specialty, Cao Lau, a bowl of thick noodles in a dark broth topped with bean sprouts, sliced pork and croutons. To my surprise you get very little broth so when the waiter laid this salad in front of me, I thought they brought out the wrong dish. Tracy assured me that Cao Lau should only have a shallow broth, so I do not think it is a repeat of the cauliflower/broccoli incident. To Cam's delight, another thing the Cargo Club is know for are their patisserie. Tracy has already picked up on Cam's sweet tooth and has made it a point to identify the good pastry shops. Walking back along the riverfront with the numerous cafe lit up and reflecting off the water was pretty cool. Thank God that Hoi An is so enchanting because I started worrying that the whole Vietnam leg was going to be a major disappointment.