Hoi An, Vietnam
Trip Start Jul 09, 2007
30Trip End Dec 20, 2007
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Where I stayed
The bus from Hue to Hoi An was great. It was only half-full, and we had clear skies to view the stunning pristine beaches the entire journey. We made, of course, a tourist trap pit stop at a little restaurant on the side of the road. I got in a bit of a heated argument with the owner about the price of one of his products. Phil and I ended up down the street where we got the price we wanted, plus a friendly smile from the woman. The bus made a stop at a hotel, and thinking that this was the final stop, many of the passengers got off. Phil and I were a little too smart for that, and stayed on the bus until we actually reached the town of Hoi An. We were dropped at a hotel in town where the owners were very aggressive in trying to get our business. We explained that we wanted to stay at the beach, and were then attacked by motorbike drivers wanting to take us and our bags the 3k trip. Unable to get a taxi, Phil and I climbed on the back of two motorbikes, and our 50kgs of baggage also somehow fit
We were celebrating Phil's birthday in Hoi An, and decided to splurge on the hotel. After twenty minutes of frustrated walking about (with our bags), we settled on the River Beach Resort (formally Dong An). It was beautiful. The resort was located on the river, and across the street from the magnificent white sand beach. It had a gorgeous pool which our veranda looked out over. As we checked in, we were given cold towels and glasses of orange juice. Phil and I couldn't hide our excitement.
We threw our bags in the room, changed into our bathing suits and jumped in the pool. Phil suggested that since we are already splurging, we might as well get a burger from the overpriced poolside menu. I didn't put up a fight. Twenty minutes later, we were served a beautiful, but uncooked burger. Our second burger was lathered in mayo (which I had specifically asked them to leave off). Phil ate the burger, and I ate the French fries. Oh well. We noticed an Australian couple (the only other people at the pool) laughing at us. They had overheard the entire hamburger situation, and could not contain their amusement. We ended up speaking with them for a while. He is a retired Sydney police officer, and they have taken a year to travel Southeast Asia. We traded information. They are traveling up market, and Phil and I couldn't hide our jealousy. We looked through a luxury travel book they were using to book hotels, and I almost cried
Our hotel offered free transport into town, which we were lucky enough to catch at sunset. We weren't meant to meet up with our friends Dan and Michelle (from the China tour, who we ran into in town) until a little later. We found their hotel, which was a bit of a walk from the city center, but worth every step. It was a small hotel, but packed with so much charm that Phil and I must have made our amazement obvious. The woman behind the counter came out and decided to give us a tour of the hotel. She showed us the "five star rooms" which were as beautifully decorated at the lobby with wooden basin tubs overlooking the river. Down in the lobby, we ordered a couple of drinks and spoke with the woman as we waited for our friends. Somehow the subject shifted to fruit, and we told the woman that we have seedless watermelon in America, and she almost collapsed onto the rustic distressed wood floors. She made us describe this wonder in detail.
We walked with Dan and Michelle to the river to find some dinner. Dan and Michelle had to make a quick stop at one of the thousand tailors in town to pick up their clothes. Hoi An is famous for their tailors. They will recreate any style or design for any type of clothing. Michelle said that it is addictive and showed us the shirts, skirts, dresses, and suits they had made
PFS- Ahh, this was the first of two amazing birthday dinners, and one of our finer meals in Vietnam. This Japanese-Vietnamese themed restaurant, that we found haphazardly while strolling through the trendy river side area of town, offered a nice sampling from two set menus; $9 and $6. (Could you imagine such prices in New York or anywhere in the US?). We decided to share one of each and were very happy we did.
We started with a simple fresh crab soup which was excellent. My dinner was a sampling of soft shell crab, fresh shrimp spring rolls, baked jumbo shrimp and daikon salad. Everything was delicious and showed expert and refined attention. The Japanese influence was apparent. My third course was thick, flat (fettuccini like) rice noodles with chicken, lime, cilantro, crushed peanuts and chili peppers at room temperature. Hearty and simple, very good. Michelle enjoyed a well seasoned beef skewer with green pepper and chili spice, deep fried Japanese spring rolls, and a delicate shrimp rice crepe followed by a crusted chicken thigh on the bone. It was all so good.
Desert was a custardy flan accompanied by fresh tropical fruit
After dinner, Phil and I jumped on the back of a motorbike for the ride back to our hotel. I was squeezed between Phil and the driver, and was a little apprehensive about the ride. We flew through the dark streets, and luckily arrived back to the hotel unscathed.
Day 62- Phil's Birthday!!!!!
We awoke at 7:30am to a knocking at the door of our room. We ignored it. They knocked again, and thinking it was housekeeping, told them to come back later. This time the door bell rang. I didn't even know we had a door bell! I opened the door and found a very embarrassed Vietnamese woman holding a cake. I thanked her, apologized for not answering sooner, and brought the cake in to show Phil. While bargaining the price of the room, I had mentioned that Phil's birthday was today, and they went through the trouble of baking him a cake (at 7:00 in the morning). They must have gotten his name off of his passport, and so the cake read 'Happy Birthday Chouraqui Arthur'. They must have mistaken his last name for his first, and his middle name as his last. In any case it was a sweet sentiment, and an excuse for a good laugh.
As promised, I gave Phil a twenty minute deep tissue massage and we went down for breakfast
Phil and I decided to see about having some clothes made at the tailor next to the hotel. The woman was really sweet and seemed to know exactly what I wanted. I ordered a cotton black and white strapless dress, and a halter silk (machine washable silk) dress. Phil ordered two button-down Cuban style shirts. I could definitely see how this could become addictive. Other than the woman getting a little too friendly (grabbing my butt every time Phil looked away), the process went so smoothly. And the price is unbeatable, $55 for two dresses and two shirts, tailor-made!
We showered and it was time for Phil's birthday dinner
We wanted to continue the party, and along with Michelle and Dan, we went to the popular Western Bar in town. The place was packed, and loud top twenty hits played over the blown speakers. We took a seat at the rear of the bar near the pool and fuse ball tables. It felt really weird being in a bar with only Westerns. It was as if we were transported back to America, and it freaked me and Phil out. Phil's martini was too sweet, and he asked for a little ice from the waitress. She didn't know what that was, and said we would have to ask the bartender. We asked the bartender who also had yet to hear of this ice thing we were asking for. A little annoyed, Phil was finally able to point to the freezer behind the bar, and recognition finally set in. That one drink was enough, and Phil and I took a taxi back to the hotel.
Day 63- Another sunny day in Hoi An...
We were woken up at 7:00am again this morning, this time with hammering. Apparently, they had chosen this morning to begin renovations on the hotel
We had breakfast with the Aussie's who told us that they would be heading to the real five star Swiss resort at the other end of the beach. We bid them farewell, and told them we would visit if we had the time. We went shopping at the stalls by the beach. The older women running the stalls would not budge on the price of their suntan lotion. I ended up with a little purse and Phil bought a hat. We had lunch by the pool again (fried calamari and fries, and a noodle dish). After a bitter argument, Phil and I were forced to take a taxi to the bus station (we were told they would pick us up at the hotel).
The bus arrived to pick us up for the twelve hour journey to Nha Trang. This had to be the oldest, most decrepit bus we'd been on. There were a group of Israeli guys who would just not accept that this was our bus for the night. They kept saying, "no, this bus must just be taking us to the real bus". We were informed that that was not the case. The ancient seats creaked with every bump, and the driver would let no more than a minute go by between honks. Phil and I accepted our fate, and swallowed a couple of xanax.