Apple Strudel In Asia

Trip Start Aug 06, 2011
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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Saturday, January 7, 2012

Back by popular demand, DH wanted to describe her favourite town since Luang Prabang in Laos.

Asia time kicks in again as we try to make our way to Hoi An. The van that was to deliver us to the bus stop arrived 50 minutes late. But no worries- the bus itself was also running late so we perched ourselves on plastic stepping stools on the road out front of the 'bus stop' which was actually a ticketing agent and women's clothing store (wonder who it was that woke up one day and decided that what this town really needed was a combo bus stop and women's apparel shop??). At 11:20am, we are on the 8 am bus to Hoi An but that was just the start.

The bus was a two story sleeper that is normally used for long distance overnight travel and we have seen these throughout Asia. Believe me it looked more comfortable from the outside.

Your first impression is that you're entering the filming of a commercial for Order-Eaters Foot Powder- the seating is less seating and more an interconnected series of double-decker bunk beds for Santa's elves. Since we weren't the first ones on the bus, there were already people in the prone position with sock feet sticking out everywhere- backpacker sock feet, sock feet just out of beat up hiking boots, socks that hadn't seen a laundry in days/weeks- you do the math. A plastic yellow bag is handed to you and the bus driver barks out something that was easily translated , "shoes in bag."  Since the bus was almost full there was some scampering of the overnight passengers to move their "stuff" in order to accommodate the 12 of us newbies. I found two vacant beds/ seats side by side, which were crammed next to a young girl whose parents were just in front of us. We were sort of positioned like we were lounging as Vic and I couldn't fully stretch out. Strange position to be in but believe it or not, I did sleep a little. Apparently in China, these buses are the worst mode of transportation, as smokers and spitters are among the many passengers they pile on board (we only had the odour to deal with in Vietnam). Three hours later we were in Hoi An.

At the bus depot/side-of-the-road Vic did opt to walk again but after running the gauntlet of scams here, I silenced my pleas for a cab to the hotel and we hoofed it. Twenty-seven minutes later (editors note- it was probably closer to seven minutes and I'm still waiting for assurances from Martin that I need not worry about these $2 cab rides), Vic finds our hotel and we book in. A really quick change into flip flops and shorts as the temperature is much warmer and we are off. What a lovely town, lots of travelers but the French influence in the buildings has been preserved and although now the buildings house numerous restaurants and tailor shops, jewelry stores, cafes and the like, the charm of the place comes shining through. I like it here, it's only been five minutes but I really like it. It is quieter, more charming, and interesting, to poke around the streets. A delicious pasta lunch and we are off to the "Old Town". It just gets better,a " walking street", the winding river, stone walkways, moss covered roofs, a small but ornately decorated covered bridge which was built by the Japanese that is actually home to a Buddhist pagoda.

We stop in our tracks as Vic spots a sign at a German bakery promoting homemade apple strudel- in like a shot- best I have ever had, hand to God. We wander around for a while and then stop at a cafe for a couple of Lattes- best so far in Vietnam. I love this, meandering, exploring, observing and enjoying small town Vietnam.

As darkness falls, the Full Moon Festival takes shape, the town becomes magical, dream like. Lanterns in all sizes light our way, fairy lights in trees along the road. Down by the river, vendors are out lining the river bank selling "Good Luck" candles that you can buy and place in the river in coloured cardboard boats. The scene is surreal and I need a theme song, a soundtrack playing in the background. Wait a minute, believe it nor not, they do have a crackly PA system all through the Old Town that is actually playing a waltz I have heard before! The soft coloured lighting, the smells of incense from the evening offerings, the calming effect watching two old men in silk suits play chess by candlelight, and being arm in arm with the most important person in your life, aahh this is one of the wows for me. 

The second day we have a late breakfast at the hotel, eggs (every single day we have had eggs), fruit (including pineapple, small bananas, watermelon and, I believe, dragon fruit), a small French baguette, and orange juice. After a couple of lukewarm lattes at a cafe, we continue our self guided walking tour of this town. This is the place to have your clothes tailor made. Both Vic and I would have been all over this a couple of years ago but now its tank tops and t-shirts. The numerous tailor shops are filled with travelers being fitted for all manner of clothing.  Just by looking at a pair of too-small flip flops I was advised they could make me a pair in the right size by tomorrow morning. We stop at a restaurant/ bakery for fish and chips and chicken pot pie that is to die for, the pastry is delicious. We rent a couple of bikes ($1 a day-love it), and we are off. The traffic is so crazy and although much lighter than any of the towns we have been in so far, you really have to keep your wits about you. I don't know how Vic manages to find the streets, and various turns, without crashing but he does it! I am following white knuckled behind him, eyes locked on the back of his Terry Fox t-shirt.

We have a great afternoon on the bikes, rice fields, schools, markets, street restaurants, all observed from our bikes. We even made it to the famous "China Beach" where US military were sent for R and R (although I think the real China Beach is further up the coast).

Now, we are by no means connoisseurs of fine food, we don't cook, and we are the farthest from traveling "foodies" as you can get but lately we have been eating well outside of our safety zone. Even Deb B. would be proud of us. Taking advice from the two Aussie train bunk-mates we keep running into, we find a restaurant with a " set menu" as they call it with dishes made famous in Hoi An.

Menu For The Night
Cau Lau Pork
White Rose Dumplings 
Hoi An spring rolls with vegetable
Grilled chicken ( Vic had the duck)
Steamed rice
Ice flan for dessert:

Sorry there is no history lesson, interesting facts or observations of bizarre behavior here, just a quaint, relaxing, quiet passage for us, although we have certainly eaten our way through Hoi An, and that is a first for us! We waddle back to the hotel with full stomachs after saying goodnight and goodbye to the Full Moon of Hoi An.
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Comments

Doe on

You should have had some clothes tailored for you; they are ever so good there and you must be running out by now. Cheers!

Marlene S : ) on

Those pictures are so natual and real that I feel like I am actually there with you. I love them.

May on

Glad you made it to Hoi An. One of my favourite places in Asia. Good food everywhere, slower pace, really friendly people & beautiful architecture.

If you want to get clothes made & are going back to Bangkok, wait. I had some clothes made at Yally, which is the best tailors in town. They do a great job on their own designs (I got 1 of their hand emboidered jackets) but a terrible job on custom pieces. I never wore the custom pieces after I got home. That said, if you want a simple dress made, they do have some of the most beautiful prints I've ever seen in Asia.

If you haven't already left Hoi An, there is a good & cheap bus to Da Nang where you can catch a cheap Air Asia flight almost anywhere. Much more comfortable than the bus you described. Haha, I was on 1 of those buses going from Singapore to Penang, Malaysia.

sam on

could use some custom teashirts :) love sam

Carol on

Love the pictures and Deb you do a great job describing the town, but I'm not so sure about the Local Won Ton! Doesn't look very appetizing!!

Tracy B. on

Hey, Deb, Your description of the Full Moon Festival evening was delightful! That is an experience I would love to have. Just catching up on your blogs now. Carry on and enjoy! Hugs!

JO on

What an experience! The living conditions must be something else. I really feel like a prude! Stay safe.

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