Taste of Hoi An (November 16)

Breakfast of delicious noodles up the road from our guest house at a streetside restaurant (a small cart setup just inside someone’s entryway, and a few tables), followed by fancy coffee at another place (which cost 2x what the noodles had been)

We had made arrangements for a cooking class in the morning. When the car didn’t show up at our guest house as expected, J figured out how to use the lobby phone to call the company. “Car trouble,” they told her. It’ll be there soon. We speculated that they had forgotten about us (or hadn’t been told?), but in any case, a few minutes later, a taxi showed up along with a girl who had us join her. They drove us to the market, where we (she) shopped for ingredients for our class.

Then, over to a small motor boat on the river, which then transferred us to even smaller, round bamboo boats which took us through some pain fronds and to our cooking school. Rub a dub dub…

At the cooking class, they showed us how they used to make rice milk and rice paper sheets (before there were machines to do it all). Then, over to our stations. We made fresh spring rolls (2 kinds), crispy rice pancake (yellow from turmeric, not eggs!), a beef noodle salad, and pho. All were quite delicious.

After lunch, we were taken back into town by mini bus, and got let out in the old city. It was a much hotter, sunny day, and great for walking around. I did some shopping (or looking, anyway) at some art galleries and shops. I stopped for a cold coconut and a neighborhood dog kept watch nearby.

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Hoi An in the rain (November 15)

After a breakfast of fancy coffee, juices, and croissants near the river, we split up to do different things – A & E went to go talk with tailors about having some custom clothes made, J went to a gallery, and I checked out some shops near the hotel. And it started raining. Sometimes a light sprinkle, sometimes a torrential downpour, but it didn’t take long before the streets were filled with deep puddles, and my shoes were soaked through.

I met up with J and enjoyed a tasty cappuccino in the back of the gallery, while we waited for the rain to let up a bit. Just a few days ago, the gallery had been flooded with water so deep you’d have had to swim in there. Their cafe wasn’t officially open yet, although it was drying out well, but they were kind enough to open and make some coffee for J (and I) since it was raining out.

When the rain let up a bit, we headed over to the central market for some local food – Cao Lau noodles, white rose dumplings, some vegetable spring rolls, etc. we were there just ahead of the lunch rush, so it was a fairly calm place to eat.

After lunch, we explored several of the nearby shops – J looking at some nice leather bags, and me looking for some cheap Teva knockoffs that would be good to wear in the rain. In the afternoon, we indulged in massages near our guest house, and then people watching while sipping cold beer on one of the side streets.

We met up with A & E in the evening and went to a fixed menu place for dinner, where we got to build our own spring rolls using things like pork skewers, greens, kim chee, and egg pancakes. Messy, but tasty!

HCMC to Hoi An (Tuesday, November 14, 2017)

Our flight to Da Nang, which we had booked for the 11am departure, had been rescheduled to 2:25pm. That left us time for a leisurely morning in HCMC. A and I went to the bank, and stopped for some Korean coconut coffee. Then we split up, and I stumbled across a cute little cafe hidden down a narrow alley, where I tried Vietnamese “egg coffee” – instead of sweetened condensed milk, they use a whipped egg. A bit like soft, sweet, meringue on a cappuccino, it was delicious!

Then we all met back up at the hotel, checked out, and grabbed an Uber to visit the Lunch Lady. Her food stand is definitely a tourist trap, where they charge WAY more than anywhere else for the soup and the appetizers they set on your table, but we still enjoyed the food.

Then, another Uber to the airport and a long wait for our delayed flight. We landed in Da Nang after 5pm, got an Uber to our hotel in Hoi An, and enjoyed a delicious dinner in the old city.

After dark, anyway, we couldn’t see any signs of the previous week’s flooding, and the night markets with lanterns and tourist trinkets were bustling.

Uber HCMC (November 12-13, 2017)

A good couple of days in and around Ho Chi Minh City – and navigation made (mostly) easy with a little help from Uber and Google Translate. Technology is pretty amazing.

We arrived late at night, got some cash from an ATM & I bought a local SIM card for my phone, and then we took a (legit, meter) taxi from the airport to our hotel, and checked in. Although it was around 1am and we were exhausted after about 30 hours of travel, the frenetic energy on our street had us not quite ready to go to bed, so we wandered a bit and found a sidewalk restaurant with spring rolls and cheap beer (SOME of which were even cold!)

Showers, sleep, breakfast at the hotel, and then a trip out to see the Cu Chi tunnels. After talking with the woman at the hotel front desk, we decided to take an Uber out to the less busy site of the tunnels (Ben Duoc). With heavy traffic, it took us 2 hours to go the 30 miles.

The tunnels were very small, and the entrances to some were very well hidden. They had expanded a few of them so that western tourists could fit through, but even so, we had to bend over and squat while walking through. Don’t worry, our guide told us, “the bats are friendly.”

Unlike the underground city I visited a few years ago in Cappadocia, these tunnels were fairly short and were not all interconnected. Not a comfortable long-term living situation, but it sounds like they were an effective tool of war against the Americans…

When we were done at the tunnels and ready to head back into town, there were no taxis to be found, nor any Uber drivers nearby. We waited for awhile for an Uber driver who had accepted the drive (and then didn’t make any moves to get closer to us, even after we waited for something like 20 minutes). After a couple more failed attempts to summon an Uber, we wound up hopping on a bus back towards the city, and were happy to be on board when the rain started.

We got off at a bus station and paused for a late lunch of streetside banh mi before hailing an Uber for the rest of our journey. Rather than head right back to our hotel, we adjusted course and went to the Majestic Hotel, where we enjoyed some fancy cocktails on their rooftop bar, with views of the river and city.

On the 20 minute walk back to our hotel, we spotted a spa with decent rates for massages (where they could accommodate all 4 of us), and some restaurants full of locals (which we returned to for dinner, after our massages). Well fed and relaxed after a long day, we called it a night.