Tag Archives: Hoi An

More shopping, heat, Miss Ly Restaurant, DaNang Airport, Cambodia AngkorAir — Hoi An

Photos courtesy of Vespa Adventures, which arrived a day after our great ride

We are in the huge gleaming ultra modern DaNang Airport waiting to board a Cambodia Angkor Air flight to Siem Reap. Yet again, we encountered no bag fees – we checked two bags and are carrying on our spare roll up bag that we broke out today (yes, we are buying lots of gifts.)

Our last day in Hoi An, we wandered around in the heat and humidity (reminds us of Kyoto but no one uses cloth washcloths to mop up, except what appears to be the occasional female Japanese tourist), popping into shops, admiring the scenery, watching many couples do their glamor shots. Near one elegantly dressed couple, we got to talking with a handsome young American who was a friend of the couple. He explained that they all are college kids in San Francisco/Berkeley and the couple is getting married here. The groom is American Vietnamese, the bride is from Hoi An… The young guy showed us other glamor photos the couple has taken. (He also said somewhat nervously that he has been told he is the best man in the wedding.)

We had coffee at Cafe Công, where cute young people are dressed in Green Khaki military/viet Cong inspired gear. Strange that young Vietnamese are now serving fancy coffees to American tourists instead of serving in the military (and fighting with or against Americans.)

Lunch was at Miss Ly, staffed by many young attractive women in pink blouses. We had two Hoi An specialties that we tried earlier at the Central MarketWhite Rose dumplings and Cau Lau and another that was also delicious, almost like a crisp tortilla but a wonton, topped with a Marinated mixture of delicately cut vegetables , shrimp and chicken.

Our hotel arranged a taxi that turned out to be a big flashy van with six seats and lots of fake gold (we decided it was the Trump van) and intense AC and we drove 45 minutes to DeNang which looks a bit like Miami or Palm Springs with huge palatial resorts in various stages of completion. Our driver also pointed out some old airplane hangers that he mentioned were part of a former US Military Base. “USA number one country,” he said to us without any apparent malice. We think this is the base Dirck’s brother likely was flown to as a young soldier.

Yesterday’s coffee roaster visit in the countryside

Passion Fruit at the Central Market

Seafood at Central Market

Lots of pork here.

My sad attempt at a glamour pose

 

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Vespa ride into the countryside, Massage, Nu Eatery – Hoi An

I would say this was among the best spent $89 (per person) on this trip: a five hour Vespa Adventures tour of the rural countryside outside Hoi An on the back of a spiffy Vespa driven by a young Vietnamese guide named “Leo.” Dirck’s driver was a young guy named Nine. Not only was it fun to join the crowd of motorbikes zipping through town and into the countryside. We didn’t worry about having to navigate on our own and Leo took us to some wonderful out of the way spots we never would have found — and patiently answered any question we wanted to ask a Vietnamese person. (We even talked about contraception which Leo credited with reducing family size after the year 2000 when the government launched a pr campaign about birth control and the need to have two babies tops.)

We visited a lovely 400-year-old ancestral home overlooking a walled in water garden with pink lotus blossoms. Next stop a spot at the edge of the river where men were making large wooden fishing boats using old methods (presumably) including fire to bend the flat wooden boards to make hull. Zipping past more bright green rice paddies and little villages with simple concrete structures, bright flowers and little scruffy dogs on roam (sadly we hit one little one that suddenly ran out in front of us) we ended up inside a modern house, apparently built for a family whose house by the river was destroyed by a flood. Behind a screen blocking the sun we found two women sitting on the floor making a beautiful floor mat using an old fashioned loom. After that we went to a more rudimentary farmhouse and into a dark room with a cauldron over a fire and learned how to make rice cakes the size of a dinner plate, dipping white batter with black and white seeds onto a griddle of sorts, using a tool to smooth it out and another tool akin to a rolling pin to roll it up. You roll it onto a flat screen to dry in the sun. We also sat down and ate a cracker. From there we went to a n open air coffee roaster where we drank cafe sua under a thatched room next to a guy plinking away on his lap top. Then we returned to Cafe Zoom, on the edge of the city/countryside for a huge and delicious lunch. Five hours flew by.

This afternoon I had a one hour massage and 1/2 hour facial at a little spa the hotel guy recommended. $30 total. And tonight after stopping for a swim at our resort pool, we ended up back at the Shamrock Pub, people watching at sunset and chatting with some Aussies. We had perhaps our most creative meal at Nu Eatery, a little hole in the wall that reminded me of the East village (NYC) restaurant Prune. The small place was packed with young foodies from the US, France, England and Asia. We had a killer version of bao (steamed bun) stuffed with a chunk of succulent pork, a pickle and a yellow sauce; a noodle dish with Spicy pork ragu (which seemed almost Italian) and a Bahn Minh that was more like a pulled pork sandwich on a brioche bun with melted cheese (the first melted cheese we’ve seen here.) Now we are savoring our last night in Hoi An, sitting on our ancient second floor wooden balcony, watching the crowd thin out. Tomorrow they will be out in force again.

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Vinh Hung Heritage, Co Mai – a whole different Hoi An

As expected, staying at the 200-year-old Vinh Hung Heritage Hotel in the middle of the Ancient Town is a strange experience and completely different than our sweet little Halo Homestay.

It is literally the difference between light and dark. Halo is all white marble, concrete, tile, walls and lots of sunlight. Vinh Hung is all dark wood floors,paneling, walls, carved armoire and other heavy furniture. There are only six rooms here and it is the only place you can stay overnight right in the Ancient Town. This is an old spice merchants house, with a small two-story central courtyard, very creaky floors, doors that stick and old Asian pottery. There is AC though but a drip. So we have turned it off and hope the street noise won’t be bothersome. The cost is different too $77 a night rather than $18 but we also don’t have to ride bikes into town. We are here.

Tonight we also splurged on a fancy dinner at Co Mai but we are talking $47 for a five course tasting menu and two drinks, vs. about $8-$10 that we have been spending for street food. For lunch, we shared a crowded table at Beo Bahn, a tiny place recommended by Hanoi foodie Mark for com gai, a simple rice and shredded chicken dish.

We decided to go to Co Mai because I was curious about how a French chef would reinterpret Vietnamese food. The restaurant is also in one of the 200-year-old structures here and we sat on the second floor with the dark wood window open so we could see all the action below at a street market.

Caramelized prawns

The food went from simple (“ocean soup” that looked, tasted and smelled like the ocean – light, salty, watery, a little murky, with small pieces of seafood, veg, and maybe seaweed) to complex (a little bowl of passion fruit cake with a small scoop of curry sorbet, one of three such concoctions on our dessert plate. The server brought over what looked like a cinnamon stick the size of my forearm and grated flecks of it onto on little bowls).

Yes, he’s looking at his cellphone

In the morning we road our rickety Homestay bikes to the countryside and beach, this time choosing narrow concrete paths between the rice paddies and fish farms, encountering the occasional water buffalo or farmer. The scenes are an old/new world mashup – a farmer in a traditional pointed hat, squatting in the shade beside a water buffalo and talking on his cell phone; small villages with high rises in the distance near cui dai beach.

View from a boat of the ancient town

My parents went to Thailand back in the day, which we’ve heard has now become almost too tourist friendly. Now younger generations go to Vietnam, which has me wondering how Vietnam will change/has changed. We are searching for authenticity and in the process, destroying it…maybe. Truth be told, there are way too many tourists here. Trying to cross one of the main pedestrian bridges here brought up unpleasant memories of a similar experience in Prague. The crowd was so thick it was very uncomfortable.But I see why the tourists are here. Like Venice, it is exotic and otherworldly and so vibrant. Our Homestay family opened their business about 3-4 years ago and is seeing fewer customers because there is more competition- new homestays and hotels everywhere. But then people here seem to be competing everywhere – the street vendors, restaurants, shop keepers, spas, coffee shops, tour operators. This is the first communist country I have visited and that’s easy to forget with raw capitalism everywhere.

The weather has been very hot and humid. My clothes were drenched with sweat after our bike ride. But It suddenly got slightly cooler last night. Around 3 pm, we cooled off in the pool of a nearby resort on the river that is a sister hotel to ours and chugged along the river for a free sunlight cruise – two perks of this strange old place. Today I plan to take advantage of another perk – a free 30 minute foot massage. Dirck will pass.

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Markets, French quarter, foot massage, Morning Glory – Hoi An

We knew this moment would come but it came unexpectedly, while sitting at our favorite place for a cold drink — Cafe Mia. We started talking about how well Vietnam seems to be doing under communism and what a waste the Lives lost in the war was. Dirck started crying. And then I did. We talked about his brother Gregg, killed in combat here at age 19 and by all accounts a great kid from Kansas.

We moved on. It is very easy to fritter away hours here, wandering down atmospheric old streets lined with mustard-colored, dark wood and ceramic disc roofs. We are sitting on the second floor balcony of one of the most famous, the 200 year old Vinh Hung  Heritage Hotel, looking down on the world passing by at 8:45 pm. Shops still open, people still sauntering, speaking all kinds of languages, some young couples wearing matching outfits (which appears to be a thing) and men taking glamour shots of their spouse/girlfriend in various sultry poses.

This morning, the street was a little quieter, which is apparently prime time for couples to pose for photos, often in elegant outfits. We made it through the night without too much noise. Our room is very dark but well air conditioned and a good mattress. I am pretty sure I felt a mouse (hoping it was a mouse) scurry down the wood hall leading to this balcony. Oh well, kind of like home.

We shopped in the French quarter which seems to have the nicest shops, but still reasonable prices. I bought too leather satchels for $40 (combined), a silk lantern, a very cute outfit for Linus, pillow cases with mod photos of Asian women. We stopped in the Central market, sitting at one of the many stalls with a nice guy from Singapore (who travels annually to a small town in Wisconsin that make packaging equipment that he sells in Asia. We ate two more famous dishes, Cam Lau (noodles in a broth with bbq pork and rice croutons. And rose dumplings – almost like Asian ravioli but much lighter.

This afternoon we returned to our “resort” and I got my free 30 minute foot massage, my first ever foot massage. heavenly. The spa was next to another pool we didn’t see yesterday. Smaller, cooler water, more secluded and we had it all to ourselves. Great way to cool off and end the day. Next stop the Shamrock Pub, a popular cafe along the river, with live music by a guy singing (well) all my favorite songs from the 70s and beyond, from Cat Stevens to U2. Great people watching, lit lanterns along the riverfront and on boats gliding along the water. We have gotten used to the crowds and are better st dealing with them and avoiding them. next time, I’d stay in the French quarter, perhaps.

Dinner tonight at Morning Glory was superb. The place was packed for good reason. They do great takes on popular street food and other local dishes. Our favorite was pork stuffed squid. Unreal.

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Biking to An Bang beach, Tan Thánh Beach/salt Pub, Street food, Precious Heritage Museum, Mia coffee (for craft beer), leather, Halo Homestay— Hoi An

We took advantage of our Homestay’s out-of-the-crazy ancient city location and its free bikes to ride about 20 minutes to An Bang Beach. I forgot this is a beach town. We were quickly out of the city and riding past rice patties with the occasional water buffalo 🐃 lolling around. The beach is gorgeous — soft tan sand and crashing waves of muddy brown water. More trash in spots than we like but we kept walking along the water and found ourselves right in front of a place I’d read about in the excellent March 2019 NYTimes 36 Hours on Hoi An that has served us so well! The salt pub looks more like a tropical paradise with lounge chairs on the sand and thatched roofs. We got fantastic drinks (coffee sua for dirck, passion. Fruit/ pineapple juice for me and later a smoothie with several fruits including passion fruit.

That’s me, watching in admiration and learning from the two girls how to eat whatever we were eating

We had a nice where-have -you-been chat with a well traveled Kent, Australia couple who were lounging in the sun next to us. They also mentioned there was torrential rain in a Hoi An for the 3 days before we arrived so we got lucky. It seems to rain once a day briefly and intensely. By the time we have gotten our raincoats out and on, it stops and we are even hotter. We got about waist deep in the crashing waves (the water is almost too warm) but I didn’t want to get my eat wet, which is on the mend thx to my antibiotics regimen.

This afternoon we peddled into Hoi An and found one of the fantastic street vendors our Hanoi food guide Mark recommended. Mark knows his stuff and it has been such a treat to know which of the many street food vendors are best. We sat on plastic stools at a very busy street food stand and had superb Banh beocombination of shrimp dumplings, meat and who knows what else. We have at least 4 other famous street foods to try. Crazy!

 We were the only westerners and people, especially two young girls, were very kind — showing us how to eat with a wood utensil that was a cross between a knife and a chopstick and which sauce to dip which food in. That was lunch at about 3 pm (about $4).

Ethnic garb made from tree bark

We wandered to the less crowded and classier part of the ancient town, at the eastern end to visit Precious Heritage Museum, a remarkable place and effort by a French photographer who has made it his life’s work to photograph people from Vietnam’s many ethnic minorities and collect an authentic costume from each, which are on display. The photos are for sale, with proceeds going to the museum and some of the people photographed. Amazing.

We wandered into a leather shop next door and each left with a hand made $20 leather belt (from water buffalo hide). I was tempted to buy a purse or shoes. Next to the leather shop is MIa coffee, in a two story French colonial building that looked like something out of New Orleans. I later learned we were in the French Quarter. We had beer (not coffee) since they also have craft brews and fries with rosemary and salt. That was our late dinner.

We walked our bikes through the throngs of tourists at 7:30 pm in the ancient town on a Saturday night and then rode the rest of the way, feeling more confident than last night. Love this town. It’s been fun staying at Halo Homestay. Very well run and spanking clean and interesting to catch glimpses of family life and a real neighborhood, where we hear the occasional rooster.

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Adventures in foreign health care – Vietnam edition

Not to worry. Not another broken arm (that was last year in Norway.) But I did have a bad enough earache, of all things, to visit a private hospital here in Hoi An and sure enough, I have an ear infection, which I am guessing came from my brief swim 🏊‍♀️ in Halong Bay a few days ago.

The impressive thing is that I was in and out of the hospital in about a half an hour and the doctor visit and antibiotics, pain killers ( giant ibuprofen) and ear drops cost about $50. I was ushered into an exam room within minutes of my arrival and attended to by no less than four men, whose jobs were unclear, and a female nurse who drifted in and out. The young hipster doctor in Levi’s and a crisp white shirt quickly arrived, looked in my ear and declared a minor infection requiring meds. After he left, one young man told us we had been seen by the hospital’s second best doc. The first, if we were understood him correctly, left to become something akin to a monk in Thailand.

We arrived at the Halo Homestay on the edge of Hoi An at about 2 pm after a very scenic 2-3 hour drive from Hue, with the same driver we hired yesterday from our hotel, the excellent Hue Riverside Villa, a five room eco-conscious, well-designed place perched on the Perfume River in the old Imperial city of Hue. This morning, after a passion fruit pancake ( more of a crepe) for me and scrambled eggs for Dirck, we toured the massive citadel/ imperial city, a bit daunting in the heat with an achy ear. Then our driver took the scenic route to Hoi An over a mountain pass, with quick visits to a fish farm and a gorgeous lagoon and a drive past high rises and resorts in Danang that reminded us a bit of Miami.

Th Halo Homestay, recommended by a young friend (20-something Emma C.) is a family home that lets a few rooms. We walked nearby for street food for lunch (Excellent grilled pork served on wood skewers, then rolled with greens into a wrap with dipping sauce) and later for dinner (at a place with lots of men drinking lots of beer.) we aren’t really sure what we ate but it was unusual and delicious, chosen by the woman serving us. One dish was made with what appeared to be wide noodles but was really some sort of veg, plus bits of pork and little shrimp, served with a plate size shrimp cracker and a salty sauce. The other dish was almost like a pork meat loaf or pate with a tomatoey sauce.

oh and did I mention….we rode old squeaky bikes into the old area of Hoi An which was astonishingly packed with tourists and somehow managed to find our way back to our Homestay in the dark, sharing the chaotic road with more vehicles than we cared to think about.

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