Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hoi An - when will I, will I be famous

Based on the response I received about my first post from Vietnam, I can see people are gagging to hear more about my adventures.

After leaving HCMC, I had a short flight to Denang, as there appears to be nothing of note in that town, I caught a taxi and headed due south to hoi an. The trip to my hotel was interesting, we spent the majority of the trip on the wrong side of the road beeping at oncoming traffic, however my nerves were settled by taxi driver's decision to play an eagles covers tape at near deafening levels.
Having heard, nothing but great things about Hoi An from one and all, I have to say that I was initially underwhelmed by the town. The contrast between HCMC and Hoi An is staggering, and having just gotten into the swing of a big city, where the bars, restaurants and tourist attractions seem to encourage visitors to interact with each other, Hoi An, while more appealing to the eye gave me the feeling that it was going to be hard work to meet other travelers. After a bit of a wander around the town, I soon discovered two things that could cure the blues within a couple of minutes - a gin and tonic and a perfectly prepared lemon meringue pie. The stories about this place being the culinary paradise of Vietnam are completely true.

Other meals and cafes that deserve a mention are Cargo which I think provided me with the best ever breakfast - poached eggs with hollandaise sauce, just the right amount of crispy bacon and not to mention the non-optional extras of orange and lime juice and coffee and freshly baked breads with home made jam. I am pretty sure that this is the breakfast they would serve in heaven. Another venue called Mango also dishes up some pretty impressive meals, including the duck with a chocolate and mango sauce.

Besides eating, Hoi An has many other attraction. The first of those attractions that I partook in was a the trip to Cham Island, with the Cham Island Diving School. The tour was lead by Ludo, an entertaining italian guy that has decided to go local with a few of his friends. The island of Cham is very pretty, the beach is secluded, free from hawkers and has some very comfy hammocks. The water was great to swim in, although my experience there has confirmed suspicions that that I have absolutely no snorkeling abilities.

Another attraction of Hoi An is the cooking classes. I managed to book a half day with the red bridge hotel's course. The course started the very respectable hour of 11, it included a tour around the market, then a boat ride to the restaurant. After a tour of the herb garden, we were greeted by our chef, the Elliot Gould of vietnamese cooking - he delivered joke after joke without cracking a smile. The second leason that I have taken from my time in Hoi An is that I am unable to cook vietnamese food very well. However, this failing could result in fame and fortune for me in Korea. This is because our tour group included the Korean film maker, Kim Taz Yong, who was shooting a documentary for Korean TV. His camera man spent an inordinant amount of time capturing my ineptness.

Other highlights of the trip included the bus ride to the My Son ruins for sunrise - the bus was running pretty late so there was no sunrise for us, just an incredibly early start to the day. At the ruins I met an Intrepid tour group. They were a great bunch, mainly from the UK, they made the trip a barrel of laughs, and I managed to meet up for a drink and some pool with a couple of them later on in the night. Having said our goodbyes I incorrectly figured that that was the last I would see of those guys.

Another leason from Hoi An is that I have very little backbone when it comes to haggling. Not only did I spend too much on some cargo pants, but I also gave my scooter tour driver, my first one for trip way too much money - particularly as I also bought a marble turtle that I really didn't want from one of the places we stopped at on the way to marble mountain.
On the flip side, marble mountain was an incredible place, the budhas and pagola's are a sight to behold, as is the common tourist shot of being caught in the light, transending to heaven, which will soon be my facebook picture. This picture was made possible by the fact I again ran into my intrepid friends in that particular cave completely by accident.

The final thing that I learned in Hoi An is that I am a better pool coach than player. I managed to turn a nice japanese guy I met, Kazuki, from a practical pool virgin into a novice pool shark. He still has some ways to go before, such as knowing which balls to hit, before he will be a full shark.

Anyway enough of Hoi An for now. Next stop is Hue.

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