Vietnam #14 Leaving Hoi An

Leaving Hoi An. We had to pack up today and leave our bags at the reception area. It’s going to be hard to leave this place. Every morning we’ve had perfectly scrambled eggs, crisp, warm french rolls and occasionally a lemon pancake which is more like a crepe.

Beet ginger juice

Beet ginger juice

Early morning - store opening

Early morning – store opening

Leaving early, we took the bikes again and headed back to the old quarter. Most everything was closed so we watched the town open and come to life. We found our favorite juice bar and settled in with a beet/ginger apple pineapple juice. We’ll be making that one at home… Shop owner is Jan, pastries made by Vasilia, a lovely Greek woman we hope to see in Saigon.

Coincidently, the shop opposite is Avana, our favorite clothing store. One of the designer/owners was there so we went over, introduced ourselves and I got just one more thing. I’m going to be a walking fashion show when I get back!  Most of the clothes are for tall women, so we went to a few other shops where Rachelle found a shirt and a fabulous dress. We also managed to eat at Mermaid, (thanks again, Rachel Kahn).

Temple Koi

Temple Koi

Temple

Temple

Temple

Temple

Temple

Temple

20150330_123806

Temple entrance

Then to a couple local museums and temples. We found our way back to the open market, but we were done bargaining and left to wander the town a bit more.

Before leaving, we went back to the juice bar one more time for one more beet juice. Then we said our goodbyes and rode our bikes back to our homestay. We got there early enough to shower and have a massage before leaving for the airport. We reluctantly said goodbye to Lin and her staff and family. It was an easy ride and short wait at the airport. Now we are on the way to Saigon for the last part of our trip.

Our flight was filled with French tourists. Lots of fun listening to them. One of the luxuries of this trip has been the prearranged airport/hotel transfers. We deplane and have nothing to do other than find my name on a sign. Saigon is much more of a huge modern city than Hanoi. It is dark out, but you can still see signs of a lot more security. There are 24 districts,10 million people and 7 million motorbikes.

We checked into our hotel and set out for a quick, late dinner. We found a Pakistani halal restaurant called Taj Mahal. We decided to go for it even though there was not a woman in sight. There was an honorary certificate from the government of Pakistan on the wall, and guys in turbans sitting around. We did have a great meal, the best and freshest bhindi (okra) I’ve ever had, and excellent yellow dal. Dairy products are not popular in Vietnam and we have not had much. We must have been craving yogurt as between us, we polished off a salty lassi, a sweet lassi and a mango lassi.

Vietnam #13 Sunny Hoi An

Finally – a sunny day. We borrowed great bicycles from our homestay and set out for the local beach. About 3 km later we hit the ocean. The beach right there did not look like much, so we hung a left and went up the coast a bit. Needing a map and more importantly, a bathroom, we stopped at the Palm Garden Resort and Spa. We got a map at the desk, then decided to look around. We looked ourselves over to a couple of lounge chairs on the beach. An attendant brought us pads and towels and we settled in.

Ahhhhh

Ahhhhh

Rope yoga

Rope yoga

20150329_134228

gorgeous beach

Many of the coconut trees have a rope for hammocks. We improvised with them for a quick yoga practice, Rachelle for a long yoga practice. One perfect iced Vietnamese coffee later, it was time for lunch. We left our stuff on our claimed chairs and had a light, delicious lunch at the outdoor dining room – cucumber salad, pomelo squid salad and crab seaweed soup. Back to our lounge chairs for a rest…

Rooms here start around $135.00, bungalows around $400.00. We will be going back to our $30.00/night slice of heaven later this afternoon. We have to be back around 5 as we are invited to have dinner with Lin and her family at 6. Which begs the question, what to bring. Turns out there is a website called hospitality-pedia or something like that, and in Vietnam, one brings something useful for the home like soap or a picture frame, or something for the children or grandparents. We both know NEVER to show up empty handed, so the site was very useful. Only men bring flowers. There was no mention of sweets. Our afternoon job, as we bike back, will be to find the right gift.

Well, we biked back to the old quarter looking for a fancy soap, failed and went with nuts and sesame candy for her children. It’s also supposed to be brightly wrapped…we will do our best. Biking here is a hoot, literally. Everyone is honking and your best bet is to keep pedaling. Same as walking, you go, never stop short. The motorbikes and cars judge your pace and drive accordingly, avoiding you somehow.

It is hot and humid here. Still, we worked up an appetite and found a street food we had never tried called “Cao Lau”. It is a Hoi An specialty of rice batter, fried in a pan with 6 little cup forms. Quail eggs are broken into some of them. They are all served over rice noodles, greens and herbs, with a clear sweet/sour sauce and chili sauce. Soooo good.

20150329_181756

Linh’s delicious dinner

We went back to our homestay, showered and went down for dinner. Linh and her husband had invited everyone for dinner. The place was booked up so there were about 20 of us at round tables set up in the reception area. Linh made dozens of fried spring rolls and a delicious soup with noodles, lean tender pork slices and greens. Each of us was served a huge bowl and everyone finished everything. Lin loves to cook and entertain and we all enjoyed her efforts. She seemed happy that we all got to know each other a bit.

Vietnam #11 Hoi An – Cooking Class

We arrived in DaNang late afternoon, and drove straight to Hoi An. Our homestay, Loc Phat is a sweet, small place close to town and about 3 km from the beach. Our host family lives adjacent. Linh helped us settled in, then we went for a walk. The food here is supposed to be the best in Vietnam. Judging by the Banh Mi we had at the corner (Linh’s suggestion), I’ll swear to it.

We have no plans here yet and the break feels good.

Got up early and sat at breakfast for a few hours. It’s rainincrazy hard, but with Linh’s help, we signed up for a cooking class anyway. Called the Thuan Tinh Island – Cooking Tour, we spent the first hour or so in the marketplace, in the pouring rain. Always one of my favorite places, I’m coming home with tons of pictures of vegetables. The markets are covered, but to get from one side of the street to the other we were ankle deep in water. Hurray for kayaking shoes.

Here are three pictures of a lovely Vietnamese woman

20150327_121200 20150327_121130 20150327_121129

We bought greens, beef, and chicken. I found pennywort and although we did not make the salad we had in Burma, we bought some for our spring rolls. Then we boarded a boat and traveled about a half hour down river. On the way, our guide, Hihn, told us a bit about the tax system, how cars are taxed so heavily, a used American car would cost about $20,000 and a new American car, $60,000, That there is no free health care.

20150327_122758

Seafood

20150327_122455

Lunchtime

20150327_122329

Rain

Shopping in the rain

Shopping in the rain

Pure sea salt

Pure sea salt

20150327_115801

Baby bananas

20150327_120051

A quiet moment

20150327_115855

Peppers in plastic

We switched to row boats and paddled through water palms to a tiny dock. Covered with pink and pale green plastic raincoats, we look like pastel cake decorations. But we’re dry…ish. We were an odd group, a bickering couple from Canada, a sweet young Israeli couple, and two German girls. It was only odd because the bickering couple continued to make side comments about each other all afternoon.

Rachelle in pink plastic

Rachelle in pink plastic

Rice milk grinder (just like mine)

Rice milk grinder (just like mine)

Getting there

Getting there

Round rowboats

Round rowboats

Pastel people

Pastel people

20150327_134613

Water palm forest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

making rice milk

making rice milk

Cooking Class

Cooking Class

Cooking Class

Cooking Class

View from the cooking school

View from the cooking school

Our cooking teacher

Our cooking teacher

My spring roll

My spring roll

Vietnamese pancake

Vietnamese pancake

Presentation

Presentation

Hinh showed us how to make rice milk, using a grinding stone, the same type we have in our garden at home. We took the rice milk over to the outdoor kitchen and set it aside.

We were introduced to our cooking instructor, a formidable woman who was insistent we do thing her way!  The plan for the afternoon was to put up the beef broth first, so it could simmer 1 1/2 hours. It was a classic bone broth infused for 5 minutes with cinnamon bark and star anise. We learned that any longer and the spices would have turned the broth bitter.

In the meantime, we made fancy spring rolls, learning to roll them differently than usual. They tasted great, in if not perfectly rolled. Then we used our rice milk for pancakes filled with vegetables and shrimp. We were under the impression they were made with egg, as they come out rather yellowish, but it’s the turmeric in the batter. It’s Rachelle’s favorite, and really good. I liked the idea of creating, then eating each dish as it came up.

The third dish was a beautiful beef noodle salad, with mostly greens. Our instructor gave us precise instructions on decorating the plate: 24 1/2 moons of cucumber, 6 in a row, 4 rows, radiating in from the rim of the plate, each row flanked by 2 strips of carrots. Compose the salad in the center, in the designated order…. You get the idea. Rachelle the rebel, was pretty much in trouble the whole time. Finally, we went back to our beef broth and assembled a delicious soup. All in all, a very satisfying, filling day!

We took a car back, changed and went into the old quarter for the evening. No cars on the streets, so one would think it’s safe to walk, but motor bikes are allowed, so be on your guard. We found a little restaurant and had a banana flower salad. The first time I had it was in India, and it was 100 times better here. The mackerel stew was not so good. The fish was so overlooked we just left it. When the waitress came around, she was distressed that we left the fish. We explained that it was tough. She left for a moment, came back with a fruit plate and explained that it would be taken off the bill. She apologized profusely and hoped we would return. I thought it was so professional of the restaurant staff, and will give it a good review on trip advisor.

Returning back to the homestay, we got on the back of some guy’s bike. He way overcharged us, though I thought he should have paid us as Rachelle was right behind him and he seemed to be enjoying it too much.